For Career Coaches

Success Questions: Stop Asking This. Start Asking This.

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

In the last few weeks, I’ve had several people ask me these questions:

shutterstock_161072735Do I have what it takes to be successful?

  • Can I make it in coaching?
  • Can I earn as much at coaching as what I’m making in my corporate job?

At the risk of sounding rude, I replied:

“You’re asking the wrong question!”

Over the years, I’ve had a glimpse into the hearts and minds of the people who were asking me these questions. They want to be successful in coaching.

Once people are clear on what they want—“yes, I want this” or “no, I don’t want this”—they should:

  • Stop asking the “can-I-make-it” questions, and
  • Start asking the “how-do-I-make-it” questions

As a side note, an interesting thing happens in our brains with these two types of questions:

“Can-I-make-it” questions can easily trigger the fight-flight response because they are often “code” for these safety-security questions:

  • Am I going to be okay?
  • Am I going to experience pain, embarrassment, financial hardship, etc.?

“How-do-I-make-it” questions might also trigger fight-flight responses, but if we ask with a sense of playfulness and social-oriented curiosity, we can avoid fight-flight-freeze and instead shift to calm-connect-curiosity.

So how do you STOP the “can-I-make-it” questions?

  • First, consider your world view. Do you see the world as a scary place, full of landmines and people who don’t want to help you, don’t want to learn from you, and don’t want to exchange their money for the value you’d bring them? Or do you see the world as a safe place, full of fascinating people, amazing adventures, and astonishing provision?With the latter view, the “can-I-make-it” question becomes irrelevant.
  • Next, take it up a level. What’s your take on God? Is He a cosmic cop, playing hide-and-seek, just waiting to catch you and punish you for doing something bad? Or do you see Him as the loving provider of every need, ready-willing-and-able to guide, support, encourage? Or something completely different?Our world view greatly affects our success view!

Finally, how do you START asking the “how-do-I-make-it” questions?

  • First, be curious. Operate from a place of wonder. Ask, “Who IS doing well at what I want to do?” “What exactly are they doing?” “How did they learn to do what they do?” “What strengths do I possess that will make it easy for me to learn what I need?”Hang out with these people, read about them, coach with them, learn to think like them!
  • Next, be self-compassionate. Tell yourself, “I am learning a new way to think and act. I want to be patient with myself as I not only find these answers but also begin to learn the new skills to implement and master them. It’s okay if I don’t do it perfectly right out of the gate.”Neuroscience studies show that when it comes to motivation, self-compassion works better than beating yourself up!

How about you? What questions do you want to START asking?

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Why We Shouldn’t Say I Should

By Susan Whitcomb | 2 Comments »

shutterstock_70446130

The brain is a sentry, always looking out for danger or oddities in our environment. Danger doesn’t just mean physical threats. It can also mean emotional or intellectual threats. And once a threat is perceived, our autonomic nervous system kicks in with a cortisol rush and we shift into fight-flight-freeze mode.

One of the ways we may unknowingly add threats to our lives is with our self-talk. For example, when we say “I should . . .” we are subtly making ourselves wrong. And when we make ourselves wrong, a chain reaction happens.

I should = I’m wrong.

I’m wrong = fight-flight response

Fight-Flight = cortisol spikes

Cortisol spikes = diminished ability to think creatively

 

In this cycle, we shift from “calm-connect-curiosity” to “cringe-and-condemnation”!

To shift from fight-flight / cringe-and-condemnation mode back into calm-connect-curiosity mode, first, remember to breathe deeply! This brings additional oxygen back to the parts of the brain that can reason.

Then, consider this languaging:

Cringe-Condemnation            Calm-Connect-Curiosity

I should be (present)                      I wonder

I should have (past)                        I’m noticing

If only I had (past)                          I’m aware of

 

In other words, if you’re PRESENTLY saying things like “I should be [working harder, eating less, exercising more, making more networking calls, etc.]”

shift to:

“I wonder [what I might work on that would be most meaningful, what kinds of foods my body really is craving now, how I might get more movement in today, who I’d like to connect with]”

Or, if you’re beating yourself up over PAST “shoulds” such as “I should have worked harder,”

shift your internal dialogue to:

“I’m aware that I could have done more. Next time, I’ll do this differently. I’m grateful that I’m more aware of what works best and what doesn’t.”

