Career Focus

Backwards Advice? Keep Your Clients “IN” Their Comfort Zone!

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

We’ve heard for years that “results come outside the comfort zone”! “Stretch yourself!” “Think outside the box.”

To some degree those statements are true. And yet, from what we know about brain-based research, there’s evidence that urging people to shift outside of their comfort zone may actually be less effective. Here’s why.

The Red Zone

blog post 1Our brains translate the phrase “Beyond the comfort zone” as “risk, threat, danger.” Risk, threat, and danger puts the brain into a fight-flight state. In that fight-flight state:

  • Cortisol and adrenalin are released,
  • Blood pumps to the large muscle groups so that we can fight or flee,
  • Blood flow is reduced in the executive function of the brain.

In short, it puts folks in what I call “the red zone”!

When blood flow is reduced to the prefrontal cortex (our executive brain), we are robbed of our ability to think as creatively, clearly, and strategically . . . the very thing we need to do when we are in an unfamiliar situation (aka, outside our comfort zones)!

The Blue/Green Zone

blog post 2Conversely, if we can help clients shift into the blue/green zone, they will be operating with full-functioning capacity of their brain. When all of this happens, “happy” neurotransmitters are pulsing through the brain and the body—dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, etc.—and, in turn:

  • Ideas flow and insights comes
  • Possibilities and hope increases
  • Energy rises, which gives rise to courage and confidence

So, the next time you’re working with a client and you notice they’re feeling out of their comfort zone, shift them into the brain’s “comfort zone”—that blue/green space of creativity and confidence first! In doing so, you are creating new neural pathways that will make the new thing (the change, the challenge) no longer outside the comfort zone, but part of it! That’s powerful!


Lessons Atop a Paddle Board

By Susan Whitcomb | 1 Comment »

pic for aug blog2Hawaii held lots of fun new adventures for me this summer—one of which was Paddle Boarding. We stumbled on an amazing fellow, Ian Foo, who has a paddle board/surf shop called Hypr Nalu right by the harbor. Ian is a former investment banker who worked on Wall Street and lived all over the world. Now he spends his days building his own beautiful surf boards, designing surf apparel, and teaching people how to surf. And he’s really good at it.

When my husband first looked into paddle boarding, he told Ian we didn’t want lessons—that we’d just take the boards out and have some fun. Ian persuaded him to start with a lesson, and I’m glad he did. Without a lesson, I would’ve been swallowing lots of salt water, and miserable!

So here are some lessons I learned from atop my paddle board:

paddle 1Always look up. Whether it’s paddle boarding or work/life, if you’re looking down (at the turbulent waters, at your problems), there’s a really good chance you’re going to fall. Look up (at where you are headed, at your vision, or, from a spiritual stance, at God).

  • So where is your focus?
  • What do you want to look at?
  • What we focus on grows!


paddle 2Stay balanced. Ian taught me to balance with feet shoulder-width apart, stay in the middle of the board, and use my core to power the arm strokes. In life, we know when we get out of balance—too much of one thing, not enough of another, or even over-using our strengths, which can turn into a weakness.

  • What allows you to come back to center, where you’re strong and secure?
  • Is it a tried-and-true routine?
  • Is it the discipline of executing on key priorities?
  • Is it staying true to your niche clientele?
  • Is it self-care?


Keep paddling. When you see turbulent waters coming, keep paddling! Keep taking action. Keep doing the right things. If you don’t, you’re guaranteed to fall off the board. (I know from experience!)

  • What do you need to do more of?
  • What do you need to do less of?
  • What do you need to do differently?


And, most important in my paddle boarding lessons, I learned to stay focused on the experience and enjoy the journey. Even when I fell and swallowed seawater, I reminded myself, you are alive—enjoy the journey!


The Myth of One-and-Done

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

“I tried networking once. It didn’t work.” These are the words of a job seeker who was convinced that all the hype about networking was underrated. He tried it. Once. And it didn’t work. And so he was right. Right?

Wrong! The truth is, there’s not much in this world that is a “one-and-done.” Here’s why: we rarely learn a new behavior or habit in one try.

o   Kids don’t get on a bicycle and nail it on the first try.
o   Students don’t learn a new language in one sitting.
o   Even the most gifted artist can’t master a new technique in one attempt.

