I had a meeting with a prospective coachee once who felt she might be receiving coaching because the organisation wanted her to leave. She felt it could be a way of managing her out. Her boss had mentioned in passing that she needed to be more effective at delegation and managing her team. From that comment, she had assumed there was a doubt about her ability and she started to doubt herself. She told herself a story that by offering her coaching, the organisation was trying to get rid of her.
Then came the meeting with her and her manager to agree the focus of the coaching assignment. As we talked, it was clear that her boss was fully supportive and only wanted to see her succeed.
As we reviewed that meeting, she realised that she had completely misinterpreted her manager’s comment which had been offered in good faith. She had spent a long time believing the worst and telling herself a story that was untrue. This had been holding her back. There was always a niggling doubt about her place in the organisation.
Once she understood that her manager was supportive, she was freed up to throw herself into the job.
We all too quickly take a comment or an experience and make a story out of it.
We leave the raw data of what happened behind – ‘they said this….’ – and make it into something about us – ‘I am …’
It happens in a nano-second without us realising it. It’s called going up the ‘Ladder of Inference’. We make meaning for ourselves where there is no real proof of it being true, and we start behaving differently because of it.
When starting a new role, you can be extra-sensitive to any sign that you might not be performing well enough. Precisely because you are wanting to do well, you are more likely to pick up on any evidence that says you are not!
Watch out for the stories you are telling yourself. Recognise that you have made your own meaning and go back to the original ‘data’!