Business Coaches Are Replacing Consultants. Is That Good?

Over the last few years, many companies have made a major change in their operations: ditching business consultants for business coaches.

While we won’t see business consultants going away for good, it’s clear that a lot of business executives and companies now come with different needs that coaching can fulfill much better than consultancy.

The key difference between the two lies in who will take the actual steps required for change. With business consultants, though some can provide coach-like support, it is common for these individuals to do the work and resolve the target problem. When it comes to coaching, the work is very much done by the person who receives the service.

But to understand why companies are moving from consulting to coaching, let’s take a closer look at each of them.

What Is Business Coaching?

Business coaches collaborate with owners, CEOs, and other actors in leadership and management positions in order to improve certain aspects that pertain both to the individual’s skills, and the company’s bottom line.

Coaches provide guidance and support to leaders and help them get the results they want both long-term and short-term.

For instance, they can:

  • Help leaders improve their communication skills
  • Assume the role of a mentor
  • Take a holistic approach when helping their clients
  • Guide clients through various processes, and help them overcome their challenges, etc.

What Is Business Consulting?

A business consultant is an expert in a specific discipline who provides their expertise for a company. For example, if a company wants to improve its IT systems, it may hire an IT consultant for more specialized support.

Business consultants will come in, analyze the issue at hand, and provide a solution designed to solve the issue. In some cases, they may even oversee the implementation of said solution.

Business consultants often:

  • Works in a project-based format
  • Focuses on business problems and not staff challenges
  • Creates an actionable plan to fix business problems, etc.

Why Are Companies Switching from Consultants to Coaches?

Consultants and coaches provide extremely different services. Yet, as companies are turning more and more to coaches for help, there seems to be a change in the needs that companies are looking to address.

Especially, the need to invest in people, not just the company operations. Business coaches work together with CEOs, leaders, and other key staff members to improve a company’s operation, yes, but the approach is vastly different here than in the case of a consultant.

The business coach helps the client improve their approach, enhance the skills they need for the job, and face challenges as a way to also enhance business operations. Companies now realize they need to invest in their people just as much as they invest in their operations.

Are Consultant Gigs Over?

Of course, there is a need for both. Consultants and coaches both provide essential services to improve a company’s health.

But the growing demand for coaches clearly shows that businesses are realizing they can’t ignore the need for stronger leadership anymore.

What Is Family Business Coaching, and Do You Need It?

Family businesses play a huge role in our nation’s economy, the fact remains that these types of companies can struggle to make ends meet. Whether it’s a small business that has been passed down through generations, or a multinational company, when it comes to family businesses, the “family” aspect is just as important as the “business” one.

And right now, family businesses are struggling. Most of them will shut down right before they reach their 3rd generation.

But on a positive note, there may be a way to prevent this from happening, thanks to the rise of something called “family business coaching”.

What Is Family Business Coaching?

Family business coaching offers support to help family businesses improve their operations and stay afloat. The coach can either work with an individual or a group to help the business improve its bottom line.

Family business coaches specialize in the unique challenges that most small family businesses face. Therefore, they can provide essential frameworks designed to be exclusively applicable within the context of a family business.

Not only that, but family business coaching handles the “family” aspect just as much as the “business”. Different generations can have different needs, expectations, and visions for the future. A family business coach helps the business navigate these differences to achieve optimal succession planning that can help the business live on even as it is transferred on to the next generation.

How a Family Business Coach Can Help

Family business coaches work to identify the key issues that affect a business’s performance, whether it has to do with the business itself, or something in the dynamic of the family.

Some areas where a family business coach may intervene include:

  • Family communication – In a family business, there is no way to ignore the simple fact that the way members communicate directly impacts business performance. A family business coach can help family members get on the same page and improve their communication;
  • Balancing values – One of the core elements of a family business is its values, as the business itself directly reflects the values of the family behind its helm. A coach can help family balance their values with current and future business needs;
  • Transition support – The moment when the business passes from one generation to the other is not just emotional, but it can have a negative impact on the company if it’s not done correctly. A coach can help plan this transition and prepare both the old and new generations as to what to expect during the transition, and how to handle it properly.

Do You Need a Family Business Coach?

A family business coach can help clients improve their business operations and strike a balance between company needs and family dynamics. While they will provide a lot of similar support as regular business coaches (improving communication, enhancing skill sets, etc.) their experience with family businesses specifically could prove extremely valuable in some cases.

Essentially, it doesn’t hurt to try, especially if the “family” component needs more support.

