Category Archives: Coaching Question

What Gives Us the Most Control Over Our Lives?

Question:

The Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF) has given us many techniques to help us have more control over our lives. Which do you think makes the most difference?

Answer:

Thought you might first think of control over time or your schedule, the most basic technique for control really goes to understanding your body itself.  Better learning your body’s natural responses and working with biology rather than against it, can give you amazing amounts of control over your daily life.

When we feel “out of control,” our bodies react as if we are under physical attack and trigger our limbic systems. This “fight or flight” section of our brains makes us hyper focused, which in turn makes us see fewer possibilities. This then increases the feeling of being out of control and creates a downward spiral.

To regain control, you need to frequently remind your body that you are not literally under attack by taking these steps:

  1. Name and Acknowledge.

    “I feel out of control right now.” Say it out loud!

  2. Normalize.

    “This is a normal feeling under the circumstances.  But I recognize that it is keeping me from seeing all of my options.”

  3. Step Back.

    Get a new perspective — literally. Step away from your desk. Look out the window instead of at your computer. Take a deep breath.

  4. Reframe.

    “What is possible here?”

Remember — there are always many more options that you think, but first you have to give yourself the space to see them.

Bonus Question:

What can we learn from men about increasing our sense of control?

Answer:

A group of women partners I work with recently took up this question and suggested the following:

  1. Men are willing to pay more money to have others complete non-essential tasks outside of the office (e.g., laundry service).
  2. Not as many men have the “disease to please.” They set boundaries and ask for what they need (e.g., more time to complete an assignment).
  3. They say NO more often to non-essential work.
  4. They delegate with greater ease.

These women also acknowledged that there are many more complex factors at play.  Such factors include: bias, the fact that women often have more responsibilities outside of work — and more distractions at work — than men, and much more.  But it is still worth reflecting on these observations.

Do you have a leadership coaching question? Email it to us here.

Are you an alum of the Women’s Leadership Forum? We’d love to keep in touch with you! Request to join us in our private Facebook group here, or connect with Susan on LinkedIN here and send me a note that you’d like to be part of our exclusive LinkedIn group.  Also follow us on Instagram for frequent reminders of WLF content!

Fighting the Fear of Not Knowing Enough

Question:

I understand that I need to be more courageous to show up more confidently. But it can be really hard to put this into practice at a law firm. How can I get over my fear of not knowing enough and not being absolutely sure of my advice to clients — especially when I’m with a senior partner who has more experience?

Answer:

I recently conducted a 360 degree feedback interview for a Counsel I was coaching. A recurring theme was that she was “one of the smartest people in the firm” but needed to “appear more confident” in meetings and calls, when she was giving advice to clients.

One of the most helpful observations came from the senior partner, who noted that the most important thing she could work on is learning how to say “I don’t know” with confidence.

Four Ways to Say “I Don’t Know” With Confidence

1. Set a clear bottom line.

First, remember that your job is not to know everything off the top of your head.  (Or, worse yet, to guess blindly.) Your job is to know how to find the right answer.

The easiest path to courage is to set this as your clear bottom line.The fact is that no one knows everything.  Not even the most senior members of your firm.

2. Have a few “go to” phrases.

Next, remember that we all have moments when we don’t have the answer. The solution is not to try to plan answers for every single contingency — that’s impossible!

Instead, I highly recommend having a few “go to” phrases that convey “I don’t know” with confidence.  Some examples include:

  • “That’s a great question/idea. Let me give it some thought and get right back to you.”
  • “I have some initial thoughts but I’d like to check into a couple of things. May I call you back in X minutes?”
  • “My colleague Jane is our firm’s expert in X. I think her insights could be extremely valuable.”
  • “I’ll speak with Jane after our call and get back to you. In the meantime, have you considered Y and Z?” (pivot to your ideas/areas of expertise.)

3. Check your body language and tone.

Finally, remember to deliver your advice clearly, concisely, and directly. Confidence is primarily conveyed in HOW you speak.

Be mindful of your body language (even if you’re on the phone!) and your tone. Eliminate minimizing phrases like “Ummm,” “I’m not sure” or “it could be A or maybe it’s B,” etc. It’s fine to provide choices or include caveats, but be clear.  For example, “I see three options. I believe number 3 is the best, and I’d like to hear your thoughts.”

4. Say no to equivocating.

Above all, do not equivocate. Equivocating produces the worst outcome. You have exposed yourself by giving advice, AND your insecurity will make your partner and/or client feel insecure, which erodes their longer-term trust in you.

Are you an alum of the Women’s Leadership Forum? We’d love to keep in touch with you! Request to join us in our private Facebook group here, or connect with Susan on LinkedIN here and send me a note that you’d like to be part of our exclusive LinkedIn group.  Also follow us on Instagram for frequent reminders of WLF content!

Am I Really Self-Aware?

