Category: Coaching

Is Your Mindset Holding You Back?

I recently had animated conversations with two intelligent, highly competent HR practitioners, who both left corporate HR jobs to start coaching practices. Two people, both with brains and talent. Why is one getting traction and the other is not?

Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychology professor and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, suggests that having a growth mindset may be the difference. What is a growth mindset vs. what Dweck calls a fixed mindset? Our mindset consists of our most basic beliefs about ourselves and how they affect what we want and whether we’re successful in getting it. In effect, they guide our behaviour.

Individuals with a growth mindset believe that they can develop their skills and abilities over time, through attitude, experience, feedback, mentoring and other development opportunities. They thrive on challenge. They’re not preoccupied with how smart they look to others. They see failure as a valuable step in their learning and growth.

Back to the two aspiring coaches. “Sam” has a growth mindset. When a prospect doesn’t respond to her calls or emails, she persistently follows up. After receiving constructive feedback about her demo coaching session, her response is to listen carefully and determine how she will apply these learnings in the future. When learning of other coaches’ successes, she is genuine in her congratulations and inspired by their wins.

Compare this to “Robin” who has a fixed mindset, believing that her intelligence, attributes and abilities are pretty much carved in stone and that she needs to keep proving her worth. Her learning is compromised by questions such as: Will I look smart? Will it look like I have all the answers? Will I be accepted? In trying to constantly prove herself right, she misses the opportunity to learn. When prospects don’t respond after one email, she’s annoyed and gives up. Feedback after sales calls with a colleague is met emotionally and defensively. She is dismissive of other coaches’ successes, often attributing it to luck.

In a growth mindset, people view brains and aptitude as the starting point. These individuals have a love of learning that accelerates them to a higher level of achievement.

How can you get into a growth mindset?

5 Strategies…

  1. Be passionate about stretching yourself. Get comfortable with getting outside your comfort zone.
  2. View challenges as an opportunity to learn, grow and develop.
  3. When an obstacle or problem occurs, ask yourself, how can I solve it? What can I learn from this? How can I apply this in the future?
  4. Persevere! Accept that setbacks are an indication that you have not yet achieved your goal, not that you have failed and will never achieve it.
  5. Consider the process, rather than focus solely on the outcome. Assess the strategies you used, your dedication and your resilience.

According to Dweck, this mindset and your passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, especially in times of adversity, are what will propel you and help you achieve your full potential.

In my next blog, I will describe how you, as a leader, can encourage a growth mindset in others you mentor.

Here is Dweck’s model…

We would love to have a conversation with you about cultivating a grow mindset in your organization and your specific learning needs.

Please connect with me at:

(905) 990-2515




Want to Build More Trusting Relationships? 5 Tips

In a recent Coaching for Results workshop, a senior leader complained that he had done everything right in coaching his employee: he assessed her performance against pre-agreed expectations; asked his employee for her views; gave timely, constructive feedback; and collaboratively developed a plan to move forward. Yet the employee’s performance continued to falter.

This was my cue to ask about their relationship and especially about the extent to which they trusted and respected each other. George (as I will call him) looked puzzled. I turned to the rest of the group and asked how many agree with the statement: “Without trust there can be no coaching”? (from “The Leader as Coach” by David B. Peterson and Mary Dee Hicks). All 21 participants quickly agreed that it was a true statement.

Trust is a critical competency for everyone in business today. In the recent book “Smart Trust” by Stephen M.R. Covey, Greg Link and Rebecca R. Merrill, the authors present a compelling “business case for trust”.

How can we build more trusting relationships with those around us?

Here are 5 tips:

  1. Show confidence in others’ skills and in their potential to grow and develop.
  2. Be open, honest and direct, especially when the going gets tough.
  3. Do what you say you will do: walk the talk.
  4. Respect confidences.
  5. Reveal your vulnerability: admit your mistakes and shortcomings.

As for “George”, he cited our discussion as a game-changing moment and publicly committed to stopping two behaviours that undermined his trustworthiness.

Be Career Smart: 7 High Gain Questions to Ask Your Boss

In my previous blog “Are You Career Smart?” I touched on the importance of getting feedback about how others see us.

Yet getting these revelations is rarely easy. Leaders often struggle with separating fact from fiction, want to dodge conflict or are simply time-crunched.

Instead of waiting for your boss to paint your profile, arm yourself with these 7 high gain questions:

7 Questions to Ask Your Boss About Your Career:

  1. What do you see as my key strengths and major development opportunities?
  2. In what areas do I need to build muscle?
  3. What are my blind spots?
  4. Where do you see me in one year? Two years?
  5. What are the gaps between my current profile and these roles?
  6. What obstacles do you see in terms of my future?
  7. What key message do you want me to take away today?

Listen with your head and your heart. Avoid being defensive or argumentative. Compare this discovery with how you see yourself. Tell your boss how you are going to apply this feedback.

CORE offers confidential, 1:1 career coaching from a team of highly experienced, knowledgeable, ICF-certified coaches.

