It was year 2000, a Tuesday.
Viktor stood at the bus stop, and felt ill. As a result, he returned home, called into work and said he would not be coming in due to illness. A week later he stood at the same bus stop. And just as the previous Tuesday, he returned home, feeling ill.
Peculiar, this. Was it some sort of Tuesday sickness?
At home, he lay on his bed feeling shaky, and anxious. He felt a cold sweat. He called in sick again, and spent the rest of the day at home, returning to work on Wednesday.
A week later Viktor was up at his usual time and made his way into work, but didn’t feel himself. He stayed at the office for a short while, until about 11:30, when was suddenly overcome with a need to go home again. He went immediately to explain to his manager.
At about 11:45, I received a phone call. It was Viktor’s manager, Per.
“Hey Evan, I am a bit concerned about Viktor”, he said.
“Viktor!”, I replied. “Yes, it’s great that you called. I was thinking about him tpday as I was going over the participant list, and was wondering if I might see him this afternoon? Or had second thoughts about the program?”
At this point, I could feel some tension on the line. Viktor was listed as a participant in a company tailored communication & leadership program I was on site for, getting the conference room prepared. I had seen him at the start-up information meeting, but he was not in attendance at sessions one and two.
“Yeah, you see, that’s part of the problem”, Per explained. “He’s not feeling so good. He came in late this morning, stayed for a short while, and now he feels he should go home again. As you know he missed the first two sessions as well. He mentioned that he is extremely nervous and anxious, and isn’t sure he wants to continue in the course. I didn’t want to pressure him, but I am not sure what to do. I really believe in him and I know this course will be good for his confidence”.
“I see. Is there an off chance that he is still at the office? Maybe we can take him to lunch and just talk. Perhaps there are some perspectives we can share to help him re-consider. Don’t force him. Just ask if he would be open for it”.
Viktor only just left Per’s office, and Per managed to catch up with him quickly. He confirmed our lunch date by text message, and we met shortly thereafter at a restaurant near the office. Susanne, a colleague whom I was co-delivering the program with, followed along.
When Per and Viktor joined us we simply met Viktor where he was at. I asked about his background. He had come to Sweden from Sri Lanka at age fifteen, and loved his work as an engineer. I asked about what he enjoyed most about his work and the company, and he lit up talking about every day being different, his great colleagues, and that he got the chance to grow as a person. We didn’t have a lot of time, so I moved the conversation toward the opportunity with the course, and what had caught his interest in it.
We eventually landed in the conversations about his worries.
I asked some light questions and he began to explain. One concern was that he didn’t feel he deserved to be part of such a distinguished group (participants were a blend of top management, middle managers, and select subordinates). Another concern was speaking in front of groups, especially people with much more experience than him. The two seemed to be an explosive fear generating cocktail.
We continued the discussion, delving into each part, listening intently, making connections between the group, his worries, and speaking in front of his colleagues.
We discovered that it really boiled down to Viktor not knowing how we could help him over an extreme fear of speaking in front of the group. This had him paralysed in a sense. He had never done any type of presentation in front of a group like this before, and it was gnawing at his insides. His engineering mind, as brilliant as it was, couldn’t see how it was possible for us to help him overcome something that affected him this way.
I used an analogy, to simplify what can seem a complex process at times. This would help him see how we could make what ‘seemed’ impossible, possible.
We zoomed in on when he first learned how to ride a bicycle. The fact was, he didn’t do it alone. He told me it was his older brother who ran behind, hanging on to the seat, one attempt after another, until eventually he could let go and little Viktor just rode away not even knowing his brother had let go.
We agreed that one key ingredient to success was him trusting his brother wouldn’t let him fall. And that another was a little bit of courage. He had to dare to go for it a bit, otherwise he would have never learned to ride a bike.
At that point, I looked at Viktor and said, “In the same way, we will get you comfortable at the front of the room. Firstly, you’ll need to bring a little bit of courage. Second, we’ll also need you to trust that we won’t let you fail in any way. We’ll be there to support you fully to succeed. It’s what we do…”.
Then, with a big Cheshire Cat grin, I suggested, “Let’s go learn to ride a bike together. What do you say?”
Viktor laughed. Probably the first good laugh he had in a couple of weeks. It was as if the world’s weight had been lifted from both his heart and his shoulders. His manage, Per, sat silently, grinning.
I asked Per if it was ok that Victor followed with us back to the conference room for some preparations. He agreed, and Viktor was with us as we trained our group leaders. In a safe way, we encouraged Viktor to tell us the story of how he came to Sweden at such a young age. We gently coached here and there to get the timing and a bit of structure to it.
Later that afternoon, he told the same story when he stood up in front of 29 of his colleagues. Every person listened intently. The room was dead silent, so that you could here a pin drop. When he completed his story and talked about what he learned from his journey, the group erupted in a standing ovation.
Viktor didn’t miss a session after that. For the duration of the course, each time he stood up to speak, there was a hush that fell over the room. A level of anticipation. Viktor inspired and was inspired. His confidence grew. All he needed was someone to show him how, and the rest was all Viktor.
An extraordinary leap of progress was made.
Some questions for you:
In what area(s) of your life might an extraordinary leap of progress make a difference for you right now?
What beliefs might be slowing you down or blocking you from achieving the progress you want?
Do you have the courage to go beyond what you already know?
We believe within every organisation, team, and individual there exists the potential for extraordinary leaps of progress, or ELP’s. It is apparent to us because we have seen them take place for years. Viktor was nineteen years ago, but I’ll never forget how it made me feel to see him succeed. Each year between now and then has been filled with similar LEAP’s by our clients. All unique to them. It is truly awe-inspiring, and it is why we work with what we work with. It is why Generact exists.
Maybe you searching for some ELP’s for yourself. Maybe your team would benefit from one or two. Perhaps the whole organization. The good news? We know how to get you there. Let us show you.
Reach out to us at ELP@generact.com.
In our next post, we’ll discuss a little more of the how, as we zoom in on Expeditions to Confidence.