I’m an interesting combination of respect for authority and “don’t tell me what to do”. And the older I get, the more I lean towards the defiant side. This is probably, in large part, why I am now an entrepreneur.
Growing up in conservative middle-America in the 60s leant itself easily to that unquestioning attitude. Forget authority figures – I still can’t imagine standing up to my parents as a child! When the late 60s/early 70s rolled in, my long-hidden defiance took notice but remained cautiously tucked away, daring to come out only in extreme situations – or after a few beers.
When it came to the workplace, I was the consummate employee. I may grumble behind the scenes with co-workers, but I dutifully succumbed to my bosses wishes and whims. It’s what you did and I never felt I had a choice in the matter. The #metoo campaign made me think about this with a combination of horror, disbelief and disgust. I had bosses who made me cry, who took all the credit for work I’d done, who literally stopped team meetings to tell me how beautiful my eyes are, who told me their wife would be away this summer, so…, who asked for a kiss before agreeing to do what I had requested, and who took me to dinner and thankfully passed out in their hotel room before anything more horrific happened. I am sure there are more instances but some I’d prefer to stay buried away!
All this dredging up of the past brought me to one of the last bosses I had, and, in retrospect, probably one of my best. He is the only person who ever fired me.
I was early in the process of both going through a divorce and starting my coaching business. Unsure of what either would bring, I applied for and got a job as a trainer for a company that trained sales persons on cold-calling. It was a great fit, as I was coming off a 20-year stint in sales and loved using my teaching skills. I attended the train-the-trainer session, and at the end of the 3 days, sat down with the owner to discuss next steps. I was anxious to find out where I would be utilized in the company and how that would fit in with my new lifestyle. I was more than a little blown away when he started the conversation with “I don’t think this is going to work.”
Outside of relationships, I’d never heard those words before.
How could he be saying this to me, a person who spent her whole life figuring out the rules and abiding by them? Whose sense of self was based on the opinions of others? Where had I gone wrong?
He went on to say that he could tell that my heart was not in this. That I had way too much on my plate to give this what it needed. And while he could tell I had the skills, and certainly was capable of doing the work, what he needed was not in line with who I was.
I was stunned. And yes, I cried. Deeply. In front of him. And he just let me.
It took me a while to let that sink in, to recover from the shock and to realize that he had done me a HUGE favor. He could see what I could not. He knew what he needed and modeled well how to hold boundaries in a caring way.
Years later (yes, it took years), I looked back and was able to see the wisdom and value in that experience. I admitted to myself that while I could do the work, I really hated the topic! Definitely a bad fit in that regard. In the past I would have “bucked up” and faked my way through it. Heck, I had a lot of experience in that! I also realized that trying to fit myself into someone else’s mold was just not working for me anymore. That I had my own beliefs, values and worth and it was time for me to step into that frame of mind. And lastly, I realized that the mindset I had going into that position was one of fear and lack. I was taking this job because I was in fear of what may happen to me in the future and not trusting that the Universe had my back. It was one of my “I got this” moments where I forgot who was really in charge of things. Not a great recipe for success.
I’m grateful for the mirror that boss held up for me to see myself. I’m grateful that he released me in order to help me discover the real me. And now, years later, I’m still grateful that I didn’t spend one more minute on talking about cold calls! That’s probably the biggest gift of all!
Here’s to those who allow you to move onward and upward! May we value their gift and use the lessons to soar!