By: Jennifer Habig Ph.D., training director at Empower Work, and a coach, consultant, and trainer in leadership and organizational development
At points in our careers, we’re going to run into tough moments. What’s tough can vary from person to person. Maybe it’s about getting yelled at in a meeting or being fairly compensated for your work. Maybe it’s about being asked to do something that goes against your values or deciding the next step in your career. Maybe it’s something more subtle — a boss not looking you in the eye during a meeting that hints at some larger issues.
I’ve been an executive coach, consultant, and trainer in the areas of leadership and organizational development for over 15 years. I’ve launched executive coaching programs in multiple countries, worked with clients like T-Mobile and Intel, and supported countless friends and family members through tough work situations. What I’d never done until this summer is coach someone via text.
When I started volunteering with Empower Work — an organization that provides free, anonymous, text or web chat for people facing challenges at work — I was looking for a way to use my skills to support underserved populations, people who may never have access to a coach, mentor or support at work.
Free, anonymous, immediate support
One of my first conversations started something like this, “I have a salary conversation with my boss tomorrow and I’m not sure what to say.” A simple question, but loaded with a lot of importance for this person.
Our conversations are anonymous, but what I can share is that through some discussion, we unpacked tensions in what was being asked of the person, the expectations for the role, and the discomfort the person felt advocating for themselves. By the end of our conversation, the person had drafted message to send to their boss prior to the meeting and we’d practiced what they were going to say.
It’s easy to connect with a trained peer counselor. Simple text: 510–674–1414.
In executive coaching, and even in conversations we all have with our friends, we are often talking face-to-face or over the phone. In those situations, you are able to hear the other person’s tone of voice, their excitement, and even their frustration. They are also able to see you listening, nodding, and making eye contact. All that is taken away over text and, as a coach, you have to work harder to make sure they feel supported and understood.
If a short and meaningful conversation over text can impact these areas, it’s worth it.
Over a text conversation I am able to ask key questions to help the other person feel empowered to take the next step. Often they are appreciative that someone just took the time to listen.
I’ve been surprised by the types of challenges people are willing to share with me and other Empower Work volunteers. It’s one thing to talk about a difficult conversation you need to have with your boss, but another to talk through a big life decision like which job to take, whether or not to go back to school, and even whether to quit their job. After one text conversation, people are able to see that they often have more options than they initially see and that they are capable of more than they originally believed.
Everyone faces challenging situations at work and having a safe and confidential conversation can mean the difference between leaving a job or staying, feeling empowered or frustrated, and having hope or feeling like there are no options. All of those possibilities impact the way people show up as employees, spouses, parents, and friends. That is always time well spent.
Volunteer with Empower Work
Intrigued? Join me and use your skills to help others (plus learn from and network with other executive coaches, working professionals, and experienced managers). We’re looking for people who have a passion for helping others work through difficult situations or decisions and are willing to explore their own strengths, biases, and preferences to become even better at this work.