Is Your “Self Talk” Track Derailing You?

Outmoded Self TalkHave you ever been in a situation where you experienced that sick feeling in your stomach or anger rising up or a sense of panic or just plain frustration…feelings that caused you to react in a way you wished you hadn’t ? Afterwards, when you thought about it, did you berate yourself for not being more resourceful this time? You’re not alone. It happens to most successful leaders at some time.

Despite your professional success, it could be any number of situations that affect you……demonstrating professional presence in senior level meetings, handling criticism or conflict, giving presentations, defending what you believe, handling customer complaints, dealing with troublesome employees, or other situations.

What is your reaction? Do you clam up? Get red in the face? Stonewall? Get defensive and accusatory? “Hum and Haw”?

You may be responding to your outmoded “self talk”.

Your outmoded “self talk” can be limiting your effectiveness, destroying your relationships, tarnishing your personal brand, and derailing your career.

Not to mention:
Causing you stress and anxiety.
Making you over react or hold back.
Questioning your abilities or self worth.

We all do it. We talk to ourselves. It can be good “self talk” or it can be negative “self talk”. If you think about it, you know in what circumstances your detrimental “self talk” happens.

Recognize any of these?

These come from a prior experience in our lives, even from our childhood, that we have reinforced over time, so now we just accept them. “Self Talk” like these will cause you to react in a less than optimal or resourceful way…maybe even damaging way.

“I am not as good as they think I am.”
“They are going to see my weaknesses”
“I better not ask that or they will think I am incompetent. Just stay quiet”
” I am just not good on my feet”
” You’re attacking me! You’re saying I’m incompetent. I need to defend myself.”
“Everybody is waiting for me to make a mistake up here.”
“Wow he’s really mad. I better just shut up rather than antagonize him even more.”
“They don’t respect me.”
“Oh no! There goes my career!”
” I hate that woman. She thinks she’s so great. She’s not that good. She just sucks up to the boss.”
“He’s just incompetent.”
“I just know he’s going to ask me questions I don’t know the answers to.”
“I am gong to look weak in front of everyone.”
“I’m the boss. Do as I say not as I do.”
“This project is off track. There goes the quarter. I am going to look really bad. There goes my bonus.”
“Don’t make yourself look like a fool.”

But You Can Change! A Lesson From Golf

A few years back, when I got really upset with myself over an another “errant” golf shot my buddy said: “Would you let your caddy talk to you the way you talk to yourself?”
btw “Errant”…. that is short form for ” Who’d had thought it possible to hit a golf ball into that spot from here?”

An easy going good friend of mine says he stays calm ” because he’s just not a good enough golfer to get upset”.

After several hours thinking about this at the 19th hole, I came to the conclusion that 2 things caused my reaction:

1. I was going to fail! All I could think about was missing my goal of a low score. With each bad shot I could see my chances going down the tubes. And I was running out of holes to recover! Of course this caused me to get even more tense, hit more bad shots and get more upset…a vicious circle…and I do mean vicious.

2. I am incompetent! (and every one can see that I am!) How many times had I hit this shot perfectly on the practice facility? Why couldn’t I do it on the course where it mattered ? What is wrong with me? It made me feel ineffective, out of control, that I was lacking the mental toughness. Sometimes I even believed it was hopeless to even think I could get better.

I have since changed my approach. I had read that nothing we experience has meaning until we give it one. That meant I could change how I gave meaning to my errant shots. I began treating each “less-than-perfect” shot as feedback…not a catastrophe.

I now tell myself 2 positive things:

1.Something good about the situation. “Well at least I will be closer to the green now.” or ” It could have been worse. At least I can find it and hit it”

2. A learning point or suggestion. “Next time I am going to remember to line up and focus on a mark on the ground in front of me” or ” remember to follow through”.

It’s All About Choice

Getting upset with myself made me feel and play worse not better.
I decided I wanted to enjoy my experience. I chose to change my “self talk”
It is amazing how this has changed not only my enjoyment of the game but also the quality of my game.
Now I am less tense. I am more relaxed. My mind is focused on what I can do different. I am not focused on what might go wrong. I am not wasting my mental energy beating myself up. I am not my own enemy. I am open to possibilities. I am more fun to golf with.

It is not easy. I will still lose it occasionally. But it comes easier now.

Applying Intentional “Self Talk” at Work



Now take this to the work place to those situations that you do not handle well or which you avoid.
Think about one of these situations.
What is the trigger that causes you to not respond in the most resourceful way?
What do you tell yourself?
What causes that feeling in the pit of your stomach or causes your mouth to go dry or makes your blood boil?
In each instance, some trigger is causing you to tell yourself to act in a specific manner…defensive, hesitant, passive, over bearing, dismissive, cautious….

Your reaction is based on old habits that are no longer serving you well. You might have learned them as a kid because they worked for you back in the day. Or they may even be habits that got you to where you are today but are now outdated.

Start to notice when you react in a manner that is different than what you want. Notice the triggers. Notice the story you are telling yourself about the other person or about yourself. You will discover which stories need updating.

Intentionally tell yourself the stories that will serve you better.

Now you can rewrite how you want to react. Think of a situation coming up. Get yourself ready for it. What is the “self talk” that will help you respond and react more resourcefully and get positive results? Practice your new “self talk” for this interaction. Afterward notice what worked and what you need to improve on. (feedback)

It doesn’t come easy. But you have choice. You can take control or choose to be a victim.

