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How a Leadership Dilemma Can Grow Your Career

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The coffee grinders hummed in the background filling the little shop with an aroma of hope. Desperate and sick to his stomach my client uttered the six words we all hate hearing. “My boss called in a consultant.”

Perhaps you can relate to his fears? Something was wrong, and change seemed imminent. I listened while jotting a few notes. It didn’t take long before we both realized this is not your average coaching session.

My client was in the middle of a leadership dilemma.

“I’m feeling sick to my stomach,” he said. “I could use some advice.” He took a long deep breath and continued, “This consultant called a meeting with me. The kind of meeting you talk about job duties. These meetings never end well.”

His fear, trepidation, and angst made sense. Everyone hates evaluations given by a complete stranger.

These meetings happen when professional turf is guarded to the point of battle. Finding yourself in the middle of a professional turf war sucks. Whether it’s a particular project or complete restructuring, it’s hard when frustration turns to conflict.

Turf wars exist when trust is broken within the organization. Trust is easily broken. Meetings like this are common, and can be productive – if you let them. Yet, when fear sets in it is never easy.

The key to surviving a professional turf war may not be what you think it is.

At first glance, your gut instinct is probably to build a platform. Prove to the world how much and how well you do things. You posture, as to look – “importantly in control.”

After all, this is war. Isn’t it?

Rarely are professional turf wars one-sided. (It does happen – but it is rare.) Most often, when trust is broken in a relationship people stop communicating. We lose the ability to have a transparent and open perspective. Judgments are made based on negative thinking that is filled with incomplete information. The information is incomplete because we speak with guarded communication. It mentally draws you into an unidentified battle for a perceived problem that may not exist.

The thing about a coach is we don’t talk much. But this time was different. We walked through many options. We also addressed the why behind his fears. Eventually, as if by magic he found his path forward.

He chose to take the seat of least honor which is a lesson he read about in the Bible. He decided to craft a list of his job duties and put others first. He decided to listen to what’s said and gain clarity. Then he had a stroke of brilliance, and he decided not to guard any territory. He created a position description that best fits his strengths and vision for the future. A future that benefits the organization more than himself.

He had a great meeting with the consultant and shared the possibilities of a future without war.

Turf wars and change happen in every job. Work often causes tense moments. How you respond to those moments, the company you keep – and the coffee you drink, make all the difference in the world.

I was asked the other day if coaching helps people. I smiled inside and thought – yes, indeed.

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