Likewise …

o   A job seeker cannot master networking in one try…
o   A coach doesn’t perfect the art of powerful questions in one session…
o   An entrepreneur won’t get the many nuances of closing a sale in one attempt.


Why not? In a word: WIRING.  Neural wiring, that is. Our brains need repetition to get it right.

brain wiring 2When my daughter was young and taking roller-skating lessons (the kind where she learned to do fancy jumps and flips like the ice-skaters do), her coach would make her do certain moves over and over and over again. He would drive her crazy with his line, “Just one more time.” As soon as she did it, he’d give her feedback, and then repeat his request, “Just one more time.”

Of course, no kid wants to know ahead of time that she’s going to have to do 27 toe loops or Salchows in one lesson, so perhaps his “just-one-more-time” mantra was wise. Regardless, this coach knew that it would take repetition to get the “muscle memory”—the wiring—needed to master those jumps.


Your New Thing

next best thingWhat’s the new thing you are learning, or the not-so-new thing you want to take to the next level of mastery? If you’re coaching others, what’s the new thing they are learning, or that they want to take to the next level?

Write it down. Maybe it’s getting in shape, maybe it’s learning a new specialty area, maybe it’s acting more confident. Whatever it is, write it down using a pen or pencil. Find a Google image that represents the new thing. Express it with your body. All of these things add to the neural wiring.

Now, here’s an idea for strengthening neural wiring, a la the acronym “W.I.R.I.N.G.” which stands for:

Want It, Repeat It, and eNjoy the Gains

Here’s how it works:

  • Want It: We must want/desire the behavior or the outcome of the behavior in order to stretch ourselves to do something new, different, or better. There must be meaning behind it. If not, the brain won’t make sense of things, and our brains are loathe to do things that don’t make sense.So name your “want it”—why will this be meaningful to you?
  • Repeat It: Repetition is king in creating new wiring. Giving focused attention to the behavior, over a period of time, with intention and repetition is critical. Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, a psychiatrist, researcher in neuroplasticity, and internationally recognized expert in obsessive-compulsive disorder notes that “focused attention wires the brain, for good or for bad.”List your “repeat it”—how will you start small? How will you practice? How will you repeat it? How will you sustain it? Who will help you be accountable? (Social activity adds to the neural wiring.)
  • eNjoy the Gains: Rewards help rewiring. Give yourself positive feedback to encourage your brain to keep with it. The reward might be a treat you give yourself, or a compliment that someone else gives you, or a sense of accomplishment from having done what’s meaningful.How will you reward yourself? Is it tangible? Intangible? How will you celebrate?

Warning: when you get in the rhythm of “wanting it” and “repeating it,” you’ll begin to feel and think differently on the inside, even if your new behavior isn’t fully observable on the outside. Don’t succumb to the temptation of thinking, ‘this isn’t really working.’ It is! The fact that you feel different inside is evidence of that new wiring starting to form.

Join me in dispelling the myth of one-and-done. The reality of often-and-accomplished is more accurate, and brings lasting gain!


X-Men, Coaching & Rewriting the Future

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

x-men-days-of-future-past-professor-xMany moons ago when I married my husband, I was NOT a sci-fi fan. It was about last on my list of favorite movie genres, right above horror films. Give me a British drama or chick-flick any day of the week, but “no thank you” to sci-fi.


How things change. I soon learned that if I wanted to see a movie with my husband, I needed to be open-minded to what he liked. And so I’ve learned to appreciate movies like the X-Men and Inception and 2001 Space Odyssey. Last weekend, the whole family went to see X-Men’s latest release, Days of Future Past. Without spoilers, the movie points out how our choices today can impact not only our lives but many others’ lives in the days to come.


shutterstock_29017780(1)As a coach, you can imagine that “I’m all over that!” Choices create change. We all know that choosing to eat healthy today (and every day) will help create health in the decades to come. For business owners, choosing to spend time on marketing today will help create new business in the months to come. For job seekers, choosing to pick up the phone and have meaningful conversations with networking contacts today will create trust and more job opportunities in the weeks to come.


For change to happen, we need to create an environment conducive to change (the “helpful how’s”), and we need “inspiring why’s” associated with the change. Let’s start with the latter. Let’s say you want to change your financial situation for the better.


