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A CEO Gets Fired, Puts Down His Sword, and Ends up Grateful

Diana Chapman
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February 4, 2015
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A CEO of 15 years called me a few weeks ago after being notified by the board that he was being suspended. This powerful and ambitious man was shocked and angry. He revealed to me all of the critical thoughts he was having about the others involved, and acknowledged that he was plotting out his various revenge scenarios in his mind. I reminded him that his seeing the other partners as adversaries and treating them as such was one of the reasons he was in this situation. The bully he thought he was staring down was actually living within. I asked if he would be willing to focus on our commitment #13:

I commit to seeing all people and circumstances as allies that are perfectly suited to help me learn the most important things for my growth.

He agreed to shift his perspective and open to what he could learn from this situation. Over the course of the next two weeks, we spoke frequently as he navigated negotiations and moved through a lot of emotion. He continually recommitted to seeing his partners and the situation as opportunities to learn. And boy, did he ever learn.His ultimate realization was that he wanted to leave his role a couple of years earlier, but was unwilling to admit it and take action for several key reasons:

1. Avoiding sadness. He loved his team dearly. His small company was like a family to him. The thought of leaving them was heartbreaking, and he didn’t want to feel the loss.

2. Avoiding disappointment. He had a vision that his company should have been worth more than it was after 15 years of leading it. He did not want to feel his disappointment about what their actual value was. He stayed on to try and drive the value up to avoid his disappointment rather than listen to the internal truth that he was ready to let go.

3. Scarcity mindset. He was concerned that he could not recreate the income he was making in another role and stayed put from a fear that there would not be enough money elsewhere.

4. Superhero syndrome. He had been responsible for financially supporting his family and was afraid that if he did not handle their financial needs, they would suffer and he would be responsible for their pain. He realized that he was casting them as victims and himself as hero. This way of relating was exhausting him and disempowering his family.

A few weeks into our conversations he was permanently terminated. Instead of taking out his sword, he is celebrating that this is a great gift his partners are giving him; one that he was unwilling to give to himself. This newfound freedom to follow his true heart’s desire is opening the door to a new kind of relaxation that he hasn’t known for a very long time. Maybe not ever. He is (calmly) negotiating with all of the parties involved and finding that the more he sees them as allies the less drama he is creating with them. With surprise he said to me, “I see that I have been the source of the conflict, not them. And when I shift I create a different experience of them. I have so much more power in creating the situation than I knew.”Now he’s learning to allow himself to:

1. Feel the loss of his colleagues in his daily life

2. Admit his disappointment that his financial vision didn’t come to be

3. Experience abundance mindset

4. See himself and his family as equally empoweredHe is living with what is rather than what could have or should have been. He’s free to make choices based on trust rather than toxic fear. How about you? Is there a way you are living your life that is not fully aligned with what you really want? What allies do you need to come into your life to help you learn to live from trust rather than fear?

About the Author
Diana Chapman

Diana has been a trusted advisor to over 700 organizational leaders and many of their teams. Clients from Genentech to Yahoo! value her clarity, compassion, ferocity and playfulness. A well-respected facilitator for the Young Presidents Organization, Diana works with forums and chapters worldwide. She invites leaders to the edge while igniting the courage to leap into the unknown, the space where a bigger game of life awaits.