Accountability In Coaching: Why Credentials Matter

The world of coaching is fast-growing. It’s easier now than ever before to become a coach and start assisting people with a variety of goals, be they on a professional or personal level. However, in the past, many of these coaches have begun their journey after reading a few books on a dedicated topic, without holding much experience or expertise in the field.

This will soon stop as moving forward, people’s needs are changing greatly. More and more people have easy access to coaching services, which means we will see “new” problems that coaches will have to navigate.

And these new problems that people face will require a certain level of expertise from industry players. That, coupled with the natural rise in the entry barrier as more and more people enter the industry, are the reasons why it’s becoming more and more important to showcase your credentials in the coaching industry.

Why Are People’s Needs Changing?

It’s not necessarily that individuals encounter new problems in their personal or professional goals, though an argument can certainly be made for this as well, considering the aftermath of the global health pandemic.

More so, coaching services are today more accessible than ever. From companies that are offering employees at all levels programs to help them grow to virtual sessions you can access anytime and from anywhere, coaching is easier to tap into.

And this means that groups that have historically not been a part of the industry can also turn to coaches for help. One example would be the rise of BIPOC people seeking support and guidance in their professional journey.

It’s impossible to take out who they are, and the social-economic struggles of the community from their journey. This is why we can see a rise in BIPOC-focused coaches that specifically helps members of this community thrive.

And This Is Why Credentials Matter

As people are stepping into coaching more aware of the challenges they face in their career and personal journey, word of mouth and client testimonials aren’t enough to persuade them.

Coaching today and moving forward must instead place a bigger focus on legitimate credentials and proven models that can show the client the path they are about to follow can yield success. The promise of a big outcome won’t mean much if the coach cannot describe how they plan to get you there.

What Does This All Mean for the Client?

The industry will likely see a surge in new job openings and individuals entering the market. Clients will have more options than ever, but choosing between these options needs time.

Your coach is the person most qualified and capable to help you with your specific issue. Certification, experience, and proven models are just some of the elements you need to assess before beginning a relationship with a new coach.

So never base your decision on who makes the biggest promise. Review how the coach is planning to get you to reach your goals, to make an informed decision.

The “Human” Side Of Coaching

Coaches can have vastly different approaches to helping their clients achieve their goals, be they on a professional, personal, or niche level.

However, what should never change in terms of how coaching ensues is the idea that the client’s needs always come first, before the books, the strategies, and the formats.

Call it the recipe for success in coaching, but when you don’t put the person’s needs at the forefront of your work, you miss out on the “human” component of coaching. And this component can often determine the success of the coaching.

What Is the “Human” Component of Coaching?

The human component simply refers to the fact that the coaching strategy should answer the specific needs of the client in need of help.

Let’s take two scenarios to help you see the human component in action:

1.  The General Approach

A person looking for coaching and support certainly has many options in 2022. In fact, you may even be inclined to sign up for a masterclass or course that can help you work on some of your issues to reach your goals.

These types of classes have a “general” approach. They tackle certain subjects in a way that a large group of people can have something to learn and gain from them.

The coach will likely prepare a set of videos, booklets, checklists, and other materials to offer their clients, and help them move through the course.

And you can learn a lot from this type of approach, especially if you’ve never worked with a professional to improve your skills and mindset to overcome challenges and reach your goals. But, with this approach, you are missing out on essential interactions with your coach.

2.  The “Human” Approach

The human approach to coaching essentially means your coach will build an actual relationship with you, instead of just sharing tips and tricks. For starters, the human approach involves identifying your unique needs and expectations.

You will meet with your coach and get support for your circumstances, instead of an overall approach to becoming more successful or socially open. The human approach puts you, as an individual, at the frontline of the entire process, and not a potential group of people.

Which One Is Better?

It should be said that both approaches have their time and place. The general approach, be it in the form of a class or a course can certainly help people achieve meaningful results and even clarify some questions they may have about their future.

But in most cases, people respond better to the “human” approach, simply because it is tailored to their individual circumstances.

So when you choose a course, a program, or a coach, always let your individual needs guide you. Ask yourself:

“Can this really help me? Is it appropriate for my goals?”

Once you do that, you’ll be able to effectively navigate the world of coaching and find the tips, tricks, and the people who can genuinely help you achieve what you want.

Virtual Coaching: The Good, The Bad, And the Disclaimer

By: David Herdlinger

We’re living in an increasingly virtual world. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, many industries were forced to embrace the remote or hybrid workplace a lot sooner than expected, or even regardless if they’d ever made such plans.

