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Getting Beyond Fear in Decision Making PDF Print E-mail
Written by Susan G. Rose   
Oct 10, 2011 at 01:31 PM

Professional coach - getting beyond fearEffective management has long taken into account individuals' talents and how they best contribute to the group effort.  Many also realize that the personal blocks - the limiting beliefs, assumptions and interpretations - that we bring to our work has an impact on the individual as well as group results.  It's in marrying and facilitating both the inner and outer work where we achieve optimum results.  This is the sweet spot of coaching.


Coaching, specifically business coaching, has been around as a profession for several decades.  Most of us are familiar with the view that the best managers coach, thereby empowering the best efforts of their team.  Today the practice of coaching has moved far beyond the often untrained (though frequently effective) efforts of individual managers.   Its application within corporations is as varied as the industries utilizing its practices.  Fortune 100 companies, Allstate, Citigroup, GE, Google, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo and Proctor & Gamble to name a few, employ coaches and coaching companies to address ongoing employee development, as well as specific concerns, projects and events.  Corporations commonly employ coaches to work with executives and high potentials in support of these valued human resources.  And more recently newer initiatives, such as green projects, include coaches to assist teams in exploring possibilities and tapping into their creative abilities to develop innovative and impactful solutions to new business challenges.

In business the obvious focus is on the external challenges - the deadlines, the steps to be taken, tasks to be executed and the challenges to be overcome in accomplishing a desired goal.  The inner work, however, is less often considered.  We can espouse any number of theories as to why that is, but it really comes down to the fact that inner work is, well, personal.  Unless you're a ‘solopreneur' the focus is typically not on the individual, but on the team, or department, or corporate initiative and the external effort required to get it done.  Effective management has long taken into account individuals' talents and how they best contribute to the group effort.  Many also realize that the personal blocks - the limiting beliefs, assumptions and interpretations - that we bring to our work has an impact on the individual as well as group results.  It's in marrying and facilitating both the inner and outer work where we achieve optimum results.  This is the sweet spot of coaching. 

Inner work requires recognition of what holds us back, followed by a shift in perspective, a shift in how we view our environment, the people in it, and the world.  Not an easy thing to do.  It comes about through transformation of a deeply held value or belief.  Transformation is instantaneous, and the result of exploring beliefs about our environment, the people in it, and the world.  It may be subtle or dramatic, and inevitably affects your perspective and the choices you make.  So many of our blocks are fear based.  Large or small, our fears drive our decisions and our actions.  Recognition of them can also greatly empower us and therein lays the transformation.  Nothing demonstrates this as clearly as the following quote from Steve Jobs' 2005 commencement address at Stanford University.

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

No question that Steve Jobs had a handle on his inner and outer world and utilized every tool at his disposal to achieve his dream.

But how does one measure progress made in addressing those inner blocks?  Ultimately, it's in the performance results.  However, one of the difficulties is in quickly and accurately targeting what's really going on internally with employees.  It's natural for people to be protective of their weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  Also, there are blocks that people are not aware of in themselves which often lead to unintended results precisely because of this lack of awareness.  A somewhat obvious example would be the manager who says ‘all the right things' yet consistently de-motivates her direct reports.  She wonders why the team doesn't respond positively to her coaching and encouragement, and concludes there's some problem with the team.  It may well be that the manager really doesn't believe in the capability of some or all of the team members.  The team immediately picks up on this insincerity.  This unspoken communication is the manager's blind spot.

Attitude assessment is about attitudes that can be shifted

Direct observation can provide us with a good amount of information, however, is does have its limitations in how the observations are interpreted.  How then, can corporations more efficiently identify the source of blocks affecting performance?  For many years one of the tools commonly used to provide insight into the talents and tendencies of employees has been assessments.  There are countless skills-based assessments that assist in identifying training needs as well as determining task and/or job appropriateness.  Personality assessments such as Myers-Briggs are also frequently used.  The information they provide is useful in learning how to work within our personality type to facilitate learning and interaction with others.  A third and less well known type is the attitude assessment.  An example of this is the Energy Leadership Index (ELI) assessment.  Unlike personality assessments which aid us in leveraging our natural tendencies to our best advantage, the attitude assessment identifies and provides a measurement, along a continuum, of our attitude or perspective toward life, both personal and professional; an attitude that can be shifted.

The attitude assessment is based on the fact that given our attitude or perspective on life, we will respond in predictable ways, ways that are driven by our values and beliefs.  For example, if we believe that the world is essentially a dangerous place, we tend to take fewer risks, be more protective of ourselves and our possessions, be less trusting, and believe that we need to fight for everything we get.  And, as you may have already guessed, it indicates a particular level of involvement with and awareness of the world around us.  Because beliefs can change, so can our perspective, hence our engagement with and performance in the world can also change. 

The ELI assessment is the only tool I'm aware of that also has an associated coaching program designed around shifting our energy level or level of engagement.  The methods employed to affect any shift begin with knowing where you fall right now on a continuum.  Do you live with victim thinking?  Do you put everyone else's concerns before your own?  Are you the ‘can do' guy?  Are you a visionary?  Actually, we all have elements of every one of these and more.  It's not surprising that an acknowledged leader - one who consistently inspires and motivates himself and those around him - has some level of anger consciousness, some level of victim consciousness, some level of detachment and non-judgment.  But it's the average concentration across all levels that determine our perspective and actions, particularly when we are under stress, the automatic response that reflects our view of the world.  Just knowing where we fall on this energetic continuum can provide insights to those areas of performance that just aren't where we expect them to be.  It's a start if we choose to take a serious look at the results.

It takes courage to look at what doesn't work in our job and in our life.  It can show up in countless ways; from our example manager with the blind spot to the brilliant but twitchy colleague with too many hot buttons to count.  We all have one or more of them and, if we're honest with ourselves, we usually don't like what that says about us.  We are at the very least hesitant, and more often terrified to face the underlying fear or inauthenticity.  As Steve Jobs so clearly articulated, once you face the ultimate fear - and it exists for all of us - there's no reason to let the rest get in the way of your success.

Whether you use a tool like the ELI assessment (with or without the associated coaching program) or not, have the courage to explore what doesn't work for you.  Interrogate what's at the source of your internal blocks.  Begin questioning the thinking and the fears that hold you back from fully engaging in your life and your success.

Susan G. Rose, President of Inner Dragon Inc. and founding partner of the Lighthouse Development Group,  is a Certified Professional Coach and ELI Master Practitioner with over 30 years of corporate experience, which includes managing IT as well as business teams for a Fortune 100 company.  In addition to participating in global organizations, her responsibilities have provided her with opportunities to use coaching skills in successfully developing new teams within the organization and turning around poor performers.  For more information on an individual or group program, email .

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