Overcome Psychological Barriers

Photography by Barbara Banks By Shellie Benson September 30, 2012

What’s Stopping You From Succeeding?

When the raises aren’t coming, the bottom line isn’t moving or the new job just won’t happen, it’s easy to say that making it in business is harder than ever. But what if our success is being hamstrung by our own thoughts, motivation and actions? We asked four business coaches about the challenges that face four different types of professionals—and key strategies to help each overcome those obstacles.

Doug Poll, The Doug Poll GroupThe Mid-life Professional

The Problem: Many mid-career professionals find themselves in a common cycle: They’re employed, but the job isn’t fulfilling. It covers the bills, but they’re not thriving. Yet in the current economy, they’re afraid to make a move. “People often say, ‘I’m getting a paycheck, but I’m giving away my heart and soul for it,’” says Doug Poll, a certified professional life coach at The Doug Poll Group in Sarasota. “Do you want to go and pursue your passion and get paid for it? Well, how do you do that?”

The Fix: Poll likens the experience to riding a merry-go-round. You get on, see all the same sights, then jump back off. “You’re stumbling around and don’t have a clear direction,” he says. “Stop. Get your bearings. Get clarity.” The first step, he says, is determining your core values. If a value is family, working 80 hours a week isn’t going to satisfy you. If financial success is where your heart lies, you’ll need to make different choices.

If your job and your values don’t mesh, “You’re living an incongruent life,” he says. “Once we create awareness, then we begin to build an action plan. We need to clarify the ‘what’ with the client, and the ‘how-to’ will come. People tend to jump to the ‘how-to.’”

Spend some time reflecting on your progress. “Stop and ask yourself what is most important. What do you want to do in the next 90 days to get you closer to one of your values?” Poll says. “More than money, do you have a sense of fulfillment?” If not, it’s time to circle back around and look at your core values.

Scot Cummin, The Entrepreneur’s SourceThe Entrepreneur

The Problem: These professionals have worked for someone else for a while and now want to control their own destiny. But many creative self-starters make the mistake of beginning their business doing the work they’ve always done. They’re close-minded to other industries that they might actually be better suited for, says Scot Cummin, a business coach with The Entrepreneur’s Source in Sarasota, who pairs aspiring entrepreneurs with franchise opportunities.

“In the beginning of the [franchise-buying] process, they say: ‘I want to do what I used to do because I know it,’” he says. But by sticking with their original industry, they’re not inspired or emotionally invested enough to put in the long hours, capital and daily grind to truly make their business thrive for the long haul. In fact, they’re burnt out in their field.

The Fix: Cummin uses a DISC work personality assessment (dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness), to determine his clients’ comfort with different working environments and work stressors.

Then he analyzes the results and compares the answers to people who have found success owning various types of franchises or small businesses.

This “deep dive” work-personality test can reveal if someone is best suited to own a numbers-oriented business, a customer service firm or an operations-based company, to name a few. “Would you be better off owning a home-based business or a brick-and-mortar business?” Cummin says. “Once we’ve determined that, I’ll do a search and look for a business model that matches their criteria.”

One of Cummin’s clients was in sales for a chemical engineering firm. But his assessment showed that he was more suited for an in-home senior care business.

“He initially said to me, ‘Are you nuts?’” Cummin says. “But when we talked to other owners [of in-home care franchises], they had a very similar type of assessment—they were caring, patient types of people. Now he could understand why they got into this.” The client’s franchise is now flourishing, he says.


The Problem: The senior manager wins the coveted promotion, but work seems even harder. Why? Many people who climb the corporate ladder simply aren’t prepared, says leadership and business development coach Larry Face of Next Level Achievement in Sarasota. “The [key is] realizing that the skills you used to get to the previous step aren’t necessarily going to be the right ones for the next step.”

Rising leaders go from managing themselves to managing individuals, then on to teams, and finally entire organizations. “You have to be clear about who you are and what your leadership style is and what motivates and inspires you,” Face says. “If you don’t understand that about yourself, how are you ever going to figure it out relative to the people you lead?”

The Fix: Find your leadership sweet spot. To do that, look back and assess at which point you felt the most successful and received the best performance from your subordinates: Was it when you were leading individuals, teams or entire organizations?

When transitioning from leading individuals to taking on teams, “You need to make a psychological shift,” Face says. You’re making decisions that are best for the team, not simply individuals. “I’ve seen a lot of people who were elevated to that position, but the best thing they can do is move back to leading individuals,” he says. “That’s what they were really good at, and people loved them.”

Heading up organizations requires vision and strategic thinking. “It’s a whole other ball game,” Face says. “Some people have that, and others don’t.”

Betsy Zackrison, Coaching for SuccessThe Job Seeker

The Problem: In the competitive job market, those seeking employment often fall into a crisis of confidence, says Betsy Zackrison, a business coach at Coaching for Success in Venice who also teaches interviewing skills at the Women’s Resource Center. “We tend to let the negative voice that runs in our head take over,” she says. “Even top executives have this problem. They’re afraid of being found out—how did they get to where they are?”

The Fix: Zackrison suggests a little self-reflection. “For a few days, write down what those negative voices in your head say. Just become aware.” Once you do some self-assessment, move on. Being too self-absorbed hurts you in a job interview, Zackrison says. People get lost, trying to figure out what to say next to impress someone or, worse, talk too much and lose the person’s interest—and potentially the job, raise or promotion.

In an interview or networking, “It’s not about you, it’s about them,” Zackrison says. “Once you start to focus on the client or the audience, everything else falls into place.” You’ve got about three to four sentences to get your point across. In a job interview, “Approach it from the interviewer’s approach rather than interviewee’s. Your job as an interviewee is to help him or her see what value you can offer to the company, and why it’s important that they hire you. It would be great for you, yes, but what can you do to help them?”

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