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Break down the unmentionable barriers at work

This article was published in 'People Management (CIPD)' magazine in May 2007

Keywords: "limiting beliefs, transformational coaching, executive coaching"

Many people reach senior positions in organisations despite having 'limiting beliefs' or fears, such as: I'm not as smart as my colleagues, one day my company will find out I've been faking it all this time or I'm too old to change. As a result, they may take less risks or they may hold themselves back in some way because subconsciously they don't feel they are good enough or worthy of achieving great things in life.

These beliefs and fears represent 'unmentionable' barriers to success, because the individual will not tell other people about them. This could either be because they don't know about them - ie the beliefs are held at an unconscious level - or it may be because the individual doesn't want to admit them.

Beliefs come from our experience and from other sources such as our family and peers. They are usually formed at an early age. Training will usually not change these self-perceptions because it treats the symptom, not the cause. Ultimately, if a person doesn't deal with the underlying belief, he or she will soon go back to the way they were. This means that you may be wasting money on training and developing managers - and fast tracking individuals through succession planning processes - if they hold limiting beliefs.

Coaching can help key managers to surface limiting beliefs and understand their impact. Managers should be asked: Are these beliefs preventing you from achieving success in your life? Does everyone in the world have these beliefs? What would your life be like if you didn't believe these things? The use of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) techniques can help a person to drop or transform very ingrained beliefs.

This is an unorthodox brand of coaching. Traditional executive coaching tends to focus on behavioural issues such as goals, leadership, stress and personal impact. To resolve issues of identity, values, beliefs and fears, in a work context, key managers really need 'transformational coaching', which is a combination of executive coaching and life coaching.

Part of HR's role is to help ensure that senior managers are fully equipped to give of their best. So if limiting beliefs and fears are holding people back in your organisation, you need to address this. The change may bring positive repercussions and benefits for the organisation as well as for the individuals.

For further information about how executive coaching can help your organisation, please contact us.

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