But like it or not, we now have countless digital opportunities at our fingertips, including professional coaching.

But does it work? Does video-calling your coach yield the same benefits as face-to-face meetings?

Let’s unpack the issue.

The Good of Virtual Coaching

Professional or personal coaching can be incredibly powerful for a lot of people in need of a little help reaching their goals.

But depending on where you live, you might not have access to the best coaches, or even not have one in your area at all.

Virtual coaching, therefore, allows many more people to access these types of services, from anywhere, and even at any time.

This leads to some compelling advantages:

  • Easily fit the coaching sessions into your busy schedule
  • Find more opportunities to get coaching even for niche matters
  • Get the chance to find a coach who can truly help your specific situation, etc.

The Bad of Virtual Coaching

There are two things I want to mention here:

First, you need to be careful who you trust. Since virtual coaching is on the rise, naturally many people may try to take advantage of them. It’s important to fully vet the coach and be sure you’re going to work with someone who’s experienced and can genuinely guide you to the success you look for.

That’s the biggest downside of virtual coaching.

But, there’s also a matter of what style you may respond best to. Simply put, some people still need face-to-face experience. The message resonates much clearer with them when they receive it live, as opposed to a video call.

The Disclaimer

I don’t think it’s necessarily productive to claim one style of coaching is better than the other. Both virtual and in-person coaching can provide you with a great experience.

Instead, be very careful how you select your coach, no matter if the meetings will occur in real life or through a digital platform.

There are some things you should always be looking for in a coach:

  • Compatibility – Like any relationship, you have to be compatible with your coach at least on some level;
  • Experience – If you’re going to learn from that person and take their advice, then they need to have the right experience to genuinely help you reach your goals;
  • Expertise – The coach is an expert in their niche, but is their niche right for what you need? Always be sure to check;
  • Trust – This is the foundation of any collaboration or relationship. If the coach isn’t the type of person you can trust to open up to, then your coaching experience will suffer because of it;

If you find someone compatible with you, has the right expertise and experience, and you feel you can trust them, then you don’t need to concern yourself with the virtual vs. real-life coaching debate.

Achieving Success: Do You Need Personal or Career Coaching?

By: David Herdlinger

It’s a question many of my clients looking to meet success often ask me: what type of coaching is most suitable for them and their goals?

Do you need a career coach to help you stay on track in your professional life? Or, do you need a personal development coach to help you unlock more fulfillment?

And the truth is… most people need both!

Unpacking the “Difference” Between Personal and Career Coaching

It’s easy to think that the two areas of coaching are completely distinct from each other.

When it comes to career coaching, you’d expect:

  • Analyzing your career path and opportunities
  • Get support in case you need to reassess your professional life
  • Unlock even more growth opportunities
  • Determining your goals and staying on your career path to meet them

While personal coaching seems to focus on other areas in your life:

  • Identify the skills you lack and build them (such as confidence, communication, etc.)
  • Create more opportunities for personal fulfillment and happiness
  • Finding ways to reduce stress and anxiety
  • Cultivating a sense of well-being in your life

If you look at it this way, it’s easy to think the two have almost nothing to do with each other. But before you consider working with two different coaches to reach your personal and professional goals, there is one key thing to understand:

These two facets in your life are so intertwined that working on one aspect automatically influences the other.

Success Is Determined by Having a Balance in Both These Worlds

Many personal issues can have a great impact on your professional life, positive or negative. And the reverse is also true.

Only when you have to make real choices, you can understand this strong link. You can’t truly help a person move forward in their career if they are battling with certain personal issues that are indirectly creating unnecessary obstacles. You can assist them in writing the best resumes out there, do countless mock interviews to ensure they get the job, but if, for instance, you don’t address the stress in their personal lives, you know their performance will be affected. And so will their ability to reach their goals.

Choose the “Right” Coach Instead of the “Right Type”

A coach is a person who provides you with 1:1 support to help you improve your life. The means to do it or the goals can differ from person to person, but that’s pretty much it.

So unless you’re looking to work on some very niche aspects of your life, I wouldn’t concern myself too much with the label that comes after “coach” as long as this person:

  • Has the right experience and qualifications
  • Understands your situation, and is able to genuinely empathize
  • Can provide you with support in a way that’s comfortable to you (such as face-to-face, online, on specific days, etc.)
  • You feel you can trust

And the last one is, by far, the most important! Because if you don’t trust your coach, you will not trust the process.

Lead with Love

As a business leader, how do you lead with love? How is love practiced in your organization?