  • shutterstock_88446508(1)The Inspiring Why’s: We all have reasons for why we want something. To achieve significant change, go beyond the obvious. For example, perhaps you want to boost your finances because your child needs braces for her teeth. That’s a valid reason.

    But stretch a bit to think beyond this. What do those braces represent? Is it a life of greater confidence for your child? More opportunities for her? Better dental health down the road? Or maybe some of the “inspiring why” has to do with you: The opportunity to feel like you have provided well for her? The ability to learn something new (how to market better, how to provide a new service, etc.).

    If you really, really want to create change, go deep with your “why’s”!


  • shutterstock_150769385(1)The Helpful How’s: How does your environment need to change to help create change? Is it that you need to surround yourself with experts, mentors, and role models who inspire you? Is it that the television or Netflix needs to get turned off? Is it that your calendar needs to get rearranged so that activities that bring the highest income and highest impact take priority? Is it that you need to clean your desk so you’ve got room to create and hear yourself think?

    All of the inspiration in the world (the “why’s” above) won’t create change. It must be paired with meaningful action!


So think about what you want in the future. Then consider: What’s your “inspiring why”? What’s your “helpful how” to conduce change? Share your story!!


Leveraging Gratitude in Career Coaching

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

infographic gratitudeNumerous researchers in the field of positive psychology have learned that gratitude impacts many areas of our lives, as the infographic to the right shows:

•        Happy people’s income is roughly 7% higher

•        Grateful people on average give 20% more time and dollars.

•        Grateful people will have 10% fewer stress-related illnesses, be more physically fit, have blood pressure that is lower by 12%.

•        Grateful people are 20% more likely to get “A” grades

I wish there were statistics on how gratitude impacted job seekers’ success rates! If there were such stats, I’m confident they would show that grateful job seekers network more easily, get jobs faster, and negotiate bigger salaries (this last one is borne out in the first bullet above, with happy people having incomes 7% higher).

Gratitude ushers in the concept of provision. It causes us to view the world through a lens of possibility instead of problem, to believe “I have everything I need … right now.” The negative emotions of fear, anxiousness, and worry are based in anticipation of not having enough …  not having enough control, certainty, time, money, energy, health, protection, resources, wellbeing, wisdom, appreciation, acceptance, trust, ease. Simply put:

half full half empty•        Lack of enough is scarcity.

•        Plenty of enough is abundance.


Practical Application

So how do you leverage gratitude when coaching your clients? If you are working with someone who is bummed out over a job loss, be cautious about coming straight out and saying “what are you grateful for?,” because it can sound insensitive.

Instead, first acknowledge the pain. For example:

“I hear the frustration… not what you were hoping for.”

And then, consider saying something like”

“Without denying those feelings, what do you hope this situation will open up for you … make possible for you?”

This is a way of tapping the gratitude emotion without using the word “grateful” or “gratitude.” So, dear colleagues and friends, what do you hope your current situation will open up for you?! :)


Networking Even Works for 17-Year-Olds

By Emmeline Whitcomb | 1 Comment »

Guest blogger Emmeline Whitcomb


Emmeline Whitcomb

Growing up as Susan’s daughter, I’ve heard her ‘preach’ networking over and over again. At 17, I tried some of these techniques for myself and, no surprise, found them to be successful. Here’s the story of how I landed my first job as a Marketing Intern. There are lots of details here, which shows that networking to land a job isn’t a straight, simple line. And if you just want to jump to the end to hear what I learned about networking, feel free!

The process started 6 months ago. Back in March of this year, I was on the Southern Methodist University (SMU) campus interviewing for a prestigious scholarship. During the two-day interview event, there were multiple panels featuring different types of programs and activities on campus. One panel in particular included the Career Center, represented by the director and one of his employees. After the panel and open-floor questions, Susan pushed me to meet with the director immediately after the session. I asked if it would be all right to come in the next day and meet with him to ask a few questions. But my main goal in setting up the meeting was simply to make a connection with people at one of the most important places on campus.

shutterstock_99172223The next day Susan and I met with him. It was a little uncomfortable for me due to the fact that I was still a senior in high school and not very far along on my career path. Still, I was glad to be able to ask him questions about what employers wanted from college students. At the end, I gave the director a signed copy of my book, Wisdom Without the Wrinkles, full of inspiring bits of insights and wisdom designed for tweens and teens. A few days later, I sent him an e-mail thanking him for his time and connected with him via LinkedIn with a personal message, rather than the LinkedIn default message. Nothing happened immediately, but it was a connection I was extremely grateful to have later on.

