I was all set for the big client showdown.
Over-service reports, paper trails and budget updates.
Ready to hold up my hands to the things we had done wrong but ready to point out how the dysfunctionality of their team was contributing to some of the problems.
As agency principal it was my job to somehow recreate a silk purse out of what was rapidly becoming a rather large sow’s ear.
I spent half an hour trying to reason with the global client supremo, getting nowhere at all.
When he leant over and said: ‘You don’t understand, Chris. This place is not normal. When you work here, you hand in your humanity at the front door.’
He explained that surrender (his word) was the only option. Take the rap, swallow the loss, swallow your pride.
There were any number of painful lessons for myself and my agency from this sorry and expensive episode, the scars of which have thankfully healed.
But I have been reminded of that highly charged exchange recently, when working with two executive coaching clients who are not having the best of times in their senior corporate jobs.
They are not quite handing in their humanity each morning (which would take a long time, they’d have a lot to hand over) but one felt that they were forced to be a person that they ‘just don’t like very much’, the other that they were ‘buried alive.’
In neither case, as I suspect with my former client, is heading for the exit an immediate possibility. There are school fees and mortgages. There are shares and bonuses.
Which means what?
There is sticking it out; there is muddling through.
There is also finding a way to be the best self that your corporate environment will allow.
And there is formulating a plan that lays out the timing and the steps you will take to answer the fundamental question that your family, your friends and your higher self are all asking: so when will you get your humanity back?