Given the volatility of 2021, I’ve been exploring this facet of leadership. Tension and anger in the workplace is on the rise. Some HR researchers anticipate this will continue throughout 2022.

In a recent article published by Harvard Business Review (January 2022), eleven current trends foster ongoing workplace volatility. Some of the top issues leaders and managers will face include:

  • Fairness and equity
  • Vaccine mandates and testing
  • Shorter work week
  • Employee turnover
  • Permanent shift to remote technology/tools
  • Permanent hybrid work model
  • Wellness tactics, technologies, and metrics
  • The need for a Chief Purpose Officer (CPO)
  • Manager-employee interpersonal relationships

There is a growing urgency to strengthen manager-employee interpersonal relationships, and for some organizations, a shift or addition of a CPO. You see, at a minimum, the volatility we are experiencing creates stress for individuals, poor working relationships, and decreased productivity. Left unchecked, psychological abuse, violence, and ruin ensue. Great leaders can manage and even avoid these worst case scenarios by leading with love.

Our Need for Love

All humans need love: we need to be loved and nurtured, and we need to express love. For many, having healthy business and professional relationships is a top goal. Even the smallest act of kindness can help meet our need for love.

Leading with love is doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right spirit (motivation). This type of love embodies courageousness, discernment, justice, and humility—it’s not about our natural preferences.

Leadership, Love, and Blind Spots

When it comes to leadership and love, even the best leaders have blind spots. As Steven Snyder wrote in Leadership and the Art of Struggle, “Blind spots are the product of an overactive automatic mind and an underactive reflective mind.” This can be especially dangerous for leaders.

In Thinking Fast and Slow, psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman describes how our fast, automatic mind reaches conclusions (re: judgments) quickly, typically prematurely, and frequently incorrectly; but our slow, reflective mind challenges assumptions, generates alternatives, and objectively evaluates and analyzes them.

Fast thinking happens frequently. Unfortunately, it does not address leadership blind spots, especially when it comes to self-perception. You see, most of us have a blind spot for our good qualities and a magnifying glass for our flaws.

The more we deny these blind spots, the more miserable we become. Instead, we can change the stories we tell ourselves that result from habitual fast thinking.

Practice Self-love

First, take a deep breath to slow your pace and clear your mind. Think back to something you recently did that was loving and kind. Allow yourself to linger in that memory to rebalance your feelings. Then, practice forgiveness. One helpful technique is a loving-kindness meditation:

  • May I be happy
  • May I be well
  • May I be safe
  • May I be peaceful and at ease

Extend Love at Work

The loving-kindness meditation published on Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley  is a helpful way to extend love at work. This meditation was created by Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research Education, who define compassionate love as:

“…An attitude toward other(s), either close others or strangers or all of humanity; containing feelings, cognitions, and behaviors that are focused on caring, concern, tenderness, and an orientation toward supporting, helping, and understanding the other(s), particularly when the other(s) is (are) perceived to be suffering or in need.” (Sprecher & Fehr, 2005)

The Platinum Rule

People are starving for connection and hope amidst all of the uncertainty and fear we experienced over the past two years. In light of these issues, it’s crucial for leadership to offer love using what anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher describes as, The Platinum Rule: treat others not as you want to be treated (The Golden Rule), but as they want to be treated.

Ask, listen, confirm, offer, and if agreed, act.

Love What You Do at Work

According to a recently published article “Managing a Polarized Workforce,” (Harvard Business Review, March-April 2022), “conflict is an inescapable part of work life for employees at all levels.” Their recent survey of US companies reveals that 89% of respondents report experiencing conflict at work and “spend about 3.5 hours a week, on average, dealing with it.”

Given this environment, especially for those who do not thrive in conflict, how are we able to love what we do at work? It boils down to identifying that which is truly meaningful.

Language Matters

Language is powerful. It doesn’t merely describe, it shapes reality. Language becomes the filter through which we perceive the world.
When we talk about work that is truly meaningful, we are talking about the fundamental and essential human need of purpose. Great leaders and managers tap into what is truly meaningful by daily asking (and answering) three questions:

  • What ignites my passion in today’s work? Reclaim your resources—energy, time, and attention—from the urgent to the meaningful.
  • How can I bring true value to this moment? Disengage from emotional entanglements and take constructive action.
  • What would I like my legacy to be in this assignment? Bring more value and meaning to a seemingly onerous task.

