• Read The cost of believing the bad things about yourself


    The cost of believing the bad things about yourself

    I recently participated in a leadership 360.  If you’re not familiar, it’s one of those annoying survey things where you rate yourself on a bunch of subjective questions and a bunch of other people you nominate on your behalf rate you as well.  Then you get your results and some fancy, overpaid consultant (like myself) helps you get a sense of your strengths as well as your opportunities for development (the latter meaning weaknesses in organizational development speak) and helps you put together a development plan to address the gaps. It’s interesting because as a leadership coach and trainer, I’ve administered them on other people’s behalf’s so many times, I just never had the opportunity to take one myself.  I wasn’t sure to expect.  I figured there would be a few things I would need to work on and had formed some assumptions in my mind as to what those things were.  But about halfway through the debrief, something strange happened.  I broke down in tears.  Not because I was sad, but because I was overwhelmed.  On every single measure (and there were a lot) I had rated myself significantly lower than my colleagues and peers had rated me.  Every single one. We do not see ourselves clearly How can this be?  I even course corrected for this.  I know I tend to be hard on myself, the recovering perfection junkie that I am.  I even took that tendency into account when I was rating myself and cut myself some slack.  Or so I thought… But the results say what the results say.  Here I am thinking that I have a fair degree of awareness, and yet clearly do not see myself in the same way that others do. I see this all the time in my clients.  The problem isn’t as much that we are often doing all these horrible things we are completely unaware of.  There are many assessments I’ve debriefed where a person has “soft spots.”  Qualities they rate themselves low on that others believe to be much higher.  When you think about the consequence and the cost of that, it’s huge.  If I don’t believe I’m good at something, maybe I don’t put myself forward for an opportunity.  Maybe I don’t dare to dream that big dream because I’m not sure I have the capacity to achieve it.  Maybe I find myself talking myself out of things.  I’ll go after it when I feel like I’m ready.  But what does “ready” even mean and how would I know if I’m there?  This is the circular thinking we often engage in that keeps us stuck in a rut. Life is funny like this…while every coaching client is very different, many of us are really searching for and working on the same exact things.  I’ve often explained the practice of coaching as helping others see the incredible value they bring to the world and step into their greatness.  And who better than a neutral third party, as we […]

    April 19, 2022


    4.3 min read

  • Read What you gain when you let go of needing to prove


    What you gain when you let go of needing to prove

    Yesterday I had a long overdue catch-up with a woman I used to work with years ago at BP.  She’s been retired many years now, and at one time I was lucky enough to call her my line manager.  Hardworking, ethical, kind, and compassionate, to date she’s one of the best bosses I’ve ever had.  We got the polite pleasantries out of the way, in terms of where she’s settled, I’ve settled and what we’re up to these days, and then the conversation got much deeper and she said, “You know, when I think back to those times, I created so much stress for myself.  I was always thinking I had to prove something.  It was never enough to simply appreciate what I had achieved, I believed that each morning I had to wake up and do it all over again, like all that had come before had been erased.” It’s hard to imagine that when I think of Brenda, always elegant in her designer suits, hair perfectly coiffed, she was the pinnacle of success.  A young woman of color who had started as a secretary and worked her way up to a senior level leader at a large corporation.  Her story is an incredibly inspiring one.  And yet, here she was, suffering all those years with impostor syndrome, desperate to prove her worth. We all have impostor syndrome I admitted that I too, had suffered greatly at the hands of impostor syndrome.  That nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach that you’re really a fraud.  That eventually the lights will come on and everyone in the room will realize the mental equivalent of you sitting there with your pants down – that you don’t really deserve to be here, you have no idea what you’re doing, get the heck out of here.  That kind of thing. In case you were there thinking you’re all alone with this ailment, I have yet to have a single client who doesn’t have at least a small dose of this.  Call it part of the amazing experience of being human. It’s interesting how impostor syndrome manifests.  In Brenda’s case it was surrounding herself with expensive clothes, handbags and jewelry.  If she looked the part, then maybe she’d fool other people into thinking she was the part.  I took a slightly different tack.  I reckoned the key to kicking the impostor syndrome’s butt lied in beefing up my self-esteem.  I sought out credentials and accomplishments I could tout to others so I could feel better about myself.  She wore a mask of Chanel, and I wore a mask of credentials like any well intentioned over achiever. It even spilled over into when I started my own coaching practice.  It was never enough initially to work with a single client who needed help transitioning their career.  I had to be traveling the world, reinventing organizations.  My client list was everything to me.  How many fortune 500’s had I worked with?  Whose faculty was I […]

    April 13, 2022


    4.6 min read

  • Read Career Transition Success Story – Part 2 – Forget the requirements, apply anyway!