You know that if you continue to practice intentional “self talk” it will get easier and you will get better results, be less stressed and be more successful.

Later we will discuss other intentional “self talk” opportunities.

Get Out Of The Weeds Or You May Get Wacked

I was surfing for some information the other night. I found what I was looking for in about 3 minutes. One hour later I was reading some article on training porpoises. How I got there I don’t know!… Actually I do. Threads from the first article kept leading me to other interesting articles until I landed on porpoises.

I recall similar experiences at work. It happened when I got involved in reviewing marketing and sales programs with my staff. Before I knew it I was right into the middle of designing the program…maybe even writing copy! It was more interesting and fun than dealing with some employee performance issue or customer complaint.

Ever Have This Happen To You?

Most executives I work with in my coaching business have some areas in which they invariably get caught up in the details of a situation rather than providing leadership. They take on responsibility for a task that really belongs to one of their people. It’s easy to get caught in the weeds. We all do it from time to time. When you are not providing the right level of leadership to your organization or you are doing some one’s role, you are not leading at your level. You know it. They know it. Others see it.

Whatever the reason, it is diminishing your value as an executive. It is robbing one of your people of the opportunity to learn and grow. It is adding to your workload.

You are shirking your duty. You are wasting your energy and intelligence that could be better utilized leading the organization to become more effective, more efficient and more successful…making it a high performing model.

It may be detrimental to your career.

3 Quick Tips For Leading at Your Level

  1. Write down the critical deliverable’s of your role. In a perfect world, where should you be spending your energies? A good place to start is your objectives. As a leader what is the true business value you bring to the organization in terms of its top line and bottom line? What is it that only you can do in your position that will make this team great?

    Examples are: setting vision and strategy; removing road blocks; creating a winning team culture; developing your people; motivating; staffing with the right talent; dealing with non performers.

  2. Be aware of the types of tasks, issues or opportunities that typically draw you into the details and pull you into the weeds. Think of past times when this happened. Just being aware will cause you to recognize when they arise. At first you may only notice when you are already involved. However over time you will immediately recognize the situation and take alternative actions. Be particularly vigilant in meetings in which you may dominate the discussion and drag it into the details rather than identify the deliverable and assign responsibility and accountability.
  3. Think about these situations as professional development opportunities for your employees. It will also enhance and strengthen your leadership. And free up your time to work on moving your team forward.

What Causes You To Get Bogged In The Weeds? Be Honest With Yourself.

      I have a natural ability in that area. It’s my expertise.
      So why not create other experts?
      Time is short. It’s critical. It won’t take long. I’ll just get it done.
      And what about the next time…and the next time…and the time after that?
      This is too important. I don’t trust him to do it right.
      Is there a competence issue here that you are ignoring or not acting on?
      It makes me feel good to show my expertise.
      What ego?
      She’s overloaded. I’ll just do it.
      Is this a professional development issue, resources issue or competency issue?
      I enjoy it!
      Then give up your real job.

By taking on others’ tasks or getting wrapped up in the details, what is the cost in terms of your personal productivity, leadership growth, and lost contribution to the organization?

Lead at your level.

Are Your Co-Workers Killing You?

Unfriendly, non-supportive or toxic co-workers can not only make your business life unpleasant and reduce productivity, they can reduce how long you live. A new study found that workers who felt they had strong supportive relationships with their peers at work seemed to live longer than those who didn’t. Co-workers who were friendly and helpful in solving issues contributed to this positive feeling.

Interestingly, whether the boss was supportive or not didn’t seem to have the same impact on a worker’s mortality.

Just Another Reason For Creating A Positive Team Environment

  • Besides the powerful impact it can have on your life span, obnoxious or poor peer relationships can impact business productivity and the bottom line.
  • Studies have shown that focusing solely on productivity leads to burn out, higher churn rates, isolation, sub-optimization, and eventually lower productivity.
  • It has been shown that organizations that build stronger relationships among their constituents create powerful ongoing improvements in planning, responding, and reacting to competitive and business issues. Trust, respect and constructive interaction are just some of the characteristics of successful teams
  • Toxic behaviors that are allowed to exist destroy good will, trust and respect. Many times, individual workers (at all levels) do not admit if they are uncomfortable with this behavior for fear of being seen as weak, not fitting in, or too sensitive. However, it is costing the company heavily in lost productivity and employee turnover…not to mention potential lawsuits. Toxic behaviors include name calling, sarcasm, back biting, stonewalling, exclusion, cliques, and inappropriate language.

What Are You Going To Do About It? Today?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Be aware. Look for the signs and behaviors.
  • Notice where you may be exhibiting some toxic behaviors: sarcasm, inappropriate jokes, put downs, silent treatment, ranting, etc
  • Have an open and frank discussion at your next management meeting. Ask HR to facilitate.
  • Survey your employees.
  • Create a simple code of conduct.
  • It might be a good time to review your organization culture. You may want to convene an off-site workshop to review and update what this organization is all about, and how as a team you can make a powerful impact on the working lives and productivity of your employees.

    The Study

    Kate Lunau in Maclean’s Magazine in Canada wrote about this new study from Tel Aviv University that was published in Health Psychology (a journal of American Psychology Association).

    • 820 workers were tracked from 1988 to 2008
    • From some of Israel’s largest companies including finance, public utilities and manufacturing
    • They worked an average of 8.8 hours a day
    • One third were women
    • 80 % were married with kids