A recurring theme lately in my coaching business has been helping clients deal with what seems to be urgent. With the constant bombardment of news, social media, texts, etc., we have become a bit addicted to the facepaced, now-now-now obligations. This can make everything seem urgent.
Recently I met with a former client, Karen, who was once a CEO of a small organization and has since transitioned out of that role into developing her own successful consulting business. Karen was able to capitalize on her expertise and her wealth of contacts to quickly launch her business. What she loved about her business was her ability to pick and choose which projects to take on, with whom to work and to control how much time she would devote to work and how much time she could spend with her husband. With this new freedom, they loved to be able to take a month-long vacation to their favorite Caribbean island every February. Life was humming along nicely for Karen.
And then boom, two very nice opportunities showed up. Each would require a significant amount of her time and she could not take on both. Each wanted an answer very quickly — how soon could she start. And that’s when Karen called me for a coaching session. When we met, she explained what each opportunity entailed, the positives and the downsides. From our previous work together, I pointed out which pieces aligned with her values and with her vision for her company. And then an interesting thing happened as we started to pull apart each choice and look at the components. What occurred to me was that both opportunities were pressing Karen to come onboard because they were in crisis. What I told Karen was that their crisis did not have to be her crisis. Yes, they did need an answer, but she did not have to absorb their frenetic energy. She needed to step back and evaluate each opportunity in a thoughtful way. Three questions I asked my client (and you can ask yourself when faced with a dilemma):
1. What’s your counter-proposal? In Karen’s case, there were definite parts of each opportunity that she liked and definite parts that she did not like. What would she propose in each situation to make it work for her? Could she adjust the time frame — agree to a six-month trial period and reevaluate at that time? Could she work from home part of the time and not have to commute to be on-site each day? I encouraged Karen to think about what she could negotiate.
2. What’s the third option? This is something we look for all the time in coaching. What’s the third or fourth or fifth option? Many of us get stuck in trying to decide between Option A or Option B when there may be many more creative options awaiting us if we brainstorm a little. Having a third option takes a little pressure off. It opens up vistas of possibilities. For Karen, the third option was to decline both options and keep on-track with her original business plan.
3. What will you being saying “no” to when you say “yes” to something else? Again for Karen, this was important to think through as she could potentially be totally tied up if she chose one of her opportunities and therefore not be available for other interesting projects on the horizon. We only have so much time and so much energy. Where do we really want to spend our time?
Karen took a couple days to ponder these questions. She had another meeting with the Option B folks. We had another coaching session. For Option B, she liked the compensation, she was passionate about the project’s mission and she negotiated coming on board as a contractor instead of the original offer of being an employee. This allows her to continue to be open for small contracts for her own business and gets her out of attending endless staff meetings which used to drive her crazy as a CEO.
We discussed how to say “no” to Option A and how to exit gracefully, which Karen did superbly. So, what started out as a harried, stressful choice between two options turned into a careful, deliberate weighing of all options and crafting the best solution. When you are faced with a dilemma, pause enough to ask yourself those three questions and hopefully you, too, will arrive at your best decision like Karen did.
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