This is a case study by Karen Wilhelm Buckley
Authentic personal authority comes from choosing to speak in a way that expresses your choice to create a new future – powerfully, directly, with a clear purpose and profound care.
This is an amazing success story about a highly motivated manager. He transformed his daily results by changing his conversation, both in his head and with others.
The Operations Manager in a small but fast-moving firm of 120 employees, struggled professionally with a certain gloomy resignation. He had a good job and great family but a morose attitude at work that dragged everybody down. You could hear it in his conversations.
His “something is wrong again” comments gave him the nickname of Eeyore, from Winnie the Pooh. A.A. Milne created Eeyore the donkey with classic lines like, “If it’s a good morning, which I doubt.” “I’d say it’s thistles, but nobody listens to me, anyway.”
The COO position was opening up in two years, but his habitual conversation patterns meant that no one thought he was capable of moving up in the company. He was seen as a good soldier but not a good leader. He was seen as a sturdy sort, trudging along to get the job done. The way he pointed out what was wrong instead of acknowledging what worked led to turnover, lack of confidence from his boss, and feedback from colleagues that he wasn’t a team player.
He needed help and his boss called me to begin an Executive Coaching Program. She wasn’t sure change was possible, but since he was “such a nice guy” she wanted to give him one last chance with active support.
Since he didn’t believe the change was possible, we started by leveraging his strengths – his focus on what isn’t working. First assignment: A checklist – to track each day how often he said a variation of, “there’s nothing I or anyone can do about this.” He enrolled his boss to alert him if he said it and didn’t notice. Shocked at the length of the list, the way this phrase or something like it dominated conversations, he admitted that his internal thoughts were 10 times more than what he said out loud.
We discussed what he does want and spent time crafting phrases that more accurately matched his heartfelt commitment to the company, his team and to smooth running operations.
The change didn’t come easily; the new phrases felt awkward, although they felt honest. He began to see the possibility of change and started practicing the new phrases at home, in the car driving to work, in his mind until he could use them fluently 5-6 times a day.
We also changed his internal conversation to focus on what is working. As he began to change his thought patterns, he saw how much more he wanted to accomplish. In meetings, his conversations began to move things forward. His comments to the team encouraged people and accelerated the right actions.
He always held strong convictions. But they were buried under his habitual conversations. Now he became a visible stand for effectiveness. Now he knew how to choose language that showed his committed engagement, reinforced priorities, and fortified company values.
As he spoke forthrightly about what he will do (rather than being in a complaint about what can’t be done), he connected more with others and trust in his leadership bloomed. With a lighter heart, his personal happiness grew. Others witnessed his new-found stability and within two years he was chosen as successor to the COO. He’d transformed his conversations to change his results and as we ended our coaching year, he promised to carry this forward throughout his career.
Karen Wilhelm Buckley, Communicore, is an Executive Coach and Consultant to leaders and their organizations. Her clients develop wise leadership – the skills, strategies, and presence to cultivate committed performance and effectively drive change.
Karen designs focused authentic dialogue that results in extraordinary action. Addressing underlying restrictions while amplifying the best of what is working, she facilitates breakthrough change in leaders, key meetings, and across companies.
Karen is a published author and experienced speaker and leads an annual wisdom retreat in Hawaii for women leaders. Her website is https://communicore.biz/