Posts Tagged ‘fight-flight’

The Internal Career Coach: The Employee Who’s Afraid to Talk to the Boss

By llehman | No Comments »
A group of career coaching colleagues and I had a discussion recently about what prevents employees from being proactive about managing their careers with their current employer. One theme that surfaced quickly was…

The employee’s fear of talking to the boss!

Those fears can be founded in a number of assumptions, opinions, and/or facts. For example, fear of:

Damaging trust—the employee may wonder…

  • If the boss will think the employee is unappreciative of all the boss has done for her
  • If the boss will be angry or retaliatory because the employee is the boss’s “golden goose” as a key producer
  • If the boss will be frustrated if the employee has been in her role a short time, such that the boss will have to spend more time training someone new and bringing a replacement up to speed

Raising red flags—the boss may wonder…

  • If the employee is fully engaged and giving his all
  • If the employee is still the right fit for the job
  • If the employee takes on new responsibilities to add to his portfolio of skills, will he still have time to do all of his regular work duties?

Creating suspicions—team members may get wind of the conversation and then wonder…

  • If the employee is really bought into the team’s success, or
  • Whether the employee is jockeying for position to “one-up” them or get ahead of them

As a career coach, what should you do with all of these fears—some of which may be well-founded?!

Two Quick Tips:

  • First, avoid tackling the fears and problem-solving how to remove them. Fear is a natural response in human beings, and it will easily resurface in a new form once the employee has left your coaching call. 
  • Second, focus on “flourishing.” Coach your employee/client out of fight-flight mode and into calm-connect/peace-possibility/flow-flourish mode. From this stance, your employee will be equipped with additional brainpower to vision, problem solve, and take action.

If you’re interested in deepening your competencies in this area, check out the Certified Career Management Internal/Corporate Coach Program… Our next class starts June 16th!


The Internal Career Coach: How to Coach a Manager with Low EQ

By Susan Whitcomb | 4 Comments »

shutterstock_90636670I just got off the phone with an internal coach who is coaching a manager who has low EQ. You’ve probably come across this type of manager—the financial superstar who is bottom-line oriented and therefore gets promoted but has yet-to-be-developed skills in the area of motivating, developing, and relating to his/her direct reports.

As I’ve taught coaching over the years, I frequently hear the questions of “How do you get people who are highly analytical to be more relational?” and “How do you increase their EQ?”

Here’s my latest thinking on those questions, based on my understanding of neuroscience.

It starts with compassion.

Compassion keeps us out of fight-flight mode and puts us into peace-possibility mode, and we know that our brains are more able to come up with options and see solutions from the latter stance.

You might think, my low-EQ manager clients don’t want compassion from me! Maybe not. We do know that one of the things they do need is a no-judgment zone. And that is compassionate. We know that they do need to remain calm and in control so they can find solutions. And we know that they’re not in control when they’re being emotionally hijacked!

Next, is curiosity.

To help someone change their thinking (and then their behavior), they must be curious. They must wonder whether the way they’ve always thought/acted is still making sense. They must wonder what a different way of being might bring them better results.



Compassion & Curiosity in Coaching Conversation

Here’s how compassion and curiosity might sound in a coaching scenario:


Client: My new employee isn’t cutting it. She doesn’t quite have the skill set we really need at this point in time. I don’t have the time to deal with this. I want to just cut her loose.

Coach: I hear the drain.


Client: Right. It’s just one more thing and we’re going through so much with this re-organization.

Coach: Lots on your shoulders. I can almost see it physically. [pause] And I hear you wanting to be done with this.


Client: I do. This isn’t what I signed up for. It’s a drag on our productivity.

Coach: Sounds like it’s a drag on you, individually, as well. So even though you don’t want to spend time on this, it’s still taking up space in your thought process and draining your energy.


Client: No kidding. [sigh] She’s not totally useless, but there are some things that really annoy me.

Coach: What would those be?


Client: She’s overly enthusiastic and doesn’t count the cost, and then it ends up causing misunderstandings and friction.

Coach: And on the flip side, you said ‘not totally useless,’ what are the things she does well?


Client: In a way, it is her enthusiasm that the rest of the team seems to respond well to.

Coach: Double-edged sword.


Client: And she really pulls the project management piece of things into focus. She can get other people on board.


Coach: It’s what they call ‘cognitive dissonance.’

Client: What do you mean?


Coach: Part of you says “she’s really upbeat, she’s loyal as the day is long, she’ll tackle anything you ask her.” And another part of you says, “a leopard doesn’t change its spots, I don’t have time to train or develop her, I don’t think she can do the job anyway.”

Client: Right.


Coach: And typically when there is cognitive dissonance, there’s hesitation, procrastination, second-guessing, and that quiet internal voice in our heads that keeps chewing on things, stealing away precious resources from our ability to think creatively and strategically.

Client: That makes sense.


Coach: Up to this point, it’s as if your brain may have been focusing on thinking, ‘no time for this, cut her loose’ as the wisest move—the best way to cope—, and yet there’s another part that’s quietly raising its hand to say, ‘hmmm, but she does bring some value to the table.’


Coach: One of the best ways to resolve cognitive dissonance is with curiosity. What comes up for you with that word “curiosity”?

Client: So, maybe, curiosity around where does she fit best, curiosity around what would happen if I simply told her that she’s not cutting it, curiosity around what will I do in the future if I get someone else on my team who doesn’t have everything on the ‘wish list’ that I want—will I just cut ‘em all loose?


Coach: What else?

Client: I’m done.


Coach: Open to some other thoughts?

Client: Yep.


Coach: Curiosity around how to leverage her strengths … curiosity around how you leverage your strengths in managing her … curiosity around whether this might take less time than originally imagined …

Client: Those are good.


Coach: You’re stretching her. You’re stretching yourself.

Client: I hear that. I get it.


Coach: How do you want to execute on the insights?


[end of excerpt]


Did you spot the compassion? Did you spot the curiosity? How might you implement these ideas with the people you coach? With yourself?



Why We Shouldn’t Say I Should

By Susan Whitcomb | 2 Comments »


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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