Question:

I’m worried.  I always thought I was pretty self-aware. But now that I see the research on how few people actually are, I am wondering if I really am.  How can I tell?

Answer:

We know two things for sure: 1) the development of self-awareness is a life-long process that we never finish.  And 2) some of the biggest obstacles to increased self-awareness are the blind spots we cannot see. 

The best way to test your own self-awareness is to ask for feedback from a trusted friend or colleague on an ongoing basis. In the meantime, here are some other things you can do to get a feel for your level of self-awareness.

If you’d like a quick assessment, I invite you to try the Free Insight Quiz , a small subset of Dr. Tasha Eurich’s validated 70 item self-awareness assessment. The 14 forced-choice questions should take no longer than 5 minutes to complete. At the end of your assessment, you will be asked to provide the name and email of someone who knows you well, so that the same assessment (about you) can be sent to them. When they have completed their part, a report download link will be sent to you.

Note: while I’m sure this is deeply ingrained in every one of you, I do urge you to review the privacy policy before submitting your email address (and of course to get your friend’s consent before submitting theirs)!

I also like this Huffington Post article by Matt Hearnden. Be warned that it contains some, er, adult language.  But, it’s very humbling, reminds us all how hard this really is, and provides some concrete steps to consider.

Are you an alum of the Women’s Leadership Forum? We’d love to keep in touch with you! Request to join us in our private Facebook group here, or connect with Susan on LinkedIN here and send me a note that you’d like to be part of our exclusive LinkedIn group.  Also follow us on Instagram for frequent reminders of WLF content!

equality is possible

Coaching Question: Is Gender Equality Possible?

Question:

The issue of equality is not new — in fact, we’ve been trying to deal with it for so long that it seems impossible.  What can we actually do?

Answer:

First we have to acknowledge that it IS really hard. We are challenging a 2000+ year old system — and this kind of change cannot happen overnight. But it won’t happen at all if we do nothing. Change begins with a vision, and vision begins with real conversations of what equality could, (and should!) look like. Real is not always easy — in fact, it can be painfully uncomfortable. But if women don’t have these uncomfortable conversations, no one else will. Brené Brown says, “To opt out of conversations that are uncomfortable is the very definition of privilege.” The system was created by and for men.  It is very hard for men recognize the privilege in this, let alone face into the discomfort of changing the system.  It’s up to us to have the conversations, to create our own vision for equality, and then make requests for what we want – TOGETHER.

Are you an alumni of the Women’s Leadership Forum? I’d love for you to keep in touch with the WLF community. Request to join us in our private Facebook group here, or connect with me on LinkedIN here and send me a note that you’d like to be part of our exclusive LinkedIn group.

Is Self-Compassion Self-Defeating at a Law Firm?

Question:

I like the idea of being kinder to myself, but let’s face it — law firms are not compassionate places. The environment in my firm is highly critical and mistakes are not forgiven easily. I need to be tougher, not weaker. Isn’t it a little naive — or even self-defeating — to think about being nice to yourself in this culture?

Answer:

Law firms can indeed be tough places, and there is often not much compassion. This is precisely why self-compassion is so important!

Your job IS hard a lot of the time – no doubt about it. But remember that you have a choice: to make it harder for yourself by empowering your self-critic, or easier by offering yourself compassion.

The key idea to remember is that your performance will not suffer just because you are nice to yourself. In fact research shows it will improve. Remember that you are only changing the way you think about the situation.

Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, famously explained, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Choose self-compassion for yourself and for others, and you may be surprised how much stronger you feel.

Are you an alum of the Women’s Leadership Forum? We’d love to keep in touch with you! Request to join us in our private Facebook group here, or connect with Susan on LinkedIN here and send me a note that you’d like to be part of our exclusive LinkedIn group.  Also follow us on Instagram for frequent reminders of WLF content!

Monthly Coaching Question

“Is it really possible to self-author in a law firm?”

Yes, if you think of self-authoring as an ongoing evolution, not a single destination to be reached.

The key to making the transition to a self-authored mind-set is being able to identify the SMALL changes that will make the biggest differences in your life on daily basis. You have to give up on the idea that you can make a few changes (e.g., go part-time) and achieve a state of balance – this will not happen.  It will not happen because your environment is too complex and is always changing. Rather, your reality requires you to be flexible, have the ability to “see” your options and be willing to make changes on an ongoing basis.

When you are feeling the pulls of overwhelming demands and expectations of others ask yourself:  do I really “need” to meet this expectation or do I need to reframe some of my beliefs, think differently about circumstances that are weighing me down, act differently, make more requests, or learn to say no?

The idea is to identify what matters most to YOU today, this week, this month and notice all the places in your life where you have more choice than you think. If you really look, you will find there are a lot of them.  Also, make sure you are in an on-going conversation with a group of like-minded women who also are making the transition to a self-authored frame of mind.

One of the biggest obstacles to making the transition is the feeling of isolation that often accompanies making different choices — mutual support can make all the difference.