Mike gets sick to his stomach every time he’s around Lynn. He’s pained by the frustration and disappointment caused by comments she made to their coworkers: “Before you help Mike out on his project you should know that he gets a bigger bonus than the rest of us do when his projects are successful. So he’s the only one who’ll benefit from your contributions.”
Mike was outraged and confronted Lynn about what he felt was her attempt to sabotage his ability to work with people as a team. “I just thought they deserved to know,” Lynn asserted. “I only told them the truth.” The lingering tension between Mike and Lynn caused people to resist working on any project where the two of them were involved.
When Mike came to me for coaching about this issue he said that since this incident he’s felt like a failure when trying to collaborate with coworkers. When he has to deal with Lynn he ruminates on a story he’s telling himself about how he’s been judged unfairly, which refuels his resentment. In spite of his efforts to create a pleasant connection to other people in his work group, he says he still feels vulnerable and unsure of himself in meetings. “I lose my confidence whenever I have to deal with Lynn and my coworkers.”
Mike has let Lynn’s characterization of him as someone who believes that he’s worth more than others on the team dominate how he thinks about himself. The fact of the matter is that Mike’s paid more because he has far more education and experience than anyone else on the team.
Mike’s deeply offended by Lynn’s insinuations because her comments violate his values. But he’s not focusing on the inner principles that have served him well as an inner guide for many years. He’s reacting to external circumstances created by someone whose values conflict with his own. Lynn’s making it all about the money, and Mike’s lost his focus on what’s most important to him.
I recommended that Mike read Shelly Row’s book Think Less, Live More. I ask him to pay particular attention to Chapter 2, “Know Your Values.” As homework, Mike was to complete the Scavenger Hunt for Your Values exercise to help him reorient to his internal guidance system. That will help him refresh his memory about who he is and how he operates when he’s making valuable contributions at work.
Row offers 7 “clues” designed to help people discover their values. Trust the spontaneous answers that come from inside of you, Row recommends, rather than giving your inner critic time to judge your responses. To avoid overthinking when answering the following questions, she suggests writing your answers very quickly.
- How do you spend your time when you get to choose? Working from the premise that actions speak louder than words, Row states “Void of other pressures, your chosen activities reflect your priorities.”
- What things are important to you? Row writes: “Many times clues to the principles you value are discerned through the things you love. Look around your house and office. What holds meaning for you?”
- What did you enjoy as a child? In your youth you wanted to do what was fun more than you wanted to live up to other’s expectations. Jot down a list of the activities you enjoyed.
- Where do you excel? To avoid becoming too judgmental, rapidly write down all of the areas where you’ve had success, received recognition, and have enjoyed yourself in the process.
- What gives you satisfaction? When do you feel most energized? Fulfilled? Note those occasions when you’ve lost track of time because you were deeply engaged in an activity you found challenging.
- What situations frustrate or disappoint you? “Negative events hold just as many clues as positive events,” Row observes. Reflect on what happened in situations that went wrong and why you felt they were so unfair?
- Whom do you admire and whom do you not “click” with? What characteristics do you find appealing in people you respect? What is it about people who don’t resonate with you? Compare your lists to see what traits you find most valuable.
After completing Row’s exercise, Mike identified 3 core values: Love, Accomplishment, and Collaboration. He learned to refocus his thoughts and actions by asking his inner guide, “What would it look like if I were showing how much I care about people, projects and partnering?” By living his values, Mike’s confidence flourished.