    Career Coaching

    Career Transition Success Story – Part 2 – Forget the requirements, apply anyway!

    In today’s blog we are continuing the story of Nora Pirsch, who recently transitioned from a yoga instructor to a UX designer.  Nora credits her strong mental attitude in being critical in making the transition! Nora Pirsch is a User Experience designer that specializes in human connections. The desire to improve people’s day to day lives, has been a theme throughout her adult life. She has spent 15 years of her life mastering her craft as a yoga instructor and now she has begun her path to improving her skills as a UX designer. Nora has always enjoyed a challenge, from facing stage fright to showing extreme patience with her naturally fermented bread baking, she never goes down without a fight. When she is not interviewing users, you can find her baking fresh pizza and going for long walks with her dog Finch. Shelley: Let’s talk about of interviewing and as it relates to resiliency. You told me it was something like 80 jobs you applied to, and I was blown away by that and just how resilient you are. How did you keep yourself mentally strong, considering that there were probably a lot of setbacks in this process for you? Nora: I had amazing support from school from colleagues that I went to school with, even from people that my mom reached out to that were in the tech industry, and they would tutor me, and find people to help me walk along the path. That’s step number one. And then, part of the after-graduation program was applying to 10 jobs a week, that was the criteria. So that was very difficult in the beginning because I was spending too much time on writing pretty and elaborate cover letters. I really recommend getting a very basic template, and then just add two to three sentences make it a little bit more directed at that company. And that’s it because you will wipe yourself out writing those cover letters. And honestly, what is it 92% Of the companies don’t look at your cover letter until you’ve gone through the ATS. Shelley: I normally tell candidates, don’t even submit one unless they specifically asked for it. Because a lot of times they don’t even get read. Create a Process – Work Smarter Not Harder Nora: A lot of the times they don’t, but my school did encourage it. Because if there’s a candidate that if you’re side by side with, and one has a cover letter and one doesn’t, they’re going to go with the one that paid a little bit more attention. I came up with a simple template and started applying to more jobs. And then I closely shadowed a couple of the students in my class that were very big go getters, and we became quick friends. She told me what she was doing and her tactics. And I was asked, “Can I can I steal that from you?”And she said, “Oh my gosh, of course.” Forget the requirements […]

    March 16, 2022


    9.2 min read

  • Read Bummed Out Because You Messed Up? Try this…


    Bummed Out Because You Messed Up? Try this…

    I heard something today in yoga class.  Sweaty and out of breath, laying in savasana, the teacher reminded us to tune into our breath, and said, “ If you find your mind wandering, find your breath and focus on it.  The beautiful thing about your breath is it’s always there.  You can always go back to it.  You can always start again.” The Choice Trap And yet, we often act like we can’t. “I screwed things up with that client, I can never build it back up again.” “I didn’t major in the right thing in college, now I’m trapped.” “That acting thing didn’t work out.  And now I’m too old and don’t have the right experience, no one is ever going to hire me.” “I was doing so great with that new habit, and then I lost traction.  What’s the point, I may as well give up?  I’ll never be able to get back into it now.” That last quote was mine today, in relation to this blog.  I had set myself the task of writing 2 times a week, and this week it got away from me for no good reason.  And then I look at my watch and realize it’s Thursday afternoon and I’ve written nothing this week.  And then I told myself, “See Shelley, you knew you’d never do this.  This is why you never should have started that stupid blog again in the first place!  You don’t have what it takes to sustain this new habit.  You might as well give up.  You suck!”  And then it got even worse, and I found myself in a pit of self-induced shame.  Telling myself that I “should be” better at this by now, and I “should” practice the things I preach to my clients. The Problem with Should Until I realized I was “shoulding” all over myself – also something I warn my clients about. Dang.  I hate it when I’m right. So here I am, MacBook in hand, and I told that voice to shut up today, because I choose to remember what my teacher said.  I also choose to remember what William Glasser said, who wrote Choice Theory, one hell of a book, and coincidentally one of the best books I’ve ever read.  (He’s dead, just in case you’re wondering, but not from making bad choices.)  His premise was that every moment of every day is a choice.  I can choose to believe I’m a failure, or I can choose to believe otherwise.  I can choose to move closer to this person in this moment, or I can choose to move away from them.  Will that choice serve me or not?  In every moment there is some element of agency.  Some element where I can become the master of my own fate, even if it’s just changing what I choose to believe about what happened.  A very helpful thing indeed if I choose my own interpretation, because unfortunately I haven’t become omnipotent yet.  Otherwise the […]

