Catherine Turner’s adoptive mother turned to her and said, “If it wasn’t for me, you’d be a $75 dollar coat hanger abortion.” Soon afterward, her mother showed Catherine the exact house in the neighborhood where frightened women sought to end their pregnancies. The searing memory of her adoptive mother’s statement was impossible to forget. Each day, Catherine passed by this house as she walked the route to her elementary school.
Today, Catherine is on a pathway to success, as she builds her career as an advisor at New York Life. Recently she had her best production month, and her best production quarter, ever.
Her journey to achievement has been winding, and often painful. How she got to where she is today is a story worth telling—and a story worth hearing.
At six weeks old, Catherine was taken from her birth mother and five older siblings. Her mother was compelled to give Catherine up because she wasn’t able to afford the expense of raising her youngest child.
On the south side of Colorado Springs in 1963, where Catherine was born, the adoption process happened away from the watchful eye of official channels. Through an intermediary and neighborhood acquaintance, Catherine was placed with neighbors of her birth family, a couple in their 40s who had not been able to have children on their own.
Catherine’s adoptive mom was a successful businesswoman who ran a daycare. Yet she was domineering and embittered, and never let Catherine forget that she had been “rejected.” Catherine’s adoptive father was an Air Force retiree…a soft-spoken, sweet, and loving man who escaped from his life (and wife) through quiet drinking.
Catherine’s relationship with her adoptive mother was fraught with complicated layers. Despite her mother’s verbal cruelty, Catherine became an integral part of her mother’s daycare business at a very young age. Her adoptive mom was illiterate, with only a fourth grade education. Beginning at 10 years old, Catherine was called upon to write out her mother’s checks, invoices, and the daily menus for the children.
Catherine was always a standout at school. She calls herself a perennial teacher’s pet and can name every teacher that she ever had. She loved her teachers and her teachers loved her.
She excelled at her high school and was awarded a full scholarship at the University of Denver. She majored in accounting, and upon graduation was wooed by all of the “Big Eight” accounting firms. She chose Arthur Young and embarked on a career that took her around the country, auditing some of the nation’s largest corporations.
At 23, Catherine experienced a seminal event in her life. She joined the Zion Temple Apostolic Church in Denver, and was saved. For one of the first times in her life she felt love and acceptance. The lively and loving community of this church was a boon to Catherine and imbued her with a spirituality that remains a guiding force to this day. The church also gave Catherine another gift: her husband. Catherine’s love of God and love for her husband and family are enduring gifts of the Zion Church.
Fast forward to 2017
Today, Catherine has been an advisor at New York Life for over three years. She and her husband had moved to the Washington, D.C. area more than two decades ago, and her once-promising accounting career took a back seat to raising her children which—given her own childhood—she decided was the right and only choice for her to make.
Despite some career success at New York Life, in January of this year Catherine found herself at an inflection point in her life. She knew deep down that there was more to her. She knew in her heart that she was not reaching her true potential. For much of her life, Catherine had subordinated her priorities to the priorities of others; her adoptive mother, her husband, her children, her church, and so on. Ultimately, this left her asking the question, “Who’s going to help Catherine be a better Catherine?”
Finally, she arrived at the answer. She discovered who was the best person to help her become a better her. It was Catherine Turner.
This is when she joined Horsesmouth Group Coaching.
Overcoming limiting beliefs
Most all of us have beliefs that limit our success. These might be beliefs about our own capabilities. They might be assumptions about what it takes to succeed. Or they could be beliefs regarding how we should relate to others. Moving beyond limiting beliefs is a critical launching point to becoming more successful. The first step is to identify those beliefs that limit you. The second step is to replace them with positive beliefs that support your success.
For Catherine, her limiting belief was actually a sequence of lifelong behaviors. Despite her obvious gifts, aptitude, and intellect, she had never put herself first. At times, this kind of self-effacement can be admirable. Over the course of a lifetime, though, it can be corrosive.
In one of the essential books for coaches, Coaching: Evoking Excellence in Others, author James Flaherty describes the skill of self-management, one of the domains of competence that we all must maneuver as we find our way in the world.
Self-management means that we follow through with what we say we’ll do. We arrive on time and understand the standard practices of the organization for which we are working. We present our ideas appropriately, and we don’t allow any personal issues or concerns to impinge on what we do.
The skill of self-management is based upon our ability to observe ourselves and the effects of our actions on the outcomes we intend, and upon the people with whom we relate.
(As you read this, you might be nodding your head to yourself saying, “This is so obvious.” Yet, I would observe that few of us fully adhere to all the basic components of self-management. For example, I would estimate that at least 25%-50% of the meetings that I’m involved in with financial advisors do not start on time due to one of the parties showing up late.)
Self-management is distinct from self-justification, which is the story that we tell ourselves when we don’t accomplish what we said we would. In fact, people who are skilled in self-management are also skilled at recognizing when self-justification creeps into their inner thoughts and conversations.
Here is a list of the qualities and skills of self-management:
- Qualities: vision, passion, integrity, trust, curiosity, and daring
- Skills: self-observation, self-knowledge, self-management, self-remembering, and self-consistency
Focus on self-accountability
For Catherine Turner, whose behaviors reflected a lifetime of service and deference to others, she recognized that some of her self-management skills and qualities had been undermined. She realized that she needed to look in the coaching mirror and be fully accountable for accomplishing what she wanted to achieve. Catherine understood that, throughout her life, she had given short shrift to the most fundamental of self-management skills—attention to self.
Within the coaching framework, self-accountability is paramount. When you have a well-developed sense of self-accountability, you are honest with yourself, and are answerable and responsible for what you say and do. You have the ability to look beyond the immediate moment to consider the consequences of your actions and determine whether you are willing to pay them. You have personal ethics and are able to benchmark your behaviors against what you intend to accomplish and what you say you’ll accomplish.
The behaviors of self-accountability aren’t created overnight. As Catherine has attended to herself more and more, she is beginning to see this attention bearing fruit. In her most recent production month, her revenues were the best ever—a tangible outcome of the self-accountability structures she is creating for herself.
Coming full circle
Sometimes, life plays itself out in funny ways. Catherine’s adoptive parents have both passed away, and she has re-formed strong relationships with her birth parents and siblings. Each year, she flies out to Colorado to visit her 81-year-old birth mom. When she reconnects with her brothers and sisters, she finds they can all remember the day when their baby sister was taken away. They also remark that Catherine looks more like their mother than any one of them.
When Catherine visited her birth mom for the first time in her home, she was amazed to see that the walls were filled with pictures from Catherine’s childhood with her adoptive family. Secretly, Catherine’s adoptive father had kept in touch with her birth family, and he proudly delivered various mementos and snapshots of Catherine’s young life.
The other sobering reflection for Catherine is that she is the only one of her siblings to finish college. Although her adoptive family had taken her away from her blood relations, they also gave her the gift of an education and love of learning that serves her well to this day.
Looking back at her youth, Catherine remarked, “My adoptive life was good when it came to things. It wasn’t so good when it came to relationships.”
Today, Catherine is committed to making relationships good, too. Particularly her relationship with her self.
I trust you find this helpful.