Workplace Romance

When co-workers seek connection and friendship, should love or dating be verboten? Views and opinions vary greatly depending on the size of the organization, the history (of the organization and the individual), and the perceived risk of intimate alliances. And so do company policies.

According to a 2018 survey published by Harvard Law School, the number of close personal relationship policies is on the rise. They report that in 2017, more than 50% of respondents have formal, written policies and 78% discourage supervisor-subordinate relationships. However, this does not mean they have anti-fraternization policies. Why?

The Cons of Non-fraternization Policies

  • Grey areas: what is a close, personal relationship?
  • Enforcement: who monitors compliance?
  • Paternalism: should employers have the authority regarding personal matters?

The Pros of Non-fraternization Policies

  • Prevent sexual harassment
  • Mitigate organization’s legal risk
  • Curtail workplace favoritism/toxicity
  • Outline accountability processes and consequences

Clearly, there are multiple considerations, including the approach, the scope, and the consequences. While every employee should review their organization’s policies, leaders and managers should review for:

  • How does the policy address employee’s concerns?
  • What channels are in place to support employees? How can they report/disclose their intentions/status? Who must do this? (The more senior in the relationship?)
  • Where are the grey areas? Who is responsible for decisions in these areas?

Truly successful organizations are led with love; what is happening in your organization?

The Resilience Pill

We are seeing incredible advances in medical science in recent years: portable MRI machines, cancer treatments (radioligand therapy), sickle cell gene-editing treatment, an Alzheimer blood test, and vaccines. Is a resilience pill next?

Imagine: a simple pill that can increase our resilience. No more struggle with set-backs from uncertainty, mistakes, or failure. Stress would be something we could choose: the how, what, where, when, and why. After all, we know that some stress—eustress—is good for us.

According to The American Institute of Stress, eustress is the experience of a challenging event; it is a mindset that accompanies a challenge. And it helps us develop resilience.

Typically, we become more resilient through life struggles. We adapt and grow. But neuroscience reveals that some of us are a bit more lucky: we’re born with a bit more resilience at the start. For the less fortunate, a pill might just level the playing field.

The Study

Scientists have been digging in to the study of resilience and stress over the past two decades. One leader is Mount Sinai Health Systems. According to their research, the most resilient people have the ability to defend, bounce back, and find ways to create “a sense of safety, control, and social connection.”

When examining seemingly adaptive behavior, the researchers were surprised to find that genetics and neurochemistry played a role. They found differences in the molecular biology of resilient brains (as compared to less resilient). When stressed, specific genes in the nervous system become more active. But in the more resilient brain, the genes are more regulated.

This has led to pilot clinical trials with specific epilepsy and/or anti-depressant drugs to boost resiliency at the cellular level. Of course, at this early stage it is too early to predict the outcome. In the meantime, we’ll need to develop and cultivate our resilience in the more traditional ways.

Understanding Resilience

Over the past two years, this word has been tossed about everywhere: in headlines, podcasts, blogs, articles, talks, etc. I’ve noticed that there is a wide array of definitions, and subsequently, understanding. For example, from 2015-2020, 18 different approach processes were published in adult health research.

In the June 2021 issue of Frontiers in Psychology, researchers point to three challenges when it comes of understanding resilience: definition of positive outcomes, process descriptions, and identification of mechanisms that result in resilience. The authors suggest we need to reconsider some of the attributes of resilience.

The Research

Resilience research has been conducted in four primary scientific fields/waves:

  • Developmental psychology: This resulted in an acceptance and usage of resilient scales to identify and/or predict protective factors and resilient personality types, including environmental experiences that may occur at various developmental stages.
  • Developmental and ecological systems: This resulted in an understanding of resilience as a natural phenomenon resulting from many processes. For example: a sense of safety, positive social connections, feelings of competence and control, and positive outlooks.
  • Intervention and training: the technological advances in neuroimaging suggest the possibility to recover functioning after extreme stress.
  • Neurobiology: Studies on mechanisms, including neural plasticity and the interrelations between biological and psychological processes, reveal additional insights.

Researchers explain that our understanding of resilience has evolved from a trait-oriented approach to a process-oriented/outcome-oriented approach. However, there is no universal outcome measure for resilience. At best, there are three core qualifiers: adversity, positive adaptation, and positive outcome.

Adversity

The researchers define adversity as an exposure to significant adverse events or the risk thereof. The events may be acute and chronically stressful and range from daily life challenges to bereavement, job loss, or chronic events.

