Articles on Leadership

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Need some healthy cognitive reframing?

Need some healthy cognitive reframing?

By Suzi Skinner

Last week I listened as a client told me firmly that he was convinced of his inability to realise his own potential. His “story” was based on the premise that he was the youngest in his team and in his mind, he had equated his youth with inexperience, lack of credibility and ultimately a lack of value.

As a result, he spent much of his time protecting himself against any likely attack, coming across defensive, aloof and generally unapproachable with his peers. His inner dialogue was limiting his ability to connect with those around him. He was, in effect, sabotaging his own career.

So often in my work I get to see inside my client’s inner-narratives. Like this client, I am privileged to witness the many ways in which individuals interpret their own lives. Yet at the same time I am always surprised at the myriad of ways they can also put themselves down, berate themselves and generally beat themselves up. Everyone has a different take on what inner critical language they engage in, but the end result is the same – self-doubt and sometimes even self-sabotage.

And yet we all do it to – to varying degrees. Whether you believe in the rationale that our brains are hardwired this way (the old fight or flight mentality) or that we have been conditioned throughout our lives to second guess ourselves, the potential to derail ourselves from reaching our potential is limitless.

Being able to help clients reframe/challenge and let go of unhelpful inner dialogue is fundamental to executive coaching. It is central to helping them minimise the potential derailers they may be facing every day – both self induced and external.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT is focused on helping the individual challenge their interpretation of the event/relationship/situation. It helps clients shine a light on their own meaning making and look more closely at how their subjective interpretation of experience may actually be creating the results they are so unsatisfied with. CBT has been shown to increase wellbeing, goal attainment and reduce anxiety.

Two key questions

  1. How are your interpretations helping you achieve your goals?
  2. What other interpretations are available to you (and how might they translate into new behaviours)?

For my client, our session was eye opening and helped him begin to shift his mindset towards the value and insight he can offer because of his youth. It was another small step forward – and isn’t that the case for all of us? When it comes to reframing our own thoughts, there is sweet recognition that we are all a work in progress.

View the research: Executive coaching enhances goal attainment, resilience and workplace well-being: A randomised controlled study. Grant, Curtayne and Burton.

Executive Coaching is a powerful activity for making positive change in your professional life and career.

Clients we work with

21st Century Fox
Ariel Group
Australian Unity
FEW Financial Executive Women
Institute Of Coaching
Kimberly Clark
Moet Hennessy
Paramount Pictures
Southern Cross Care
SunRice Group
Sydney Business School


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