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by Susan Power, Founder & CEO of Power HR Inc.

Leadership Coaching is becoming more commonplace across all job levels because of its tremendous ROI on employee productivity, performance, and its ability to accelerate the development and promotion readiness of emerging leaders.  Coaching is no longer considered something only offered at the executive level, but rather is part of a well- designed employee development program. Organizations are now more focused than ever on developing their next generation of leaders, especially as ‘baby boomers’ continue to retire in mass.

More and more organizations are investing in coaching to boost employee skills levels as part of their succession planning efforts. Elite athletes have worked with coaches for years using the power of positive psychology and visualization. The same benefits experienced in professional sports can be applied to organizations to improve business performance with leadership coaching.

We Can Change the Emotions Our Brains Associate with Certain Events

We know that what we focus on and direct our attention towards creates neural circuits in the brain. The more sustained our focus is on something, the more hard-wired that habit or mental interpretation will become. Jeffrey M. Schwartz coined the term ‘self-directed neuroplasticity”. Many people falsely believe that once you reached a certain age you cannot learn something new or change the way the brain thinks to radically change behavior. With neuroplasticity, this is not the case.  The existing roads or neural pathways will still be there, but a new pathway can be created and strengthened with practice.  This new pathway can operate as a type of shortcut to build a new thinking pattern in the brain to drive different behaviors.[i]

In the workplace, leadership coaching helps employees change messed up thinking styles.  With coaching, employees can reframe difficult situations to respond with more helpful emotions and make better decisions.  Researchers used to believe that people had to feel a negative emotion to get rid of it, but new research shows this is not true.  Reframing is a way to consciously change one’s limiting mindset and beliefs to help support the desired goal, belief and behavior. Reframing interrupts our unhelpful thought patterns with new interpretations of reality that are more supportive of the desired objectives. It is deciding what meaning to give to an event or experience in order to move into a more positive and resourceful state-of-mind.

Coaches Ask Powerful Questions to Help Employees Reframe Thinking

Leadership coaches help employees reframe events by calming the “negative emotions” that may be triggered by a difficult situation. This automatic negative thinking pattern is then replaced with a more supportive way of seeing a situation. Reframing allows an individual to move past a difficult situation much faster and on a more authentic, deeper level. Coaches can ask powerful questions to help reframe a difficult situation to move from a fear or anger-based response to a more positive response.  Some of these reframing questions may include:

Reframing Leadership Coaching Questions

  • A person who finds this situation easy, how may s/he frame it?
  • What benefits or positive impact does this situation give you/others?
  • What does this situation look like from the other’s/someone else’s point of view?
  • If your friend/child was in a similar situation what advice would you give?
  • Which of your values (or skills) are strengthened through this?
  • Which parts of this situation could you pay attention to that you may be overlooking today?
  • Let’s pretend as if you can make this work. What ideas now come to mind?
  • How will this affect other areas of your life? Physically? Spiritually? Emotionally? Socially? Financially?
  • What metaphors to describe this situation can you think of that may help you see new things/create new connections?
  • How will doing this make you feel?
  • Is doing this good for you? Does it serve you?

The benefit of looking at a situation from as many reframing perspectives as possible is that one or two of the reframing questions will often resonate with the employee’s existing mental maps.  This results in integrating the new more positive framings into their existing brain circuitry.  New connections in the brain drive behavioral changes by expanding how an employee thinks and feels about a difficult circumstance.

For example, an employee may view a rejection of not getting the desired job offer as a failure and question their value and own competence.  With coaching, the employee may experience rejection as an opportunity and experience to:

  1. Refocus their career on an area that is more aligned with their career interests and strengths
  2. Learn a new skill through training
  3. Take time to focus on their health and wellness
  4. Spend time with their family and friends

Through coaching and asking different questions, the employee may reframe the difficult situation to genuinely feel gratitude for the rejection, and see it as a chance to live a better, more fulfilling life. We need to welcome fear into our lives as a guide. Coaches can push individuals outside of their comfort zone to demand more of themselves and others.

“Doubt everything. Find your own light.” ~The Buddha

[i] Prehn, Anette. (2012) Create reframing mindsets through Framestorm. NeuroLeadership Journal, Issue Four

Author Biography

Susan Power is the Owner & CEO of Power HR Inc, a boutique human resources company specializing in coaching and building leadership capability. Susan has worked in human resources for 15+ years building her consulting skills at the global management consulting firm Accenture.  In 2016, Susan sold her first human resources consulting business (Higher Talent) in St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador, and is building another practice in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Susan is a Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL) and has her Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Calgary.  Susan can be contacted at susan@powerhr.ca, and invites you to check out her and Tyler Bayley’s Inspired Leadership™ podcast, and reach out to share an Inspired Leadership™ story.