Posts Tagged ‘confidence’

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 »

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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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Life’s Vice Grip, or Life’s Hugs?

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

Have you or your clients ever felt like Life had you in a “vice grip”? A vice grip is something unpleasant that you (or your clients) would love to get out of, and yet you can’t! For example:

  • shutterstock_212341042The uncertainty of how long a job search will last
  • Bills that need paid and not enough money
  • A relationship that’s causing angst
  • A job that is killing you, but feeling like you can’t quit
  • New skills that need mastered without the hope you can learn it all
  • Important projects that need done and not enough time, focus, or energy to finish

The vice grip can feel like an intersection of uncertainty, pain, fear, lack, and loss of control. You want things to change. You want it to be fixed. Or you wonder if it’s possible to be fixed. Or you wonder if anyone even knows what you’re going through, or cares.

Being a student of emotional intelligence, I’ve been acutely aware of how my current vice grip is causing me to react (I’ll skip the details—suffice to say that I can claim several of the bullets above … and I’m probably amongst good company!).

I vacillate between being nervous and scared, then kicking into action to control whatever controllables I can, then back to being nervous and scared, then wondering if things will work out, then back to being nervous and scared, then taking action, etc. It’s a bit of a roller coaster.

shutterstock_97094300In the midst of all of this, I stumbled on an article about why hugs are important. Hugging allows us to relax, and enables us to be more resilient. The writer suggested an exercise, for example, that when a spouse comes home from work, the other spouse should greet the partner with a full-frontal hug—and hold the hug long enough until each feels the other relax. (Absent a spouse, look for a friend, family member, or even a pet to try this out—it works!).

And then I saw a bigger-picture connection. Maybe life’s vice grips are really Life’s full-frontal hugs—circumstances allowed into our lives that cause us to hold tight to our values, tap into our strengths, believe it will all work out . . . and relax.

And like the full-frontal hug exercise, we must hold on until we relax. And with that relaxation, we find the calm-connect and energy-action to meet the possibilities in front of us. With gratitude. With creativity. With perseverance. With love.

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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.

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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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Networking Even Works for 17-Year-Olds

By Emmeline Whitcomb | 1 Comment »

Guest blogger Emmeline Whitcomb

Emmeline_Whitcomb_Photograph

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.

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The 4 Questions You Must Ask the People You Coach

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

Have you ever been asked a question that set off a light bulb in your brain, or pumped up your confidence and hope, or got you out of a funk and on to taking action on what was most important to you?

I’m a big believer in asking powerful questions. After teaching coaching for more than a decade, I’ve noticed that there are four categorical questions that must be asked of the people you coach:

<   What?

<   Why?

<   What If?

<   How To?

When you ask these four types of questions, you cover visioning, purpose, fears, and practical action steps. For example:

What? “What Questions” create awareness and take people into the future … into a space of imagining and creating what they really want from life and work. When they are in that imagining/creating space, it’s easier to be optimistic and see solutions. “What questions” might sound like these:

  • What would make you super proud of your life?
  • What do you want more of in your work? Less of?
  • What’s your answer to winning the lotto? After the fun of blowing a few million, what would you spend it on?

Why? “Why Questions” are the proverbial carrot—they remind people of the motivations for their goals and dreams. “Why questions” might sound like this:

  • What would that bring you?
  • Why would that be fulfilling?
  • How would that change your current circumstances?

What If? “What If Questions” get at the root of fears and concerns that cause procrastination, excuses, limiting beliefs, or misguided and inefficient action. “What If Questions” might include:

  • What’s the worst that can happen?
  • How would you lessen the risk of that happening?
  • If not now, when?
  • I get the sense you’re thinking, ‘Who am I to do this amazing thing?’ As your advocate, I have to ask, ‘Who are you not to go for it?’
  • What’s the payoff for procrastinating?

How? “How Questions” involve processes, steps, timelines, and accountability. They  bring structure and support to the client’s action steps. For example:

  • What specifically will you do to move closer to your goal?
  • What are some other options for making that happen?
  • How many ___________ (informational interviews, target companies identified, etc.) would be the right number?
  • How will you know you’ve been successful in that step?
  • When do you want to be finished with that?
  • Who else needs to be involved to make it go smoothly? Or, Whose cooperation do you need in this?
  • What will finishing that allow you to do next?

Experiment and have fun with these categorical questions. Try them out with your clients, as well as yourself when working toward your own goals!

 

Interested in learning more of these types of techniques? Our next Certified Career Management Coach program starts Tuesday, September 18.  Don’t miss it!

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