A typical list of sources of internal interference would likely include the following:
- Previous negative experience
- Negative expectations
- Negative self-talk
- Fear of failure
Previous negative experience
My first assignment as an independent consultant was a disaster. I was asked to facilitate some sales training for a group of sales managers from a major airline. I misjudged the ability of the group and was ill-prepared to answer their questions. I got my timings all wrong and my sessions overran leaving my co-facilitator some serious remedial work to rescue the project.
Some months later I found myself assigned to a similar project. Reflecting on the first experience I was beginning to worry that the same thing would happen again which, given what I now know about self-fulfilling prophecies, it probably would have done. Luckily my coach at the time was able to help me make rational sense of my first experience, to put it into some perspective and, most importantly, take action in terms of preparation to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Some people see the glass as half empty and for others it’s half full. Some people expect the best to happen while others assume the worst. Critics of the coaching approach often accuse coaches of insisting every situation be viewed with breathless, naive optimism, but really the point is this: We tend to attract the circumstances we think about the most and so expecting the worst to happen increases the chances that it will. Coaching helps people shine a light on their expectations and check whether they are accurate or based on false assumptions.
Many people are in constant conversation with themselves, but the nature of this internal dialogue can have a profound effect on how well they might perform. ‘You’re gonna blow it you fool’, ‘who do you think you are?’, ‘Why on earth would anyone buy from me?’ and ‘I’m so tired’ are just some of the ways in which we get in our own way and make things more difficult than they need be.
Fear of failure
This is a classic but is based on an entirely false premise. Failure is an abstract concept; there is actually no such thing as failure. There is only results. We take action and results ensue. These are either results we want or do not want. They are either expected or unexpected but they have no absolute link with success or failure. This exists only in our own minds. In my experience it’s the consequences of ‘failure’ that people really fear in an organisational setting. They fear that they’ll be told-off or embarrassed or that they’ll miss out on promotion or whatever. There’s a clear link with the blame culture phenomenon we looked at before. How do you want people in your organisation to feel when something has gone wrong? Do you want them to go and hide in a corner or pick themselves up, learn from it and move on?
I stress again that these are only examples and this list is far from exhaustive. They differ from external sources of interference in that they are felt rather than observed. They can have a huge effect on reaching one’s potential but it also follows that coaching can pay huge dividends in dealing with them.
At the core of each of these symptoms runs a central theme which we’ll call Limiting Beliefs. In many ways the factors we’ve discussed serve to militate against my potential only if I believe them to be true.
We’ll examine this in more detail next time.