“Kismet” the CEO asked?
“Yes, kismet,” I said. “The not-so-accidental fact that I’m working with someone who has some of the same strengths and challenges that I have. The good news? I know them well.”
The CEO’s direct report was the client, someone I’ll call “Bob,” did indeed have a skill set that reminded me of me; hardworking, a nose for the business, great rapport with people below him on the corporate pecking order, broad interests and knowledge, smart (well, maybe not that part) and the ability to be too candid when greater diplomacy was in retrospect warranted.
“Unfiltered” was the word tossed around for the latter sometimes admired, sometimes reviled trait. And as somebody who has spent serious time in the social circles penalty box for a publicly expressed directness, I had more than a few ideas on how to work with Bob.
It’s been a long time since I thought that all accidents “just happen” – too many coincidences that are hardly coincidental, too many one degree of separation. And while it’s a small world, it’s still a big place.
So kismet? It’s the fortune to have a chance to work on some things a second, third, fourth or even fifth time. Sort of Ram Dass and mentor Jack Hawley celebrating the interconnectedness of things.
The crux of the exec coaching craft working with Bob, or even a Jane or Joe, is knowing what elements to sustain, what’s possible to change, and most importantly, how they’re connected. Sort of “Is that a bug or a feature” question.
Bob’s skill set mostly worked well, just not all the time. And absent Aspergers or some chemical issues, the fact is that people who want to change really can. In my work, they almost always make those small significant changes that lead to positive marked improvements. As one Bob’s direct reports said about another client I worked with, “I really like the ‘remodeling work’ they’ve done.”
Philosophers from Bruno Mars to Steve Jobs (“Remembering you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap thinking that you have something to lose“) have weighed in on change.
Apple’s ads (Here’s to the Crazy Ones) even speak to people who are are seen as unfiltered. Malcolm Gladwell’s (see his TED talk on David and Goliath here) excellent new book Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, touts people who fly against convention – the “disagreeables” Gladwell calls them – and how they move organizations and society forward.
So I’m enjoying my work with Bob.
And thanking kismet for the chance.
Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub.
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