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Priority Learning Newsletter February 1st 2018 Newsletter

Me Too - For the Men Out There Listening

Men, if you are anything like me, you have been watching and wondering what happened to the lives of the women around us. Maybe we feel like we are not the problem, and, I sincerely hope that I haven’t been a contributor. Could we have contributed through our ignorance? Maybe our lack of vision and ignoring all the signs while having been personally consumed in our own worlds has made us blind? I know, that sounds harsh and I mean no insult. You wouldn’t want a guy like me to candy-coat the fact that many of us didn’t know what was happening to the women we love.

I bet I’m not the only man who is wondering about what we should do about this finally disclosed epidemic of bad behavior. I say disclosed because the misbehavior and abuse of power we have been given is acute, or is it just because the social climate is now ready to hear the truth? Either way, this level of crazy has been going on for a very long time. In fact, it may not be as much of an epidemic as a regrettable and unforgivable way of life that many of us were ignorant of.

Some background – this is personal

The stories that I am about to tell will not have the real names of the women involved because I choose to spare these amazing people any more pain or embarrassment. Yes, embarrassment. That is what they each told me that they feel in hindsight because they inevitably blame themselves. Each felt like they should have been stronger and wished that they simply knew then what they know now.

Before I released this article, I reached out to each of them to ask that I tell their stories. Each were glad that I was telling their story.   


About 18 months ago I was coaching an executive leader who we will simply call “Smart.”  We worked together over a few months, and a few meetings in which she and I got to know each other like I do with many clients. One day over coffee she confided that she was in a very bad situation at home. She explained that her husband was monitoring her phone daily for texts and emails. He had insisted that she tell him each time she went to lunch with anyone and who she was going with. He had gotten to the point where he would look at her phone when she was away from it for any period of time and out of sight of the phone. Each lunch was followed by a barrage of accusatory questions. This form of power was not new or immediate for Smart. This was cumulative, and we are not talking days or even weeks. As she explained to me that day, it was over a period of years. The pattern had grown from simple information gathering in the beginning to an out and out effort to control her every move. The situation had gotten so severe that he threatened to divorce her and take her children. Over time he used every trick available to “manage” every aspect of her friendships and even her business interactions. Trust is so important in any quality relationship and each day eroded this vital trust more and more until it no longer existed. Smart stayed for her children as the relationship continued predictably, to deteriorate. The day she spoke to me she didn’t really want much from me except to listen and maybe for me to validate that what she was dealing with was not the way it was supposed to be.

Most men have no idea how something like this feels. This was my first exposure to behavior like this, and I have been around for a very long time. My only excuse is that I was blind, insensitive, clearly lacked empathy, missed all the signs, or some combination of all the above. Smart was, and is, one of the most capable leaders that I have met and all indicators were that she had her life clearly in tow. She was navigating her career and life with the precision of a symphony orchestra. In the real world, she was living two very different lives. One life at work where she had “it all going on”, and one at home in which she felt lonely, helpless, frightened and victimized. I promise that I’ll come back to Smart later because it does have a good, if difficult, ending.


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The Leadership Maker

By Ralph Twombly
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