Swimming In Quicksand CHAPTER 4 (Part 2)

My new book, Swimming In Quicksand, is available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle format (Click Here To Purchase).  If you are interested in a sample of the book, you can get one from Amazon.  However, over the next several weeks, I will be posting a bit more of the book than the publisher’s sample.  If you enjoy the sample, please recommend this to your friends, colleagues, and family.  Thank you.

Introductions (Continued)


He only had a chance to try ‘Wimpy’ before Joe and someone else walked through the front door. Mark waved to catch their attention. Joe’s companion was a gentleman of medium height and build. His head was completely bald except for a thin ring of short brown hair just above his ears. What really caught Mark’s attention was the man’s smile. It stretched from ear-to-ear and lit up his whole face. As both walked toward the booth, the man said hello to several people and shook several hands. He seemed to be well known and well liked.

Joe reached the table first and made introductions. “Glad you could make it, buddy! Mark Johnson, I’d like to introduce you to Stephen Trenner.”

As Mark stood, Steve reached out and gave a warm and firm handshake. “Please, call me Steve. I’m very glad to meet you.”

As they sat down, Maribelle instantly appeared. “What can I get the three of you?”

Steve laughed. “I think I’ll have The Usual.”

“Me too, ” said Joe laughing, too.

“What is the usual and what’s the joke?” asked Mark smiling.

“Well,” Maribelle said laughing, “They order the Chicken Chimi and a diet soda every time.   To honor them, I’ve listed it in my lunch menu as ‘The Usual’.”

“Excellent!” said Mark laughing now, too. “That sounds delicious. I’ll have ‘The Usual’, too.”

“A fine choice,” she answered and headed back to the kitchen.

While they waited for their meal, they discussed small things. Mark learned Steve was a rabid Chicago Bears fan and was miserable because they weren’t doing very well. Once their food arrived, they began discussing the weather and the economy.

As they finished up their meal, Steve asked Mark what he did. Mark said he’d been in Information Technology for about twelve years. He started at the company Help Desk, but soon began working on programming projects. He told Steve his current position was the Lead of a team of web application developers who focused on front-end applications for Amalgamated.

Mark paused and took a deep breath. “However, I’d like to be a manager within my division and think I’d be good at it. Unfortunately, leadership doesn’t seem to agree. I’ve been passed over, twice, and have been ‘the other candidate’ for four other positions”

“How frustrating,” said Steve. “Do you know why?”

“Not really.” Mark shrugged. “They made comments about wanting someone with more large-project management experience, but that was all I could learn. I’m sure my recent performance has started to suffer. My morale has certainly taken a dive. My wife, daughter, and friends have noticed it. So, I can’t help but believe it’s showing up in my work performance, too.”

Joe nodded in agreement. “It was the same for me.”

Steve held his hand up. “It’s actually pretty common, and often manifests as a self-defeating spiral.” His finger made a descending spiral as he spoke. “You want something badly, but fail to get it. You become upset and question your skills. Your morale and confidence drop. Your performance suffers. You try again, and this time you do worse.” His finger spiraled some more. “Pretty soon, you feel trapped. In fact, for many people, it seems the harder they try the worse things get. I call it ‘drowning in quicksand’.”

Mark nodded. “That is exactly how I feel. No matter what I try, things just keep getting worse. It feels hopeless.”

“Oh, it’s not,” reassured Steve. “There are lots of ways to get out of the trap. Just like with quicksand, the trick is to use the right techniques rather than expending all your energy thrashing around. Sometimes all you need is a different perspective and a little help.”

“Is that what you do, teach people how to swim, instead of drown, in quicksand?” asked Mark.

Steve’s eyes lit up. “Swimming in quicksand. I like that. Do you mind if I steal it?”

Mark smiled, enjoying the conversation. “Not at all.”

Steve continued. “That’s exactly what I do. I teach people how to swim in quicksand. I use my experience, interviewing, and occasionally some tools to help folks make plans to improve their current situation. I try to help them discover what drives them, clarify and narrow their list of possibilities, and create an actionable plan. Then, I hold them accountable for implementing that plan.”

“Can’t people do that by themselves?” asked Mark.

“Some can. However, occasionally we all need a little help.” Steve leaned in and lowered his voice. “I’ll tell you a secret. I do this for a living, now, but the reason I got interested was because I was in a situation much like yours. Looking back, I can see that I was the largest reason things were deteriorating. Back then it felt like everyone was conspiring against me. I went to a friend for help and was introduced to an executive coach–Nancy. I was so impressed with Nancy I decided to learn more about coaching. The rest is history.”

Joe chimed in. “Good thing, too.” He turned to Mark. “I think I’d still be at Amalgamated if I hadn’t met Steve. Our conversations encouraged me to explore what interested me and clarify what I really wanted. His prodding and suggestions enabled me to create actionable plans. However, what helped me the most was his ability to keep me honest and on target. There were several times when I think I would have quit if it hadn’t been for Steve’s support.”

Steve smiled. “Thanks Joe, but you did all the work. I only provided a second pair of eyes, and asked you questions to keep you on track. You see Mark, humans are notorious for our ability to believe that what we hear in our head is the truth. One of the jobs of a coach is to offer other viewpoints and point out when a client might be taking his or her own opinions too seriously.”

“So if you and I were going to work together, what would be our next steps?” asked Mark.

Steve bent down to rummage in the courier bag he had stashed at his feet. “I think the first step would be to get to know each other a little better. Here’s a packet that contains information about me, and some questions for you. Why don’t you read through it, and take a shot at answering the questions. Once you have, if you are still interested, we can get together to discuss your answers and where we might go from there.”

Mark glanced at his watch. “Oh my! I really need to get going. I had no idea we’ve been talking for over an hour.” Jumping up, he reached for his wallet.

“Shoo! Go!” said Joe, waving his hand. “I’ll get this one. You can buy me lunch next time we get together.”

“You sure, Joe?” asked Mark.

“Yes, now go.”

Mark shook hands with both of them, thanked Joe for lunch, and headed out of the restaurant. When he reached his car, he caught himself humming again. Two days in a row. He smiled, started his car and headed to work.

Image Credit: http://ncwiseman.com/2013/06/linkedin-introductions/
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