A Powerful Moment


A client with a long career has been watching things change all around him. A new manager (a former peer) and new peers where there weren’t any before. The new ways of doing things have been challenging. He’s discovered that what worked for him in communicating and relating to others in the past have been a detriment in this new situation.

Well known and respected throughout the organization, this was a “go-to” person when questions cropped up in his area of expertise. Reporting lines were crossed to get his opinion, and he enjoyed being the person with the know-how to help make things happen.

Enter: a reorganization. Every interaction, every way he operated – had shifted. Yet he continued to behave and do the things what worked for him before. His new peers were exasperated. His manager had been coaching him, but progress slowed. My client was frustrated, creating a dynamic on the team that was not optimal.

Yet I recently heard a story of how my client humbled himself in the midst of this change, to ask for help at a recent meeting with his manager and peers.

My client knew that he needed to solicit assistance from his peers to make the changes that would be sustainable. So he told them what changes he wanted to make in his interactions with them and requested his peer’s assistance to let him know when he wasn’t doing what he intended.

My client and his manager both told me it was a “powerful moment” for the team. My client revealed his humanity, and his peers listened. At that moment, the tide of frustration began turning. His peers were now willing to see him differently and offered to help him make the changes he wanted to make. I believe the behavioral changes my client needs to make will be sustained, if he can continue to to be open to the feedback he gets from others.

This  incident shows that when we reveal our humanity, when we are humble enough to ask for help, others are willing to be there for us.

Are you willing to be human enough to ask for help with your leadership?


I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

7 comments on “A Powerful Moment

  1. That surely must have been a powerful moment! When leaders show their more human side- the side when they don’t seem like the ‘all-knowing’ or ‘all-powerful’ superiors in an organization, employees seem to relate to them better. They become more approachable. Vineet Nayar explains this concept very well in his book called ‘Employees First, Customers Second’. There, he puts forward the concept of ‘Destroying the office of the CEO’. He explains how leaders must stop behaving like the high and mighty leaders they appear to be, and must transfer the ownership of ‘change’ to the employees, and thus unlock their potential, so that they would have enough of major responsibility in their hands to show their worth in any company. This also would mean that the superior trusts the employee’s work enough to give him/ her responsibility, and blurs the line that separates the leaders from being all-knowing, and lower level employees from apparently being not capable enough.

  2. This is a great story Mary Jo. Not only does it demonstrate the power of humility but also demonstrates the power of bringing what everyone thinks but won’t say (in public anyway) from the background into the foreground. In that moment the complaints begin to lose their grip and progress becomes possible.

  3. That was a powerful moment that required courage and humility.

    The “trust and respect inquiry process” forges strong personal relationships, characterized by deep emotional linkage, with most people in about thirty minutes.

    Think of what might have been if your client had that kind of relationship with most of his peers and upper management as all that change was happening.

  4. Very powerful indeed! I have had the privilege of observing many such encounters as a coach. Sharing what you want to create in the future and enlisting others to help is usually so well received. Yet, fears abound when leaders think about sharing their shortcomings or blunders. Being human, being closer to your team, being out there creates a different, more lasting type of power! Great post as usual, Mary Jo. Compelling story! 🙂

  5. Welcome Kavita! You’ve described servant leadership in a contemporary way. Thank you!

    Susan, yes. Both the client and his manager indicated that it was a turning point. Don’t you wish you had been there to see it?

    Jacques, I like the title you’ve given this. Not only did he ask for feedback (which I encourage all my clients to do on a regular basis), but he also described the behavior as it was and as he wanted it to be. Very courageous.

    Monica, I’m sure your are right, “a more lasting type of power” – of the good kind. Thanks for your wisdom and kind words.

  6. Very powerful indeed! I have had the privilege of observing many such encounters as a coach. Sharing what you want to create in the future and enlisting others to help is usually so well received. Yet, fears abound when leaders think about sharing their shortcomings or blunders. Being human, being closer to your team, being out there creates a different, more lasting type of power! Great post as usual, Mary Jo. Compelling story! 🙂

  7. Steve, you’ve recapped the post with a few descriptors in a way that I admire – “being human, being closer, being out there requires a more lasting type of power!”. How true. People want to know you are human and fallible. Just look at what’s happening to the BP CEO. I can’t wonder if he had been more contrite, apologetic, accepting of his company’s role in the issue – how different things would be.

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