What “shoulds” will you be dropping from your vocabulary?! Enjoy!

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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!

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Brain-Based Techniques for Success: Which paradigm is your client operating from?

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

November has been a very exciting time here at The Academies with our 5th Annual Virtual Bootcamp! In case you missed it, here’s a sample of the buzz from social media:

  • Michelle Carroll shared this quote of John Assaraf’s: “You have all the intelligence you need to be successful.
  • Stacy Harshman chimed in with this quote from Tali Sharot: “Our brains aren’t quite the final authority on what is around us, or indeed, within us…
  • Tolu Adeleye picked up this nugget: “Helping clients in transition—remember, what has worked for them in the past is a key part of our work as coaches.”

You can see these and other takeaways by searching for #theacademies on Twitter. On Facebook, visit with us in the group Susan Whitcomb & The Academies (https://www.facebook.com/groups/theacademies/) to glean takeaways and pertinent information you can use with your clients today!

As you know, using brain-based techniques in career coaching is a passion of mine. I’ve heard from many people in our community who report an increase in confidence, competence, and compensation when using the brain-based techniques.

Paradigm Chart

One of my favorites is discovering which paradigm your client is operating from. We discussed this at length in session #1 of the Virtual Bootcamp:

 

 

Also, did you know that you actually have 3 “brains”? Many Virtual Bootcamp attendees were surprised by this new information. The neural networks in our head, heart, and gut are worth paying attention to. Head, Heart GutEach of these neural networks plays a key role in decisions made during the job search, interview process, and landing the job.

 

To learn more visit: http://www.theacademies.com/the-academies-5th-annual-virtual-bootcamp/

If you have any question, please reach out to our Program Advisor, Shelly Cantrell (Shelly@TheAcademies.com or 877-659-3769 ext. 1). Through November 26th , you can use the following coupon code to save $50 off the archives and handouts (Plus bonus handouts not shared live!): VIPSAVE50

 

 

 

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Do You See What I See?

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

shutterstock_138535850My daughter passed along a You Tube video to me recently that really caused me to stop and ponder. Dove (the soap people) hired a talented forensic artist to create sketches of ordinary women based on verbal descriptions only. Separated by a curtain in a loft filled with beautiful light, the artist asked one woman at a time to describe herself. “Tell me about your hair. Tell me about your chin… your jaw … your most prominent feature…,” he asked.

Prior to entering the artist’s loft, each woman had been introduced to another woman—a stranger who was given instructions to simply get to know the person. The stranger, unaware of the sketching experiment, was ushered into the studio a bit later. The artist once again began his questioning to draw a second composite of the original woman, this time from the perspective of the stranger: “Tell me about the woman you just visited with … her hair … her chin … her jaw … her most prominent feature.”

The two sketches were later revealed side by side. In each case, the self-description sketch looked harsh and less attractive, while the stranger’s description was softer, gentler, and more alive. Clearly, the strangers saw a uniqueness and beauty that the women couldn’t see or own.

shutterstock_102846440

 

If you’re working with clients who see the worst in themselves (and shoot themselves in the foot in the process because of it), consider this coaching idea:

Give your client a comparison assignment: Ask the client to describe him/herself in just 1 word plus and then list 3 of your best professional skills. Next, have the client ask some close friends to “describe me in just 1 word, and then 3 of my best professional skills.” (As a variation, a tool such as the 360Reach can also generate some positive feedback.) If the client operates from a faith-based dimension, ask how a loving and merciful God would describe him/her.

Once the results come in:

  • —  Explore the comparisons.
  • —  More importantly, explore what it would take to “own” the compliments and accolades that come in … or the motives/rationale for not believing the good things that others say.
  • —  Offer “stretch requests” by asking the client to be grateful for those specific attributes!
  • —  shutterstock_131955923Look for ways that the compliments translate into part of the client’s value to employers and gift to the world!

