From My Coaching Archives – Two words that open up your future!

October 29, 2022
Open up your future

Open up your future!

I was coaching Madhumita (name changed), a very senior Industry professional.

She felt that she was being taken for granted by her manager, and her peers.

It showed up in the way opportunities came to her – or did not come to her. Her manager spoke well to her but when it came to plum projects, she was overlooked. Her peers passed on their work to her because ‘she was great at it’. Lately, even her juniors – Direct Reports – were challenging her openly in meetings.

She could very clearly observe that she was being taken for granted. In the beginning, it was happening in a small measure but now everyone around her seemed to be taking this approach. The ‘malaise’ had clearly spread.

After she shared the full context with me, I asked her a question: ‘What are you doing about it?’

Her response was simple:

‘I know that I need to stand up to these things. I know that they are in the wrong. At my level, I am expected to defend myself and my team but I avoid conflicts. I have never confronted anyone. I don’t call them out.’

As a Coach, I felt that she had come to the conclusion that avoiding a conflict was part of her ‘good’ nature, something that would remain unchanged throughout her life. By coming to this conclusion, she had effectively sealed the future. However, this approach was not working. She had a long career ahead of her. She had to do something about this issue.

Open up your future with two simple words

Was she willing to walk with me on a journey of Change? A process of Change to re-examine her ‘good’ nature.

I asked her some more questions to evaluate her commitment to the Change. She desperately wanted to.

To begin with, I requested her to add the two words, ‘till now‘ to her responses. I showed her how and made appropriate changes to her responses:

‘I avoid conflicts till now. I have never confronted anyone till now. I don’t call them out till now.’

I asked her how the addition of the words, ’till now’, altered the meaning of her responses. She got it and was smiling. By adding the words, ’till now’, I had effectively released her future from the clutches of her past. The future was open now – a different approach was possible.

My Quote #275 says, ‘Sometimes it is a matter of just that one change.’

The future is wide open

Now that the future was open, we could create strategies to bring about the desired results in the future. Of course, there will be a tendency to snap back into the ‘default’ mode but once we cultivate a sense of self-awareness and effectively deploy our strategies, we could gradually develop a ‘new default’ mode.

It was time to get to work.

Over the next couple of meetings, I helped Madhumita develop a graded approach to confront someone when she feels the need to call out.

Strategy: Goldsmith’s hammer to the blacksmith’s hammer

The graded approach covered a spectrum of actions representing, in my words, the whole range from a goldsmith’s hammer to a blacksmith’s hammer. We developed different strategies for Direct Reports, peers, and the Manager. I helped her create an Accountability Matrix – she would report back to me on how the strategy worked…or did not work. If this strategy did not work, we would create a new one.

Over the next two Coaching meetings, we evaluated the results.

New habits take time but every small step forward is valuable

Her self-awareness had certainly heightened, meaning, she could now quickly spot where she was being taken for granted and when she had to call out someone’s actions. However, her default mode was still on. She had begun making some noises of disapproval to one of her peers but was still avoiding the confrontation.

It was only to be expected. A habit cultivated over decades takes time to change. We need to be patient. To begin with, we need to keep looking for those small wins before bigger wins can be seen. Any win, however small, needs to be acknowledged and appreciated.

I am sure Madhumita will have her share of wins and hopefully, I will get to know some of them…soon.

If I look back at my own life, I have been able to successfully make many changes to myself only because I have held the view that the future is always open to a new definition.

My Quote #128 says, ‘I can have a brand new future because it hasn’t arrived yet.’


PS: What Madhumita is facing in her career is faced by innumerable people around the world. It is not only on the career front that one could be taken for granted. It happens on the personal front too. All of us need to carry that voltage in us to operate on a level playing field, or else we could feel twisted and manipulated.


Read here my post on how your past can ruin your future.

Read here my 2018 post on why I am like Croatia.


What about you? Are you feeling manipulated? Are elements of your past holding you back? May I help you craft a new future through my signature approach called Futuring? Do let me know at [email protected].

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