The Leader Who Was Afraid to Commit


The Leader Who Was Afraid to Commit

Don’t panic, VIM Executive Coaching has not turned into a dating website or a modern remake of “The Lonely-Hearts Club!” However, the fear of commitment, be it in an executive suite or in personal life can be equally devastating.

I am reminded of a person I once knew who functioned as the CEO of a small, rather stodgy government agency. He was a talented and bright man, who for nearly 31 years occupied a small office and did pretty much the same job. Over the years, others saw his talent and offered him a chance to leave for a better situation. His stock response was, "Oh, I should think about one of these days." He never did.

I believe that from time to time he snuck out for a quick interview and I know he looked at entrepreneurial opportunities such as owning a car wash or an insurance agency, but in the end, he accepted a plaque from his board for 30 years of faithful service. I would like to tell you that he was a content man, and that his job made him feel empowered and happy, but he wasn’t. At retirement one of his friends asked him if he and his wife were going to move to a warmer climate or stay put. His response: “Oh, I should think about it.” He got in his car and drove off.

There are literally hundreds of quotes about commitment, and books about the commitment-phobic person. Of all of the analogies in regard to commitment, the one I like the most is about the person who always goes through life with one foot on the dock and one foot in the boat. It is about the person who never is content to stay on land, nor is adventurous enough to sail away. He or she is stuck.

The person who is stuck in that fashion is, in actuality, in a great deal of pain. VIM Executive Coaching is not a psychology clinic, but when we see an executive or entrepreneur who is all tied up because it is impossible for them to make a workplace decision, we can’t help but notice the pain on their faces. The roots of indecision go far back into our awareness. We can’t engage in psychological analysis, that is not our function. We can however, help the executive leader or entrepreneur to see that they lack the tools to make a good decision, and to give them those tools.

Fear and self-doubt are powerful forces. In the workplace we have all encountered what used to be called “Yes men.” “Yes men and Yes women” are individuals, much like my friend above, who bump along in their companies never making a decision, or content to agree with the majority, or are seemingly oblivious to anything else other than clinging to their jobs for dear life. They do get their plaques (I don’t think companies give out watches any longer), fade into the sunset and are often referred to as: “That good guy who used to work here.”

Metaphorically, what the “good guys” never realize is that for year after year, they were afraid to sail away or even afraid to build a nice home on the shore. They were stuck. Not to belabor the point, but we have never known a “stuck, indecisive” executive who was happy.

A Life Beyond Indecision
The indecisive person need not be resigned to be between boats and docks. In some ways, maybe a more Zen way, might be to view the dock and the boat as the same. The boat can be very nice, and even though we are fearful of being out on the open water, we can certainly imagine the sunshine, the brisk winds, the roll of the water and the smell of the brine. Clearly others are out on the water in their boats, taking chances, exploring the unknown. The shore is also inviting. We can build a beautiful home there, raise a magnificent garden, be at peace with good friends and neighbors. There is no right or wrong answer as long as we are authentic in our answer. The commitment phobic executive is so busy maintaining the boat and shore balance, they never see that either the boat or the shore can be beautiful in their own way.

At VIM Executive Coaching we offer tools to help the executive leader find their place. Here’s a hint though: neither the boat nor shore are perfect. Life is imperfect, it is not reality TV, but the authentic person will find happiness in either place. That’s plenty good enough.

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