Is Your Idea of Success Holding You Back?

      Helga is a bright, ambitious 26-year-old employee who came into the organization fresh out of college. She has proven she has leadership potential and has taken on many stretch assignments and supervisory roles in the 3 years she has been with the organization. 

      National Sales Manager position opened up and she applied. She was extremely disappointed when she did not get the job. She met with her HR business partner to discuss her future with the company.

      Helga was very transparent about the fact she was disillusioned and was considering looking for employment elsewhere as she did not believe she could ‘rise fast enough’.  That’s when the HR business partner reached out to invest in a coach for Helga to help her sort through her current dilemma. 

      Helga was pleased that the company would invest in a coach for her and at the same time was a little nervous during the first meeting.  

      “I’m most concerned you are just here to convince me to stay,” she quickly blurted. 

      “Absolutely not,” I said. “The first thing it is important for you to know is that these sessions are strictly confidential. I won’t speak to anyone in your organization about what we talked about in our sessions.” 

      I continued, “Coaching is for you, about you. You need to be fully invested wherever you work in order to excel and have your talents shine. If you are only ‘half in’ with any organization, you will not do your best work which is not good for you or the company.” 

      With that cleared up, Helga launched into a series of what she interpreted as promises for growth and then subsequent disappointments when things didn’t turn out exactly as she had imagined. As Helga was sharing her journey, I could hear the sense of urgency in her voice. 

      “Helga,” I interjected, “What’s the sense of urgency I hear?” 

      “What do you mean?” she asked. 

      “The way you are sharing your story, you are talking a mile a minute, hardly stopping long enough to catch your breath.” I shared my observation. 

      “Well, I have a lot of things I want to accomplish in the next few years. I need to reach a certain level by the time I’m 30.” She hurried on. 

      “What if you don’t?” I asked. “What do you imagine will happen?” 

      Helga was quiet for several minutes.  

      I need to accomplish that in order to believe I have been successful,” she offered quietly. 

      “What if it happens when you are 31 or 35 or 40? Does that mean you have been unsuccessful?” I asked. 

      Helga was quiet for several more minutes. She then went on to share the story she had been telling herself about what ‘successful’ would look like in her world.

      The more she unraveled her story the more it became clear that her goal was not even to become a Sales Manager. Her background was in Marketing and that is where her passion lay.  

      By the end of our first session Helga came to two big realizations; she was chasing a job title she didn’t actually want, and she was so busy laying out and being focused on the future that she was unable to feel good and celebrate what was happening in the present.  

      The company saw her as quite successful with a bright future, and she saw herself as a failure and felt the company was holding her back. 

      We created a plan that included Helga redefining what success looks like for her in both the long-term and short-term. Helga was also going to work with her HR business partner and manager to seek out opportunities to use her marketing insights and talents within her current role. 

      What’s the story you are telling yourself about success? 

      What conversations have you had with your manager about using your best talents in your role? 

      Are you ‘half in’ in your current role or organization? What would it take to move you to being ‘all in’? 


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