Fast-forward three months to June at the 2013 MBA Career Services Council Conference in Washington D.C. During my time attending as an intern (and daughter) with Susan and The Academies, I was able to connect with multiple people in the career and recruiting world. While sitting down with two recruiters from national companies during dinner the first night, I asked if they had any advice on how to be exceptionally successful during my first year of college. One recruiter mentioned that it would be good to look into a work-study job at the Career Center because, in addition to the experience, I might also be able to get a first look at new jobs and meet recruiters.

Later during the conference, I was able to meet several people working at SMU in their MBA program, including the Career Center Director for SMU’s Cox School of Business. Now, it might have been normal for me to think, “She’s so high up on the academic ladder. How could she possibly be interested in talking to me?” But, I didn’t let that scare me into not talking with her. I told her I was planning on majoring in Marketing, which is in the SMU Cox School of Business.

She was gracious enough to offer to connect me with the Associate Director in the Cox Business School who specializes in coaching marketing students. At the end of that same day, I sent the MBA Career Director and other helpful people I had connected with a follow-up e-mail thanking them for their advice.

Jaymin_Patel_Emmeline_Whitcomb (By the way, I followed the tips in Jaymin Patel’s book, The MBA Guide to Networking Like a Rockstar. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it—and it’s not just for MBAs!)  Here I am on the right with Jaymin Patel.


I made sure to ask the MBA Career Director about connecting me with the Associate Director. About a week later, I received an e-mail from the Associate Director saying that the MBA Career Director had told her about me. I replied professionally and promptly to set up a time to meet with her in-person when I was going to be on campus for Orientation at the end of July.

During my Orientation, I made sure to go back to the undergraduate Career Center to ask about job opportunities, as suggested by the recruiter I met over the summer. I walked in and stood in line for only 30 seconds before I noticed the Career Center Director, whom I met with back in March, casually walking down the hallway. After we exchanged “hellos” I told him I was exploring internship opportunities at the undergraduate Career Center. He quickly responded with a friendly “Well, sit down!” for an impromptu meeting, where he told me about all the positions available for students. He mentioned a Marketing position (my intended major!) and said I could come in the next day to talk about the job with him and some of his colleagues.

That next day, I first had a meeting with the Associate Director for the business school (the marketing expert), whom I had been emailing with over the summer. Before I said anything, she showered me with praise over my e-mail skills. (Mostly because I had made sure to be prompt and professional—again, thanks, Jaymin!)

shutterstock_110884730When we met, I made sure I had a few on-point questions prepared—asking for her advice on the things she specialized in. Other than that, I allowed the time to be a period that I could simply make a connection and get to know her. At the end of our meeting, I told her that I had previously looked her up on LinkedIn and found that she had worked at the undergraduate Career Center where I was headed next for my informal interview. Once I mentioned that I was about to go meet with the Director and a few of his teammates, she immediately became excited for me and said that she would send them a short recommendation via e-mail as soon as we were done talking.

I then went straight from the Associate Director’s office to the undergraduate Career Center for my informal interview. Before I could even sit down, they mentioned that the Associate Director had just contacted them with a positive reference of me! When the three interviewers at the Career Center asked me if I had any questions, I made sure to ask some! I stayed engaged and inquisitive during the entire conversation.

shutterstock_116237026Three days later, the formal listing and written application for the job would be available. By the fourth day, I got an e-mail from the Career Center asking me if I would like the student marketing position. My obvious answer: YES!

To me, the amazing part of this story is that it happened because I forced myself to be courageous and talk to successful people who I thought were “too high” for me. But, that’s exactly what got me the job: a trickle down of references.

So here’s a recap of what I learned about networking:

  • Take initiative and look for opportunities.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to people, even if they are far above you in rank or position.
  • Ask people for their advice—be willing to admit that you don’t know everything.
  • Keep up with people over time. It takes more than one email to build trust.

I hope my networking success story will encourage the job seekers you work with!