    March 3, 2022


    3.3 min read

  • Read Presentation Jitters? Remember this one simple phrase…

    Presenting Skills

    Presentation Jitters? Remember this one simple phrase…

    Quite often in my line of work, I get asked to give a presentation.  And I’m always perfectly happy to comply.  I’m one of those rare mutants of a human who actually enjoys public speaking.  Perhaps I missed my calling as a c-list celebrity actress on a soap opera or my chance to make it big yodeling on America’s got talent.  But give me a microphone, a happy audience and a deck of powerpoint slides and I’m off to the races. So the other day there I was, right in my element, with a happy audience of fifteen HR directors of the top Austin hotel chains.  I had been asked to speak about mindfulness and the link to customer service, and was super excited to have the opportunity to connect so directly with potential clients. Attack of the presentation jitters The jokes were landing, the information was resonating, I was in my happy place.  No presentation jitters here!  And then about halfway through the presentation I zeroed in on one participant, who had the look on his face. The look? You know the look. We’ve all seen the look. It’s the look that says, “You’re an idiot.  This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.  There is no way I am taking this seriously.  Get off the stage before I get my big hook and drag you off.” That look. I tried to focus on the other participants.  “Okay Shelley, find more friendly faces in the crowd.  Focus your attention elsewhere.  You know you could be misinterpreting this.”  But it was to no avail.  I couldn’t escape that sly smile, those narrowed eyes, the smug mouth.  And I’m sure at one point he even rolled his eyes.  The look was controlling me now.  I was no longer free. I sensed my body tensing up.  The pace of my speech grew quicker and quicker.  I was asking fewer questions, engaging the audience less and less.  I was skipping over sections of slides.  I finished early and with a sigh of relief asked my attentive audience what questions they had. Silence. At that point the HR director who had invited me threw out a token question, which I eagerly jumped on like manna from heaven to a dying soul. I was desperate for their approval.  Desperate for their validation. I told myself that maybe they were just shy and that I’m sure a few will approach me afterwards to ask for more information.  That always happens. No one did. I gathered up my belongings and left the room with my tail between my legs. Now being a trained and skilled facilitator, I’ve dealt with these things before, but they tended to affect me earlier on in my training days, when I was a newbie facilitator with a lot of passion and not a lot of practice. Was that man really giving me the look?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Even if he was, the rest of the group was actively engaged up to the […]

    February 24, 2022


    4 min read

  • Read Stop Trying to Be Perfect


    Stop Trying to Be Perfect

    The other day I was going through my writing files and found a bunch a blogs I had never used.  I re-read them, and truth be told – some of them were actually pretty good.  Maybe not award winning good, but good enough to get a chuckle or two from a bemused reader over their morning cup of coffee and soggy bowl of bran flakes. Then I realized the reason I had decided to never use them was that I had previously decided they were crap and belonged in the digital equivalent of the dusty junk drawer, as far away from the human eye as something could possibly be.  They just weren’t perfect enough. This got me thinking (a dangerous thing I know) about how often we have an idea or a wish to try something new and stick it in the proverbial junk drawer. Perfect – The enemy of good We have an idea, and we start to label it with words like:  silly, childish, whimsical, impractical, too idealistic, unrealistic, not original enough, not perfect enough, not gluten free enough… You get my drift. And then we shove that part of ourselves away, only to be encountered on a rainy Sunday morning when you’ve got nothing better to do and you’re suddenly confronted with the ghost of dead dreams. When we decide to let go of being perfect, this makes space for being authentic instead.  And along with that comes creativity, freedom, exploration and most importantly – joy. For years I had shied away from working with very senior leaders.  I had decided somewhere in the recesses of my brain I was too quirky, not polished enough, not as well versed enough on the all leadership buzzwords as I could be, not experienced enough, not prestigious enough. I hadn’t studied with someone important, like Daniel Goleman or Stephen Covey.  My foggy and faulty logic was that in order to be successful with this type of audience, I would need to be something other than what I was.  Something better than what I was, whatever that really means. For years I had put off working with this group and focused on mid-level leaders. (Very rewarding and enjoyable work too by the way which I still love and continue to this day.)  I had decided this was my niche.  And all the best marketing practices supported my choice, as it’s important to be clear about who your target client is. Be Authentic Instead But one day I finally took the plunge and thought, what the heck – what would happen if I just put my stuff out there with a senior audience?  My story, my experiences, the reason I do leadership development, my trials and tribulations. I didn’t die, just in case you were wondering. There were several comments in the facilitator feedback on how open, vulnerable, authentic, interesting and engaging I was. And one recent executive coaching client mentioned he had specifically hired me because he read my book and […]

    January 31, 2022


    3.6 min read