Quirky is the Secret Sauce
She attended a conference where I had been speaking and scheduled a complimentary coaching call with me. She prepared well in advance of our call in order to maximize her ROI. She was organized and clear in her communication and told me exactly what she wanted to address in her life.
She shared that she had social anxiety and had a horrible time speaking in front of an audience. Her knees would go weak, she would tremble and her neck would turn blotchy shades of red. She wanted to overcome her anxiety and get better at speaking publicly.
She also shared that over the past 22 years with the same company, she had only spoken in front of an audience about five to six times and that she was getting ready to retire in a little over a year.
Hmm… for someone who doesn’t have to do all that much public speaking, why make such a huge deal out of needing to improve? And given the impending retirement, why now? I needed to dig further.
I asked her about her day-to-day life. She had a very happy 33-year marriage, loved her job, worked for the same boss for 22 years and had lived in the same house for over 20 years. She was a top performer at work and was well recognized and respected among her peers. She went to work in the morning, her husband made dinner, she cleaned up, they went to the gym, came home, watched a little TV and repeated the cycle the following day, and the day after, and the day after that. The exception was Sundays, when her boys came over for dinner.
She lived the same routine every week. Structure, routine and procedures kept everything in order. I started to see a pattern – as long as things were within her control, she was happy. BUT… when things were beyond her control, anxiety crept in.
She told me that she appeared calm and collected on the outside but on the inside she died a million deaths every time she had to speak in front of a crowd. I told her that I thought we could help her and described the FOM coach that I thought would be a perfect fit for her.
“Her name is Michele – she is extremely bright, very accomplished, has held a series of senior executive positions in major national companies and she’s quirky.”
The word “quirky” stopped her in her tracks. She asked me to repeat what I had said and then proceeded to tell me a story:
“We were doing a team building exercise and we were asked to use one word to describe each other. I received a list of one-word descriptions about me. I got ‘kind,’ ‘hard working,’ ‘conscientious,’ ‘professional’ and one person said that I was ‘quirky.’ I asked my boss if he thought I was quirky. He said that he didn’t see me that way. It kind of upset me. I took that sheet and stuffed it in the bottom of my drawer – but it bothers me still.”
I felt myself sitting taller as I piped up, “Why is quirky a bad thing for you? I think quirky people are far more interesting and dynamic than those who aren’t. It’s something that helps you connect with others and allows you to be transparent and share who you really are. It’s something that makes you unique and special and funny. Quirk is a great thing – I always encourage my coaches to bring their quirk to the coaching experience – it’s what turns a good coaching experience into a magical one.”
In my world, quirky is the secret sauce.
As though a million pounds had been lifted from her shoulders, she literally said, “I love you.”
We spoke about living with fewer rules and regulations. We talked about being more spontaneous. I shared the idea of starting her meal with dessert and infusing her life with more fun. She talked about how she could make her kids laugh by dropping the f-bomb every once in a while.
By the end of the call, her tone had changed and her mood had shifted. She was lighter, easier and was already having more fun. She told me that was exactly what she wanted: more fun.
It’s not unusual for someone to come into coaching thinking they want to fix something that appears to be broken, just to find out that there’s a whole lot more brewing beneath the surface. Shifting your thinking, even just a little bit, always yields extraordinary results.
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