The Power of Re-Thinking for Leaders and Coaches


The most powerful realization has come to me these last handful of years. Something I knew, but now I really know. Here it is in two parts: Part A: I have the choice to think any way I want – about leadership, about life, about things and about myself. Part B: When I think differently, I feel differently and I act differently – and have a different impact on myself, my company and everyone else I connect with. This is not a new insight for me. But it is now a deeper- held belief. It is becoming a habit. It is becoming a higher and higher level skill – a skill I engage more and more often, particularly as a coach.

Why am I so enthused about using this power of re-thinking? Well, why would I not want to feel more confident instead of less confident? Why not become more optimistic and less cynical? Why not take responsibility instead of blaming others? Why not become more focused and less scattered?  Why not listen deeply instead of interrupting or letting my mind drift?  These are better ways to live. More effective. I’ll get better results in my life and in my work.

What I have also discovered is that I am not the only one who has a pattern of thinking that needs re-thinking. A lot of us do. David Burns[i] put together a list of common “cognitive distortions”.  Some of these distortions:

  • Filtering: focusing entirely on negative elements of a situation.  Example: “I am so bummed about my presentation! Henry didn’t make eye contact with me during the whole time” (focusing on Henry’s body language when the actual result was the president and senior team decided to go forward with a major project because of the presentation).
  • Catastrophizing: giving greater weight to the worst possible outcome, however unlikely. Example: “I just know that when I ask for a raise that my boss is going to blow her stack – and I’ll lose all credibility here, forever – if I don’t get fired because of my request.”
  • Other distortions include: always being right and blaming.

The coaching process helps people reframe one’s or one’s clients perspective(s) – what  Chris Argyris[ii] called “Double-Loop” thinking – thinking outside the box.

To work this process, ask yourself or your client:

  1. How they are currently thinking around a current issue they want to address, or a change they want to make.
  2. Follow up with an exploration of other potential ways of thinking about the issue/change that are more accurate (undistorted) and more effective.
  3. Ask if one of those ways of thinking would be the most effective and one that they want to choose as their go-forward thinking around the issue/change.
  4. If so, how could the person make a habit of that new framework.

Simple and powerful. Re-thinking. – a way to think differently and more powerfully to become the person, to become the leader, we want to be. Think – Feel – Act – Impact.

[i]  Currently Adjunct Clinical Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine

[ii] Chris Argyris (July 16, 1923 – November 16, 2013[1]) was an American business theorist, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School,