We all have hidden fears and limiting beliefs but don’t always recognise or understand what’s holding us back.
With a reputation for straight talking, behavioural science expert and master coach Carolyn Stenhouse says tackling those limiting beliefs is what empowers leaders to go from good to great.
Most of us use only a fraction of our real capacity, according to Ms Stenhouse, and for most people, that’s enough.
“Exceptional leaders do more, they want more, and the way they get that is to know themselves and their people,” she said.
“This is not an easy discipline to master. But great leaders need to be great with people. That’s key to servant leadership, to authentic and compassionate leadership, to excellence in leadership.”
The self-described ‘sparky Scot’ works with executive and senior leaders, middle managers and ambitious individuals with unique challenges and goals – people who want or need to have a greater presence and achieve great things.
She spent years at the top of a government agency before founding and running one of Scotland’s leading consultancies for 15 years. That was before the demand for her as a speaker and “impact consultant” (the name of her Australian-based consultancy) led to setting out her stall in her own name.
She gained a reputation as the UK government’s go-to person for sensitive and challenging situations, be it a Ministerial Working Group off the rails, a dysfunctional senior team or a CEO that needed to shift.
And while earning her results-driven reputation, Ms Stenhouse points out that she was also the right person to have in your corner when needing personal support.
These days she travels and focuses her time on speaking and working with teams and individuals at a senior level – getting leaders from good to great.
“I’m a Scot who enjoys the cutting edge of the great poet Robert Burns,” she said. “One of his famous verses, translated, says: ‘Oh the gift it would give us, to see ourselves as others see us’.”
According to Ms Stenhouse, leaders need to hold the mirror up and understand how they are received and perceived by others.
“What if there’s something they are doing that gets in the way of achieving the impact and influence they are seeking?” she asks.
“Way before anyone starts to focus on the content of what a leader is saying, people have already made a decision about them and that’s informing how the feel. So, the conversation you think you’re having may not be happening at all.”
Somatic patterns – the way we move, facial expressions, sounds and vocal habits – impact how others see, hear and feel about us.
“Often these perceptions are driven by our own sub-conscious mind,” Ms Stenhouse said. “It might be the sound of your voice that grates; the way your eyes narrow when you focus, or that negative resting face.
“We all want to be persuasive, but you won’t persuade anyone who can’t get beyond how negatively they feel about you over simple things that you can change.”
What’s the answer? Actively seeking and being open to feedback is a great start, according to Ms Stenhouse.
“A lot of my work is about helping people to know themselves, shifting unhelpful limiting beliefs, seeking and dealing with their blind spots,” she said.
“The starting point is how you think. Sort that and you can undo habits formed around how you walk, talk and look. All are crucial in how we connect with people.
“Achieve positive impact, and you will be well on your way to the kind of influence to want.”
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