As a general principle in my life, I’m always looking for ways to reduce unnecessary self-created stress and anxiety because I’m aware it’s our thinking about a situation that creates stress; there is very little inherent stress for most of us, unless you are doing a lot of physical work. We create stress and anxiety from the way we think.
It’s the early stages of the 2015 US Open Tennis Tournament as I write this, and what I find fascinating is to watch some of these high performance athletes beat themselves when they get close to winning the match. One young woman today, Caroline Garcia, was serving for the match and lost the match a few games later. The cause? Her game suffered from what seemed like performance anxiety about finishing out the match, and as a result she was no longer present. She lost the match a few games later.
Neuroscience is a newer field of science that provides interesting insights into how the brain works and responds. There’s a television series on National Geographic that my husband and I love called, “Brain Games” which my business partner, Karen Boskemper introduced us to. The episode is called, “Positive Thinking.”
Increase performance by decreasing anxiety
Being mentor coaches preparing coaches for their MCC, PCC or ACC credential, Karen and I are especially interested in how to increase performance and decrease performance anxiety. In our Mentor Coaching Group program, we have coaches coaching a real client, which can bring anxiety to the foreground when they are coaching in front of their peers, even when they know everyone is in the same boat!
Yet even in the individual mentor coaching sessions where our mentees totally get to choose which coaching session to send to us to review against the ICF Core Competencies, the performance anxiety is still present. It’s amazing what happens to our internal dialogue when we start recording coaching sessions, knowing we are going to be assessed.
So what will help them to relax, so they can perform at a higher level without adding unnecessary anxiety? When we’re anxious, we’re in the future, and not present in the present! And the ‘present’ moment is the only place you can do masterful coaching from.
Being present while coaching
To be present during an entire coaching session is a skill and mindset to be developed and one we are constantly working with our mentees on. The question is, “What are you being present to?” What are you listening for? What are you ignoring? What do you make most important to ask questions about based on your beliefs and thinking? And what checklist are you going over in your head to make sure you demonstrate all the competencies? That last one is sure to take you out of being present!
We have some exclusive, “Centering Your Coaching Presence” tools already available to our clients. For this article, the focus is on how to become present and ready to start the coaching session and especially if you have performance anxiety from recording. Of course, you may also be able to apply some of the ideas while you’re coaching, as long as doing so doesn’t break the connection and your presence between you and your client
Preparing to be present for the coaching session
The expert featured in the Brain Games “Positive Thinking” episode was Ms Sridevi Sarma, Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Here are some of what she shared on the topic with her words in itallics:
The Power of Smiling
“A single smile can trigger a flood of endorphins in your brain comparable to eating hundreds of chocolate bars or being handed a fistful of cash. And just seeing another person smile often triggers you to smile too, which can cause levels of stress hormones to drop and lower your blood pressure.”
Application: Smile, smile, and smile some more immediately before you go to a coaching session or coaching call. Smile before you start the recording. You could also look at a picture or short video that you know makes you smile!
Effect of Positive Thinking
“Negative thoughts activate your brains right pre-frontal cortex, which sits near your stress center. When your brain releases a stress hormone like adrenaline, it does a number on your immune system and leaves you susceptible to illness. In other words, positive thinking is actually good for your health.”
Application: Similar to what makes you smile, what can you do to shift out of negative thinking when you know you’re in a bad mood or poor frame of mind, and into positive viewpoint instead? Have some things you’ll think about and say to yourself to shift your mood, before you start that recording.
“If you want to have a more positive outlook on life, you may want to pay attention to your posture because sometimes your outlook can be influenced by simply striking a pose. When we hold a pose for only several minutes (for example, a sad face, dejected with arms crossed. Or a happy, positive, smiling with arms out wide pose) it can affect our results.
Application: Pay attention to your body language. Are you slouching when you coach? Are you standing while speaking on the phone? Try a Wide Power Pose such as that shown in the photo above before you go to a coaching session. Your client might think you’re a little weird if you strike such a pose when you greet them.
“According to research by neuroscientist Daniel Bowling, music notes in the major key are similar to those in excited speech while notes in the minor key are more similar to somber speech. This might explain why we tend to associate major key songs with being excited or happy, and minor key songs with being sad or upset.
Recent studies have found that listening to upbeat major key music can boost your mood in the short term, and that you can improve your long term overall positivity by listening to happy music for a period of two weeks. And positive thinking can not only make you feel better, it can make you better at almost anything you try.”
Application: Play your favorite music immediately before you record a coaching call for your mentoring and credential process. It can be any type of upbeat music – rock, pop, classical, etc. Even better is if the music puts a big smile on your face, AND your body language is a Wide Open Pose! And try the two week experiment mentioned above and notice if it supports your overall mood.
So much of our success is determined by what is going on inside our head, not outside of our head. So believe in yourself and what you are doing.
If you find yourself engaging in your usual “stinking thinking”, surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed and cheer you on. Research shows that when people believe in us and express that belief through acknowledgement and positive comments, our results tend to improve, even if initially we don’t believe we have improved. The power of positive thinking, whether you believe it or not, does in fact support your success.
Our last Mentor Coaching Program for 2015 is sold out!
We’ll be announcing 2016 mentoring programs via our monthly Coaching Brief newsletter in October
Carly Anderson and Karen Boskemper offer an awesome mentor coaching group and individual program that has many exclusive offerings for our participants. Both have been trained by the ICF to assess using the new PCC Markers.
One of those offerings is an extensive library of MCC, PCC and ACC coaching sessions for our participants to listen to, evaluate, debrief, and learn from, along with The Target Approach to demystifying the ICF core competencies. These are incredibly valuable learning tools, and will accelerate your understanding of competency distinctions.
Here’s where you’ll find more about The Mentor Coaching Group
Carly and Karen also offer other mentoring options which you can find in the Store