Emmeline Whitcomb is currently a freshman attending Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, pursuing a Marketing degree as a Hilltop Leadership Scholar, a Hunt Leadership Scholarship Finalist, a Career Development Ambassador, and for personal enjoyment, a member of SMU’s well known a capella group! At 16, Emmeline wrote a leadership book designed for teens called Wisdom Without the Wrinkles: A Teen’s Insights on How To Be a Successful Leader, Earn Respect, and Create an Amazing Life. Emmeline highly values joy and accomplishment in life and has dedicated much of her time to mentoring others. Her message that perspective changes everything has inspired teens to find confidence and success despite life’s challenges. She is also a co-author of Girls Lead, written by Julie Marie Carrier and the BeYOUtiful Club and will continue to write and speak at events to be able to share inspiring and positive messages to young teens around the country.


Career Coach Training–What You Focus on Grows

By Susan Whitcomb | 3 Comments »

Have you ever noticed that what you focus on “grows”? You’ve probably had the experience of buying a car and, prior to the purchase, you hadn’t noticed that particular model on the roads, but after the purchase, you see it everywhere. That’s because you’ve created a new awareness for this particular item.

Depositphotos_1230282_lThe same holds true for our thoughts and perspectives. The more we focus on negative thoughts, the more we “see” them everywhere. They become a lens through which we view the world.

There is a direct correlation between what we focus on and the depth/breadth of the neural pathways in our brain. If the brain focuses on problems, the neural pathways grow to reinforce the belief that there are problems. If the brain focuses on solutions, the neural pathways grow to reinforce the belief that there are solutions. As David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work, notes “changing behavior requires deepening our ability to choose what to focus on…”

What we do regularly becomes a habit, deeply embedded in the basal ganglia of our brains, which means that it becomes our default mode.

Choose Your Focus


If our default mode is “this will be hard,” our brains will look for evidence to prove we are right. If our default mode is “there is a solution to this,” our brain will look for evidence to prove we are right. When coaching your clients, ask them, “Which lens do you want to look through?!”

Let’s make this relevant to our immediate situations. Think about the week in front of you. You likely have some challenges within the appointments on your calendar. Maybe it’s a difficult client project. Maybe it’s a lack of appointments (aka, income-generating business) on the calendar. Maybe it’s a relationship that will require kid-glove handling. Maybe it’s a cold call that will require some courage on your part.

What do you want your default mode to be around these challenges? Will it be, “This will be hard”? Or will it be, “There is a solution to this.”

How about your clients’ situations? Their challenges may sound like: “No one is hiring.” Or “I hate networking.” Or, “Who would ever hire me?” Or, “I’ll never get a job making as much as I used to.”

Change Your Default Mode
To embed a new default mode requires frequency and repetition. Here are just a few ways to bump up our (or our clients’) frequency and repetition:

  • Reminders: Post stickies or index cards in plain sight to remind you of your new default mode. Write it on your calendar. Put it in Evernote or Notes or a favorite App.
  • Partnership: Ask a buddy to check in with you on your new default mode. Make sure you choose someone who will be supportive and non-judgmental.
  • Languaging: Use phrasing like “I am growing in my ability to _________ [e.g., see solutions]” to allow your mind to accept that this is a developmental process.
  • Tracking: Measure and track behaviors that support the new default mode. That’s why weight-loss apps like MyFitnessPaul are so popular—they help people augment their focus.
  • Monitoring: In addition to tracking the behavior, consider journaling around what’s working, and what you’re learning along the way. This can help keep you in curiosity mode, instead of condemnation mode, if you feel your progress isn’t going as quickly as you’d like it to!

So my challenge to you today: If there’s an area that you’d like to be more of a “solution” focus instead of a “problem” focus, join me! Choose your preferred focus and change your default. Share your insights and wins below!


What Goes on in a First-Rate Mastermind Meeting? Six Takeaways & Insights

By Susan Whitcomb | 1 Comment »

mastermind-brainLast week, Lyndsey and I spent two days in a Mastermind group that met in Los Angeles. Was it easy to carve out the time to get there? Was it easy to give up two precious days that could have been spent doing “billable” work . . . two valuable days that could have had me home with my family . . . two days that would have been more contentedly spent in the comfort of my home office? No, no, and no!

But, was it worth every ounce of the time, treasure, and mental tenacity it took to be there? YES!

Here’s the setting for the Mastermind: picture a room of approximately 60 people, entrepreneurs from a wide range of industries, from as far away as the U.K. Most of us have built mid- to high six-figure businesses, with several in the room managing seven- and eight-figure businesses. Regardless of gross or net income, we are all there for one reason: we know the value of setting aside time to stretch our minds, share and learn from one another, and be inspired to not only dream bigger but act more diligently to make those dreams come true.

