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Game On - This is Normal

Updated: May 3, 2023


A lot of our executive coaching clients have recently taken on new responsibilities or positions of leadership. They’re eager to please, and eager to prove that they’re capable of their new role. But this is uncharted territory for them, and the challenges they face are unprecedented. What they need to know is that this is normal.


These newly-minted leaders are encountering what “business as usual” is for people at this level. And there are tried and true ways of dealing with the issues they face.

When you’re uncomfortable, it’s easy to second-guess yourself and feel challenged on all fronts. Understand that you’re paying a “learning tax” and this is normal. Remember to:

  • Keep calm, listen, exercise judgment. You’ve been promoted for a reason. So learn to take a punch! There are more rounds to go. That’s what true talent development is all about.

  • Challenge the need to please. It is often counterproductive!

  • It’s not possible to make everyone happy. If people can push you around, they won’t respect you.


I was working with a newly-promoted project manager in a tech consultancy. Her difficult, rather manipulative client pushed everyone’s buttons, hurling unreasonable demands. Some of her younger team members leapt into action, trying to soothe their agitated client. Unfortunately, they made a lot of promises that were beyond the scope of their remit. By the time I met with her, panic had set in. What just happened and what did they commit to?


I let her know that this is normal. There are always going to be clients who try to take advantage and secure more work than they’re paying for. That’s what contracts are for.


So, let’s understand the situation. Review the contract to gain perspective. Let your director know what happened. Often, engaging with your client’s leadership can right the ship. Approach decision-makers on the client side to realign with the terms of the contract.


This particular client was a real bully. When he felt he wasn’t getting his way, he went into attack mode, questioning my coachee’s credibility and abilities. It felt personal, and it was painful for her.


The thing is, it wasn’t personal; it’s a typical tactic of bullies. I’ve been subjected to my share of floor-wiping, and so has everyone else. Calm down, and duck out of the line of fire next time. Know that this might well happen again, but these incidents don’t define you. Learn what you can from every experience, client, and cultural norm.


When that week passed and the dust had settled, she’d worked through the problems and learned an important lesson: shit happens, and it happens to everybody…keep calm and deal with it!


I’m not saying it’s easy. Taking on a leadership role requires determination, drive, and a disciplined mind set. Do you have the ability to enter the ring, knowing that you’ll win some and lose some?


It’s simply NOT TRUE that:

  • Everyone can be a leader

  • Everyone wants to be a leader

  • Everyone will follow a person with the title of “leader”


Not everyone can lead! Or wants to lead. Leadership requires time and experience. Can you learn from each challenge? Know that it gets easier, and that you are where you’re supposed to be. Every round offers you more growth and learning. Instead of letting it wear you down, enjoy it!

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