Positive Outcomes

  • Immunity, stability, or resistance: while this outcome may apply for acute crisis, no one is invulnerable when it comes to chronic adversity and/or significant trauma.
  • Bouncing back, or recovery: this implies that adversity is experienced in a specific trajectory for a specified period with a return to homeostasis.
  • Growth: unlike recovery, growth implies new, or the strengthening of functions and/or abilities.

Mechanisms of Positive Adaptation

  • Cognitive Reappraisal: positive (re)appraisal and attention control
  • Cognitive or regulatory flexibility: an ability to modify cognitive and behavioral strategies to respond accurately to changing environments
  • Attachment: secure attachment with family, teachers, therapists, or others
  • Hardiness: sense of purpose, agency/self-efficacy, growth-mindset
  • Neurobiology: functioning brain circuitries
  • Genetics: allele type may affect resilience to adversity.

At its core, resilience is a dynamic, multi-dimensional construct, and there is much more to learn. Today, we must rely on three systems, or sources, to build our resilience.

Build Resilience Today

  • Intra-individual sources: gender, sex, biology, physiology, health behavior
  • Interpersonal sources: education, family, competence and knowledge, interpersonal relationships and social groups, skills, and experience
  • Socio-ecological sources: access, formal, and informal institutions, geography, socio-economic status

Of course, access to resources varies greatly across the globe, and even within a community. We see signs of this more and more frequently as situations and behavior indicate persons are experiencing a lack of agency. How can we create a sense of safety (for self and others), a sense of control, and social connections?

Resilience Strategies

An effective strategy that helps build resilience is cognitive reappraisal. This helps us lessen negative emotions and increase positive emotions. Cognitive reappraisal is changing how we think about the situation.

Sometimes, it’s simply using a mantra, such as the Serenity Prayer: “Help me to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This can help us slow down, breathe, and connect with what we can change: our own thinking.

Researchers have found there are many psychological benefits when we experience positive emotions, without necessarily altering negative feelings. After all, it is unrealistic to avoid all negative emotions, such as loss or grief. But we can grow through these experiences when we change how we respond to the situation, including our thoughts and feelings about the situation.

You see, cognitive reappraisal can change the intensity and duration of our feelings. Neuroimaging reveals that when we practice this strategy over a period of time it actual changes our brains; cognitive reappraisal increases our overall sense of well-being and resilience. And when we build our own resilience, we can help others, too.

Get the Right People on Your Bus

As a leader, how do you get the right people on your bus?

While the U.S. unemployment rate declined to 3.9% in December 2021, many managers and leaders feel an increasing urgency to fill open positions. And it’s understandable: short-staffed teams are at greater risk for disengagement, errors, and burnout. So, it’s not uncommon to see new-hire incentives including signing bonuses, flex work schedules, and childcare grants.

Unfortunately, filling open positions with the wrong person can make matters worse. When this topic comes up with leaders and managers, I hear about the impact to efficiency and productivity, client trust, and the triple-bottom line.

Instead of hiring the wrong person, great leaders improve their recruitment efforts, discernment in talent selection, and development (and support) of their existing talent pool.

The Pressure to Hire

Even in the best of times, getting the right people on the bus is a persistent challenge for leaders and managers. After all, talent is a critical driver of corporate performance. Consider the factors that greatly influenced the past two decades:

  • The irreversible shift from the Industrial Age to the Information Age: an average of 1.9 million new knowledge workers was needed every year.
  • Intensifying demand for top-performing managers
  • Drop in the number of workers ages 20-54: in the U.S., this was 10 million fewer than anticipated from 2000 – 2020.
  • Ability to search for and find other positions (switching from company to company)
  • Ongoing earnings inequality

As a result, managers often feel pressured to hire, even if it is not the right fit. This contributes to hiring mistakes, attrition, and increased expenses. It also impacts the organization’s potential managerial and leadership talent pool.

Avoid These Hiring Mistakes

Even in the best of times, managers report that the hiring process is time consuming and often frustrating. This leads to a negative bias, and an increased risk of impulsive hiring. Eager, energetic, and articulate candidates become more attractive when hiring decisions rely too heavily on interview impressions and intuition.

Consider the 85 years of data collected and analyzed by Frank L. Schmidt and John E. Hunter. Their research reveals that employment interviews are only 57% accurate when it comes to getting the right people on the bus. This is only slightly better than a coin toss.

Instead, great leaders develop a process tailored for their organization and culture. They commonly assess candidates on intelligence, work sample (results portfolio or work sample test), integrity test (conscientiousness), and structured interviews.