All of these activities can add to your client’s confidence and resiliency!

P.S. Here’s the Dove video! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXyJGk

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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!

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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!!

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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?! :)

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Mirror Neurons, Monkeys & Modeling in Coaching

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

monkey see monkey doIn the past 20 years, scientists have uncovered that there is a neurological reason behind the old saying “monkey see, monkey do.” Mirror neurons were discovered in the early 1990s in a primate lab in Italy. A scientist returning from lunch one day entered the lab eating an ice cream cone prior to resuming his experiments. One particular monkey in the lab had sensors attached to regions of its brain that were involved in planning and carrying out movement.

Any time neurons fired in those regions, the attachments sent a signal to a machine measuring the activity. When the monkey saw the researcher move his hand to his mouth to eat his ice cream cone, neurons fired, the machine signaled activity, and yet the monkey had not carried out any movement.

The scientists later discovered that the simple act of watching a movement stimulated the same neurons that had previously fired when the monkey itself had moved his hand to his mouth to eat a peanut or banana.

Scientists now understand that mirror neurons are essential to learning. UCLA psychologist Patricia Greenfield notes, “we see that mirror neurons absorb culture directly, with each generation teaching the next by social sharing, imitation and observation.”

mirror neuronsSo how do mirror neurons relate to coaching? Clients observe and imitate. If we act with optimism, clients will be more likely to act with optimism. If we approach challenges as an overcomer, they will be more likely to do so. If we are tense, clients will be tense. If we are calm, clients will be calm. Clients can observe, imitate, and learn how to approach their challenges by watching us!

With this in view, what if we believed, felt, and acted in the following way:

“My role as a coach is to facilitate hope, options, choice, and meaningful action. My default mode, which is pervasive and contagious, reflects possibility and potential, optimism and overcoming, broadening and building, confidence and certainty, finding a way and moving forward, trusting that there will be solutions even if they are not readily apparent.”

What are the far-reaching ramifications as you hold out and act on these beliefs today?!

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Leadership Coaching-Shifting from Entitled to Empowered

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

shutterstock_66132007(1)Have you ever worked with a coworker, employee, or coaching client whom you just wished could shift from “entitled” or “victim” thinking to “empowered” and “victorious” thinking? How different would our lives be–our careers, companies, families, communities, nations be–if we defaulted to the latter (empowered, victorious)?

I often hear managers and coaches ask the question, “How do I get someone to shift from ‘entitled’ to ‘empowered’?” Here are a few ideas:

shutterstock_131766014LEAD: Lead first. Live it yourself. Start by being a role model. See possibility and provision in every challenge, every routine, every everything . . . everywhere and all the time.

 

shutterstock_164791667LOVE: Love them. I know. It sounds a little politically incorrect to use the word “love” in the workplace, so let me explain. Care about the people you are coaching or managing—be interested and intrigued by who they are, what they can become, how they can contribute. Be selfless—do not be concerned about potential negative consequences to yourself if the person you’re coaching/managing gets what he wants (e.g., a manager who doesn’t want his “golden goose” producer to get promoted because it will leave the manager in a lurch).

 

shutterstock_158356859LEVERAGE: Leverage them. Leverage their strengths. No one can or will move forward when focusing on what’s wrong with them, what’s missing, what isn’t up to par. But when they look at their strengths—when you help them focus on their strengths—you’ll see a visible change happen…a hope and confidence that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

 

shutterstock_131706869LOOK: Look into the future with them. Explore what they want, whether today, tomorrow, ten years from now. Note: It’s best to do the looking forward after you’ve done the prior tip of “leveraging,” because people will be in a more optimist place to dream about what they want to create when they’re operating from their strengths.

 

shutterstock_109555592LEARN: Explore with the person what she needs to learn to move forward, to do things differently, to gain new ground. All too often, if we haven’t achieved a meaningful goal, it’s simply a matter of learning new skills, new thinking, new feelings that will support the goal. Look for opportunities to apply the learning, whether in a stretch role, with additional responsibilities, in a special assignment, or in an existing role.

Enjoy empowering yourself and supporting others in the process!

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