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I was reminded in a recent coaching session with one of my CEO members just how often we fall into the trap of making things up.  Not only is this a waste of time and energy but it usually causes us undue anxiety.

The situation was this.  One of my member’s key executives was under performing.  Normally a star performer, this was not typical of his performance in the company.  The CEO had let this behavior go on for three months expecting it to improve.  For three months the employee’s attention seemed to be less and less focused on the important aspects of his job.  His peers in the company commented to the CEO.  Other departments were being negatively affected by his lack of follow-through.

When we met my member told me what he thought was going on with his executive.  He said he had missed his quarterly marks, that he seemed to be losing the respect of his peers in the company and their monthly one-to-ones were void of good conversation.  “I’ll bet he is interviewing for a job elsewhere, perhaps with one of my competitors.  This happened to me once before.”

As I always due in my coaching sessions when I hear my member telling me what their story is about another person’s behavior is to remind them that this is only “their story” and not the truth.  The truth can only be determined by having a conversation with the other person whether it is a co-worker, friend, relative, sibling, spouse or child.  I encouraged him to have a private conversation with the individual before he worried himself into possibly making a bad decision.

He called me the next week to tell me that he had met with his employee and found that his assumptions had been all wrong.  The employee had had to put his father into a care facility because he could no longer live alone and soon thereafter doctors had found a spot on one of his wife’s lungs.  These circumstances would cause anyone to be distracted.

Then he did what most of you would do if something similar happened in your company, he encouraged his employee to take as much time away from work to get these situations under control and arranged for top medical professionals to assist with his wife’s condition and determine the appropriate plan of action.

The lesson…don’t fall into the trap of thinking “your story” is the real story.