However, before testing and interviewing can take place, it is critical to understand the real performance requirements. This is the time to review, and if necessary, update job descriptions. It’s important to know what you are looking for.

The Best Job Descriptions

The best job descriptions reflect what needs to get done today, and in the near future. Savvy leaders and managers also focus on the behavior and traits necessary to achieve desired results. They consider how the role:

  1. Solves current and future anticipated business challenges/needs.
  2. Impacts (affects/interacts/collaborates) other teams, departments, lines of business.
  3. Benefits from specific competencies and traits.

For example, a combination of four key traits has the greatest impact on workplace teams, according to a recent article in Harvard Business Review. These include:

  1. Reliability: Flexibility only goes so far if an employee is unreliable.
  2. Readiness: A growth mindset may be more important than training and experience.
  3. Attitude: Positivity is contagious.
  4. Communication: Look for clarity, coherence, and comprehension.

Performance & Outcome Job Descriptions

If the past two years has taught us anything, it’s the importance of flexibility and adaptability. However, what got us here may not get us there. Sure, experience and skills are important. But an outcome-oriented job description is a better predictor of future performance. For example, “reduce operating expenses by 9% within the first six months” emphasizes performance and potential and provides measurable objectives.

Talent Attraction and Management

Talented, high performers may expect top-pay and perks, but they need to believe in and feel passionate about what they are doing. Over the past two decades, creative freedom was a priority for many; today it is the balance of freedom and safety. Attracting top talent requires the right messaging.

One way to evaluate this is to review your Employee Value Proposition (EVP). Does it truly reflect the real employee experience: culture, values, work satisfaction, leadership, compensation, and more? How do you know this?

Employee Survey

Ask your employees what they value. You can offer options and/or write in answers, and ask them to rank in importance. For example, top performing managers often report that they value:

  • Exciting work
  • A value-drive culture
  • Great leaders in a great company
  • Incentives and rewards
  • Opportunities for growth, development, and advancement
  • The ability (and support) to meet personal and family commitments.

Ask what they would change. How could their work experience improve? What about the organization?

Keep your survey as short and simple as possible, and start with why: how you will use the information to improve their work experience. Follow-up with the results of your survey and any action (next steps) you will take.

Retain Top Talent

Providing optimal working conditions is even more crucial for leaders and managers. Monitor tasks, conditions, and outcomes and their relationship to roles, responsibilities, and strengths:

  • Communicate: Provide status updates and opportunities for real-time dialog.
  • Consider support strategies: Help people “play” at work, develop strengths to achieve mastery of their work, and ways to reward their efforts and results.
  • Re-examine roles and responsibilities: Consider if/how to create new/different/temp/AI positions), or hire for a different position.

While we may learn from our mistakes, we grow even more when our successes are noticed and praised. Recognize achievements, efforts, and attitudes.

Many factors cause disengagement, but the most prevalent is feeling overwhelmed—physically, mentally, or emotionally.  Acknowledge this in your employees. Our level of engagement depends on how we feel: optimistic, grateful, autonomous, able, hopeful, supported. We need to feel true appreciation.

Show Up for Your Best Self

How do you show up for your best self?

Let’s face it: the past 20 months have not been easy. Remaining open, yet vigilant; positive, yet cautious; and resilient, yet flexible has been no easy task. For many, taking care of our loved ones has taken precedence over care for our self. Yet, if we don’t show up for our best self, how do we fully recover and care for others? How do we live our best life?

Demonstrating care (and affection) for ourselves begins with self-compassion. To some degree, everyone suffers. It is part of being human. Unfortunately, denying our suffering may make us more prone to self-sabotage.

Practicing self-compassion means acknowledging that we may be self-handicapping: we anticipate a real or imagined obstacle to living our best life and use it as an excuse for inaction. We practice self-compassion when we recognize this as an ineffective mechanism against suffering, and begin to notice this behavior.

As clinical psychologist and author Alice Boyes, PhD, writes for Harvard Business Review, practicing self-compassion has four components:

  • Practicing a kind tone (and language) that appeals to you.
  • Accepting pain and suffering are part of being human.
  • Allowing and recognizing all feelings (without attachment).
  • Anticipating that you can and will do the best you can at any point in time.

Unfortunately, our self-handicapping can be very subtle. It’s also one of the ways we get and stay stuck, trapped in the familiar, or worse, bad habit loop.

