He had had quite a career: senior level management experience in the public and private sector; CEO of a prominent association; General Manager of a large, semi-public agency; and a White House appointment. He never had to look for a position. They came looking for him.

Two years ago, while the economy was seemingly still moving ahead full steam, and he felt reasonably assured that his leadership was on track, he ran head first into a firestorm. It was unexpected, unanticipated, and unlike anything he had ever experienced in his career.

He was encouraged to leave his beloved agency. The board wanted to pursue a different direction.

He was shocked, numb, devastated, and, underneath it all, angry. However, with more than 20 years of building relationships with key decision-makers throughout his community, and having established a sterling reputation as a gifted manager, he and everyone around him assumed it would be just a matter of time before the offers came rolling in.

Days went by. Weeks went by. Months went by. Nothing was happening. Then, the economy tanked and his future seemed even darker.

At first, we spent more time, as coach and client, working through the emotional process of losing a job than we did on concrete business strategies to jump start his career. He felt embarrassed and ashamed to be unemployed. He felt too self conscious to begin cultivating his network.

With a bank account that was continually decreasing, and his panic level increasing, I urged him to take the edge off.

What does that mean, he asked?

Do something to get dollars coming in the door while you are looking for another position.


Use your contacts to begin consulting. Start your own company.

It was a hard sell.

He had a "used car salesman" mentality about consulting, even though he had hired hundreds of consultants throughout his career. Think about it. He would actually have to sell himself! That was his real hang up.

Selling himself.

What would people think? They would know why he was doing it. He was unemployed. Out of work. They would see right through it.

However, with a dwindling bank account, he reluctantly agreed to put together a company, on paper, as a first step.

We started first by articulating a crystal clear vision of his ideal.

Go for the gold, I told him. This was the time to dream. If you are starting from zero, why not create your ideal?

I asked him, "What would make you leap out of bed in the morning, counting the minutes until you began working?" There are actually people who do that, really! They love their work so much that they can hardly wait to begin the day.

Maybe he could focus on what he truly loved. What would that be like? No more dealing with the things he disliked about his past position. He was free to build a business around his strengths and passion.

He defined what his focus would be: a service that had interested him for years. He would have purchased more of it in his previous positions but there were too few vendors. Identifying his target audience was easy and the marketing plan unfolded without a hitch. He identified others who could work as part of his team. He ordered business cards. He became incorporated. Most importantly, he became excited.

I suggested that he might look at his situation from a different perspective.

What would that be?

He was not unemployed. He had a company, with valuable services to offer, and respected team mates. No, he was not unemployed or out of work. Rather, he was looking for his next project, building his company.

A few days later he attended an annual business gala as the guest of a former colleague. More than once, he had chaired the committee for this special event, raised thousands of dollars for it, and had given the keynote address.

He wondered how he would he feel walking into the ballroom without his previous title.

"It was the most natural thing in the world, he told me, because I do have a title. I'm president of my own company. And it's something I believe in and can't wait to share with others." When people asked what he was doing, he spoke excitedly about his new business mission. He came away with several appointments for follow-up discussions with prospective customers and new ideas for marketing his company.

Looking at this executive's resume, one would assume that putting together a new company and marketing his skills would be a breeze. Why would he need an executive coach or anyone else to help him think through that process?

We all have blind spots, which can make it hard to see the root cause of our current situation. It's almost like trying to see our eyebrows without looking into a mirror. We know that they are there but we can't see them by ourselves.

If our issues remain in our blind spot, we become stuck. There is little we can do to work through them.

In my client's case, putting together a company was not his sticking point. Working through the emotions of involuntarily leaving a position that he had loved and one, in his own mind, that had defined his value to the outside world (and sadly to himself), was the obstacle to overcome and the opportunity for growth.

External change is an internal process.

Over the years, he lost touch with who he was and what really determined his self-worth. He became his job, his title, and all of the associated perks.

However, by working through an "internal process" customized to meet his needs, he came alive. He regained his self-confidence.

And guess what? He is not unemployed. He is building his company. And, what will he do if someone offers him a position? He will evaluate it. If it meets his standards, he might accept it, he might not. Whatever the decision, it will be based on one thing: is the work in alignment with what is meaningful to him?

External change is an internal process.

Linda Cassell, CPCC

Author's Bio: 

Linda Cassell, certified executive coach, recruiter, workshop facilitator, and speaker, teaches executives how to jumpstart their careers to create new and exciting professional possibilities. Her clients learn customized personal development techniques and smart business strategies that help them make quantum leap changes in their thinking, habits, and focus. Social media, marketing, resume writing, interviewing and networking techniques are included as part of her coaching packages.

Linda uses an “inside-out” approach, believing that external change is an internal process. When clients have made the "mental shift" necessary to accomplish their goals, they have full access to their natural creativity. That is when the "magic" begins and the million dollar ideas surface. As a result, they create “inspired action plans” which lead to career and business opportunities that previously seemed unattainable.

As an entrepreneur and the product of a family business, Linda understands the environment and culture in which executives operate. Most importantly, she is results-oriented and has the experience and skills to facilitate positive change.

Prior to her work as an executive coach, Linda spent more than twenty years leading non-profit organizations. In addition to managing the operations of Quantum Leap Coaching and Training, Linda is president of Managing Partners II, LLC, a Delaware based company that provides coaching, development, and recruitment services to non-profit organizations. She is a member of the International Coach Federation and holds Bachelor and Masters Degrees in education from Kent State University in Ohio. Linda received her certification from the Coaches Training Institute, one of the world’s premier coaching schools.

Find out how I used the power of appreciation to increase my income by $10,000. Download my free special report, "Appreciation and Money," by visiting my website at http://www.quantumleapcoachingandtraining.com.