Having Difficult Conversations: 5 Tips

Do you dread difficult business conversations? Does anxiety prevent you from giving constructive feedback, challenging a colleague, communicating bad news or telling someone “no”? You’re not alone. It’s easy to avoid important discussions when you’re worried about navigating emotions and making matters worse.

There’s no need to delay those necessary talks – handling difficult conversations is a skill you can build.

Here are 5 tips to get you started:

  1. Be clear about the issue and your feelings. I’d like to discuss the deadline for this project. I’m very concerned that we’re going to miss the next key milestone.
  2. Explore their position. What’s your perspective? How do you see this?
  3. Listen, on a second level, to the feelings behind their words. It sounds like you’re frustrated that you’re not getting the support you need.
  4. Communicate respectfully and directly. We need to meet all the milestones in the project plan.
  5. Collaboratively problem-solve and ensure you have their commitment to take action. How can we ensure the next milestone is met? What ideas do you have? What will you do now?

Mastering these challenging exchanges will help you feel more confident under pressure, build better relationships and achieve your business goals.


How to Escalate Emotions

My last blog “Difficult Conversations – 5 Tips” struck a chord, loud and clear; many of you asked for more guidance. It seems that we all struggle when we’re in the eye of the storm, and most of us aren’t sure how to defuse challenging emotions during those tough moments.

This time, let’s look at the flip side and explore guaranteed ways to escalate conflicts and create even more angst for everyone involved.

7 Sure-Fire Ways to Escalate Emotions:

  1. Withdraw from the conversation. Maybe the conflict will resolve itself.
  2. Resort to email. Unless you use emoticons or upper case, it’s all neutral, right?
  3. Don’t listen. Interrupt and at all costs, avoid eye contact.
  4. Disrespect their position. Be sure to use the old standby: “I’m sorry that you feel this way, but….”
  5. Patronize: “Calm down.” “Take a deep breath.”
  6. Try a direct attack: “You’re always defensive.” “You need to be a team player.”
  7. Drag in other issues or people. “No one else other than you seems to be upset about this issue.”

Emotions – especially frustration, negativity and anger – are contagious. Your efforts to stay grounded and objective will help everyone stay calm. Above all, listen, listen, listen!

Yes, Build on Your Strengths BUT….

In hundreds of workshops and coaching conversations, leaders have heard me say:

“You’ll be more successful and satisfied if you build on your strengths — rather than turning yourself inside out to develop a skill in which you have neither aptitude nor interest.”

Validated by many scientists and management gurus, this is the key message in  the runaway bestseller StrengthsFinder by Tom Rath, designed to help people identify their top five “talents”. Its companion assessment and personal report are very compelling. I found my own results very accurate — although admittedly  I relished the absence of criticism!

BUT (as much as I abhor that word…)

Some individuals have morphed this concept into believing that all they need to do to be successful is find a career or role that plays to their strengths and ignore their weaknesses. Wrong!

Revealed in the 360° results of leaders I’ve recently coached, they’ve had weaknesses such as:

  • Lack of self-awareness: doesn’t know himself/herself well, e.g. impact on others
  • Poor command skills: reluctance to take charge when the going gets tough
  • Coaching direct reports: doesn’t push people to grow, learn and develop
  • Interpersonal skills: poor relationship-building and conflict management skills
  • Presentation skills: lack of audience analysis and ability to manage anxiety

What did the 360° respondents have to say about the impact of these development needs?

They described these weaknesses as career stallers and obstacles to their career progression.

So when I advise my clients to build on strengths I always follow up with this statement:

  • Make sure you know yourself: your weaknesses and your blind spots
  • Determine if these are impacting your current results
  • Validate your perceptions with others whose opinion you value
  • Take action where your weaknesses are negatively impacting your performance/career progression
  • Armed with this knowledge, evaluate future opportunities and roles: What areas play to your strengths? What areas could be a liability? What can you do to mitigate the impact? In what context can you be most successful?

CORE offers customized 360° surveys and individual coaching by highly experienced, ICF-certified coaches. Please contact us to discuss your needs.

The Secret Sauce That Will Help You Leverage Your Potential

In my first coaching conversation with a client, I ask: “Do you have a mentor, or someone you turn to for advice”? Because… Mentoring is the secret sauce that helps people realize their full potential. Although some people find mentors by accident, many don’t know how to find a mentor.

How to Find a Mentor…

  1. Develop a profile of your ideal mentor: their knowledge, skills, experience, achievements. What impresses you about them? What do they have that you want?
  2. Approach the individual who best fits your ideal profile. Rather than telling them you are looking for a mentor, take a softer approach such as, “From time to time I’m looking for someone to give me some advice about my career and I value your expertise. Would you be willing to meet with me for 30 minutes in the next few weeks?
  3. Share what you would like to learn and their related experience.
  4. Define your expectations about how frequently you want to meet.
  5. Request a second meeting. If they are reluctant, move on to other potential mentors.

If you are interested in learning about mentoring or CORE’s other leadership development services, please contact me, Joan Hill, at
(905) 990-2515 or