Dear Friends and Clients,

I’ve laughed more than once at this sitcom cliché: A self-centered boss, hearing that her assistant stayed home from work with a serious injury, laments, “Oh why does everything happen to me?”

One reason that we see humor in the self absorbed diva or the egomaniacal manager is that we probably have worked with people like this. And another reason is that we’ve all felt like this ourselves. It is very human to feel victimized by an event that isn’t really about us, whether it is snarled traffic, bad weather or the struggling economy.

Sometimes when people turn to coaching it is because they have suffered a series of career blows and now can’t find their way out of the downward spiral of victimhood. Bob was like that. At work he was preoccupied with resisting budget cuts and fighting changes that he thought were aimed at him. At a time when his company was fighting for its life, he wasted energy interpreting each management initiative as an attack on him.

Bob thought of himself as playing a strategic game, with him as the victim constantly fighting off evil agents of change. When he paused and looked at the evidence, however, he was suddenly able to perceive the corporate challenges in a different way. Bob’s shift in perception allowed him to redefine the game he was playing. He started thinking of himself as a leader, rather than as a victim, and his career again picked up momentum.

It is so easy to tell our clients, or ourselves, to stop thinking like victims. But it can take a lot of work to break out of that pattern. In this issue I will discuss a little book that may help you to shift the way you look at and react to your career challenges.

Warm Wishes, Bev

Think Like a Leader,
Instead of a Victim

September 1, 2009 * Number 110

“The Power of TED,” by David Emerald, is one of those slim self-help books that use parables to make points. While I tend to not enjoy this genre, I have found Emerald’s book to be helpful in pointing a way out of the trap of victimhood.

Emerald begins his discussion with the work of Stephen Karpman, a psychotherapist who in the 1960s developed the “Drama Triangle” as a model describing human behavior. That Triangle describes roles that we tend to play or perceive when we think “everything happens to me.” When you are caught in that mode, you may see developments in terms of these roles:

  • The central role is that of Victim, in which you feel like other people or situations are acting against you, and you can’t do anything about it;

  • The next role, Persecutor, is the person or situation that you regard as the cause of your problems; and

  • The Rescuer is the white knight that you hope will come along to solve your problems or get you away from the situation.

    When your orientation is that of a Victim, your focus is on the problems that dominate your work or life. That focus tends to give rise to anxiety, which may cause you to act out of fear. When you feel like a Victim you might perpetuate the Triangle by behaving towards others like a Persecutor or Rescuer.

    One way to shift out of the Victim role is to pull your attention away from your problems and consciously focus on a vision or outcome that you want to achieve. When you make that shift, Emerald says, you will become a “Creator,” and at that point, I believe, you will be acting like a leader. The key differences between a Victim and a Creator (or leader) orientation are these:

  • The Victim’s attention is placed on what is NOT wanted, while the Creator (or leader) focuses on what IS wanted;

  • The intention of the Creator (or leader) is on manifesting outcomes, while the Victim is preoccupied with getting rid of problems; and

  • The Creator (leader) wants satisfying and sustainable results, while the Victim just cares about temporary and reactive results.

    As a Creator, Emerald says, you can bring about outcomes through a three-part process:

  • Identify a vision of what you want,

  • Assess the current reality, noting both aspects that support creation of the vision and aspects that inhibit your capacity to achieve that vision; and then

  • Take baby steps to move from the current reality toward the desired outcomes. Each step is useful, even if it seems to move you back, because of the learning that it makes possible.

    Conscious leadership can begin with self-awareness. Models like these can help you to see yourself in new ways, and then move toward the goals that are important to you.

    Want More Insights Related to Your Work Life? In addition to providing executive coaching, Bev is available to speak about a broad range of issues related to your work life. Visit her website at or email to Bev directly. Bev is associated with Executive Coaching & Consulting Associates.

  • Bev’s Tips for a Better Work Life is published on the first and third Tuesday of each month by Beverly E. Jones of ClearWays Consulting, LLC. Bev is a lawyer and former executive who now coaches accomplished executives and other professionals to bring new direction, energy and enjoyment to their work lives.

    Copyright ©2009, ClearWays Consulting, LLC & Beverly E. Jones

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