Recognize Self-Sabotage

Self-sabotage can be cunning, especially for highly intelligent and successful people. For example, resting on past accomplishments (too much positive thinking) can sabotage future success. Here are nine other ways we self-handicap:

  • Negative thinking (“I’m not good enough.”)
  • Withholding/silence (Not contributing/responding/offering ideas.)
  • Delaying action (Failing to act.)
  • Excuse making (“I don’t have the time/resources.”)
  • Failure to accept responsibility (Similar to excuse making, we may point to others or circumstances outside of our control.)
  • Adopting a “good-enough” attitude to avoid failure/rejection. (Becoming too risk averse.)
  • Imbalance of focus: too small picture
  • Focusing more on feelings, rather than facts.
  • Allowing (or encouraging) distractions to derail us.

Understand Why We Self-Sabotage

Self-sabotage just might be another part of being human. Fortunately, our brains can help us thrive in the face of adversity, practice self-compassion, and become our best self. We know this through the study of positive neuroscience—the study of positive psychology using neuroimaging techniques to explain the neurobiology.

To some degree or other, we are inundated with information or situations that can evoke an emotion. Whether it is happiness, gratitude, sadness, sympathy or any other emotion, we vary in how we respond. One study leads researchers to conclude that happier people are better able to see opportunities without missing threats.

The Research

Happier people—persons with high positive affectivity—are typically characterized as open-minded, sociable, and helpful. They have high energy and enthusiasm, are alert and active, and have confidence in their ability to achieve—if not now, then later. Persons with high negative affectivity are typically characterized as having a poor self-concept. Nervousness, guilt, fear, disgust, contempt and/or anger are common experiences in persons with high negative affect. 

With the use of fMRI studies, researchers find that our amygdala responds to emotional stimuli according to our affective style. If we have a more positive affect style we are less reactive to stimuli, are better able to regulate our emotions, and our disposition is more positive. If we have a more negative affect style we are more reactive, less able to regulate emotions, and our disposition tends to be more negative. (This is not all bad news: negative affectivity does have benefits.)

According to researchers, our affective style is the result of our genes, attachment style, adversity in early life, and mental disorders. While there is nothing we can do to go back in time to change our genetics or early life influences, we can change our style, specifically, how our brains respond to emotional stimuli or situations.

Self-Sabotage Alternatives

When taking action to counter self-sabotage, especially self-compassion, it’s helpful to understand how emotion regulation can change the brain. While it’s important to recognize the feeling, name it, and allow it to happen, regulating emotions has a bit more nuance.

Emotion regulation is an attempt to influence what, when, and how an emotion is experienced. According to Stanford Professor of Psychology James J. Gross, PhD, and the November 2021 research paper, Assessing Emotion Regulation Ability for Negative and Positive Emotions: Psychometrics of the Perth Emotion Regulation Competency Inventory in United States Adults, we can, and do, regulate both negative and positive emotions. Gross, and his fellow researchers, posit that this ability is “a cornerstone of adaptive psychological functioning.” And they are not alone.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, emotion regulation techniques are a way to show up for your best self: emotion regulation can change our brain. First, let’s look at some of the conscious techniques:

  • Avoidance: avoiding a situation
  • Focus: noticing breath or other repetitive pattern
  • Seeking support: contacting a friend or support person
  • Smiling: forcing a smile, even by clamping a pen or pencil in your mouth, can stimulate the amygdala, releasing “feel good” neurotransmitters  
  • Exercise

Researchers find that two techniques, cognitive reappraisal and meditation, have lasting impact on our affective style

Cognitive Reappraisal

The technique of cognitive reappraisal can alter the emotional impact of a situation by changing how you think about the situation. Not only can you use this strategy to lessen negative emotions, reappraisal can increase positive emotions. This is important because it allows you to experience your feelings, including unavoidable and constructive negative feelings, and increase the psychological benefits of positive feelings.

You see, when we reframe our thoughts about a situation, experience, or stimulus, we can experience change in our emotional response. Research finds that using cognitive reappraisal correlates with activity changes in specific parts of the brain. We can change the intensity and duration of the emotion, depending on the tactics and frequency.

Meditation

Mindfulness meditation—such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)—which focuses on the experience of thoughts, sensations, and emotions by simple observance—has been used in many neuroscientific studies of emotion regulation. Researches find that:

  • Long-term meditators are better able to accept their emotions.
  • Short-term (8-week) MBSR training increased the functional connectivity between the amygdala and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and the ability to regulate emotions.  

There are other strategies to counter self-sabotage and show up for your best self, including spotting the warning signs, stating your goals, and working toward mastering a domain that you value. A qualified coach can help you develop strategies and techniques that work best for you.