So, in the spirit of sharing and learning, here are just a few of the takeaways from our Mastermind:

  • I learned that the reason most of us are in business is not to make money or serve others (although those two things do happen, which is a good thing!), the real reason we are in business is to have freedom. And, every decision we make as an entrepreneur will either contribute to, or contaminate, that freedom!
  • In one exercise during the Mastermind, everyone in the room was asked to come up with 3 ways to add an additional $20,000 to their monthly income. After one colleague at our table said, “Are you kidding? I want to think of a way to add that to my WEEKLY income,” I learned that what we get used to becomes our norm. (With that, I encourage you to think of three realistic ways to add a lot more to your monthly income!)
  • I learned that if you’re struggling to get clients, often the most effective thing to do is simply ask past clients what they want for products/services and what they would be willing to pay for it!
  • I was reminded that even when you land a big contract or have a significant financial win, you never, ever, ever stop prospecting and filling your pipeline.
  • I heard about a cool new app called Telepromt+ that you can use to prompt you when you’re giving speeches or recording videos … way kewl!
  • Susan Whitcomb & Julie Carrier

    Susan Whitcomb & Julie Carrier

    I was reminded of the idea that you will become the average of the five people you spend most of your time with. And that made me remember why I was attending this Mastermind. I want to spend my time with people who are setting, and achieving, big goals, and making big differences in the world! (Here’s a picture of me with one of my colleagues, Julie Marie Carrier, a former Miss Virginia, Emmy-Nominee Success Coach for Teens, and Award-Winning Speaker)
  • I’ll stop here, but please know that there were dozens more ideas that we came away with and will take action on immediately!

In closing, I was at a social event this weekend where someone asked me if a tough economy was helpful or hurtful for my business. I used to think that the economy dictated my success, but I’m singing a different tune these days.

To some degree, a difficult economy can make almost anyone’s business more challenging, but the reality is this: if I . . .

1) decide to be successful,

2) quantify what that success looks like, and then

3) take strategic action toward that success daily and diligently, the economy is secondary to my success.

This reminds me of Henry Ford’s advice (paraphrased) that “if you think you can do a thing, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” So join me in my own personal challenge to think, “I CAN!”


Looking to overcome limiting beliefs in your business? Call me today (877-659-3769) for practical, action-oriented entrepreneurial coaching!


What will happen if you don’t?

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

On a scale of 1-10, when it comes to coaching, I’m a 10. I love coaching others, I love being coached, and I love training others to become coaches. For me, coaching feels like I’m doing good works and making a difference in the world.

It’s a different story when it comes to marketing. On a scale of 1-10, I’m about a 3. I hate having to reach out and remind people about who I am, what I do, and the benefit I can bring to their lives with my services. This attitude costs me dearly, both emotionally and financially.

Early in my career as a budding coach, I mentor coached with an amazing human being named Judy Santos, who was welcomed into the arms of heaven a few years ago. (I still miss her dearly!) At the time, she was teaching a foundational coaching course that started me on the road to become credentialed with the International Coach Federation. I knew I needed to be coached if I was going to be a successful coach, and so she was a logical choice to be my mentor coach with her vast coaching experience and former business background.

We worked on a number of projects together, initially to help get my new career coach training certification program up and running. I’ll never forget being just half way into the four-month foundations class and announcing to her that I had decided to launch a career coach training school and teach others coaching. I could tell she was impressed with my enthusiasm but taken back by, what I now label in hindsight, my naivety. I was a brand new coach—how in the world could I presume to train others when I’d only been learning just a few months myself! But with the passion of a new convert, I just had to share the good news of coaching with my colleagues in the careers industry, and so I forged ahead. I loved the curriculum development portion of getting the school up and running. I loved developing coaching techniques, wrestling with how to articulate the challenges people in career transition experience, and creating exercises to help others learn how to shift from career consultants and advisors into true career coaches.

But always, marketing took a back seat. I didn’t want to bother people. Able to see my blind spots better than I could, Judy would bring up the topic of marketing and ask what I was doing to market the program. I would respond with my list of excuses and what wasn’t working: no one responded to my email campaign, I couldn’t close the prospective student who had expressed interest in registering, I didn’t have time to offer a free preview call to give people a taste test, and so on.

