I was lying in the hospital looking up at the ceiling. I’d had a paralyzing stroke and the doctors said it might take months before I had enough muscle strength to start a recovery. In the meantime, they suggested that I just imagine myself moving a toe, or just think about moving my fingers. I thought about gardening, and how good it felt to hold the earth in my fingers, to grow something. I wanted to feel that again.
As I lay in bed and thought, one event in particular came to mind.
Years ago, I was a manager at a large financial institution that had offices in Philadelphia and New Jersey. I was given the responsibility of laying off one of our employees, an unfortunate task no manager takes pleasure in. I understood that the employee needed to be laid off, but I was concerned about the way it was being done. My superiors were planning to have her come in under the premise that she’d be attending a team meeting. Except she was coming in before the team meeting, so that I could tell her she didn’t have a job anymore and whisk her away before the rest of the team arrived.
I felt certain that there was a better way we could handle the situation, especially since this employee had to come from out of state.
When I talked to my boss about it, I was told that I didn’t have any options, and that if I pursued the issue further, my own job would be in jeopardy.
In that moment, I felt immobilized. And even though I chose to lean back, I was offered a lesson that would eventually flower into my next adventure. I discovered that essential, non-negotiable part of myself that values honest communication and a straight forward approach over evasiveness or an authoritarian stance.
But it took some time until that seed took root and developed into a form I could articulate and display. In that moment, I couldn’t think of the phrase “significant business results coach,” which is what I call myself today. I just knew that clear, respectful communication was possible and that I would do it and teach others how as well.
I knew that I wanted to help individuals take their ideas, dreams and skills, and crystallize them into value that others would recognize and pay for. I wanted to create “dangerous” entrepreneurs and business owners that have the potential to change the corporate landscape.
Even so, there was a time when that joy seemed distant. After days and days of lying in bed and focusing my intention on the slightest movement, I finally moved a finger, and then another. Eventually, I recovered full motion––and way ahead of schedule.
I have the deepest conviction that anyone can be a leader, and anyone can become great, no matter where they’re coming from. Just start small, water and wait.