I was oblivious to my attitude about marketing and how it was impacting my success (or lack thereof) in the realm of bringing in new students. I procrastinated and rationalized and procrastinated and rationalized.

Judy used all the right coaching techniques: she looked at the root of my procrastination, we explored limiting beliefs around my marketing phobia, we identified actions, and we discussed the best methods for accountability, even agreeing at one point that I’d make a financial contribution to an organization that was against my moral values if I didn’t follow through on my marketing commitments. All these things certainly created more awareness for me around marketing, but it hadn’t shifted me into full-scale action.

Finally, one day Judy asked me about my least-favorite topic: “How’s the marketing going.” I bemoaned my plight, reciting my favorite tape about the things I wanted to do, needed to do, but wasn’t getting done. And that’s when she asked me a question—THE question—that has stayed with me and served me well for more than 10 years:

What will happen if you don’t?

The question did what a powerful question should do: it took me into the future, it made me examine my thinking, and it shifted me into action. Since that question, I have never thought of marketing in the same way. And now, I no longer rate myself a 3 on that 1-10 scale for marketing. It’s more like a 7 or even an 8, which is saying a lot for a ultra-sensitive introvert who still doesn’t want to “bug people.”

I now see marketing as an opportunity to bless the people I serve: to offer them value in the midst of the marketing message, to inform them of new opportunities, and to remind them of the positive future they can create for themselves. And yes, sometimes their future involves taking advantage of our services. I have come to even love the opportunity to market. The consequences of not doing so are dire, while the outcomes of doing so are enormous.

Coaching the Coach Tip:

Are there tasks in your life or work that you dislike or procrastinate on? What will happen if you don’t do those tasks? Step into the future and consider the consequences of procrastinating or doing them haphazardly. If those tasks are important to your success, how might you reframe the task so that there are positive instead of negative thoughts associated with it?

Is it that the task is simply something that you don’t know how to do well YET? (Remember that everything that’s essential to your success is learnable!) If so, enlist in a course, mentor coach with someone who’s mastered it, or find an accountability partner who will help support you in the process. Or perhaps you can explore ways to delegate the task, whether by paying someone or bartering the services.

Finally, reverse the question from “What will happen if you don’t?” to “What will happen if you do?” Envision your world with that new task mastered, operating well, and bringing the results needed. What will be different? How will it equip you to serve the people you are called to serve? How will it expand your reach, voice, impact, and success?


Intelligence Is Overrated, Self-Leadership Is Everything

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

Fascinated by the Forbes headline, “Intelligence Is Overrated: What You Really Need to Succeed,” I thought, “Great! There’s hope for me!”

The article states that “85 percent of your financial success is due to skills in ‘human engineering,’ your personality and ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead” while only 15 percent is due to technical knowledge.

Many of you may think, “I’m not into leadership” or “I’m not a leader.” The truth is, YOU ARE A LEADER, and your financial success is largely dependent on your SELF-LEADERSHIP skills.

What does self-leadership mean? For me, it means walking the talk. (Am I perfect at it? No, but I’m intentionally working on upping my skills in this area.) It means that:

  • Every choice is a leadership moment . . . do I think small-potatoes/myopic/in-the-moment, or do I think big-vision/strategic/in-the-future?
  • Every challenge is a leadership opportunity . . . do I blame external circumstances and bury my head in the sand when hard stuff happens, or do I practice resilience, “control the controllables,” and proactively do something about it?
  • Every conversation is a leadership conversation . . . am I multitasking during conversations, or do I provide people the respect, patience, and input they need from me in order for them to be their best?
  • Every chore is a leadership task . . .  do I procrastinate and misprioritize, or do I tackle things and follow through on the commitments I’ve made?

As my business has grown over the last decade, I have noticed that its success is in direct proportion to my self-leadership abilities. And I’ve seen the same for the entrepreneurs whom I coach.

Grow as a leader, and you’ll grow your success. AND, grow as a leader, and you’ll be more confident and qualified to coach leaders, even if you don’t supervise subordinates, manage large sums of money, or own a large operation.

Your turn . . . what choice, challenge, conversation, or chore will you approach today as a LEADER?


Image courtesy of Celal Teber


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