Nicole Coustier is a veteran Silicon Valley consultant and former VP of operations at a med tech consultancy. She now heads up her own leadership development and executive performance coaching firm, specializing in teaching achievers how to break down barriers to next-level status, using their own talents rather than trying to change who they are.
Who is Nicole Coustier?
Nicole started out in corporate America as a consultant for the first 16 years. That went well until her husband passed away and she couldn’t spend all those hours in a high profile position. She switched to starting her own firm and changed how she worked and how she lived that allowed her to take care of her daughter while still delivering great work for her clients.
In the process, she learned that it can be iterative. Where she started in 2017 is totally different from where she is in 2021, and that’s okay.
One thing that people get stuck on is the belief that there is one right answer, but the truth is you get to decide what to do. You get to pick what you want to work on, and then do it until you reach another level or achieve your goal, and then you can do something else. It’s empowering to allow yourself to change your mind and shift gears.
A lot of people limit themselves to the options that are being presented to them. You can put another option on the table for yourself.
How do you bring options to the table as a corporate employee?
As an employee, you’re in a contract to fulfill duties and responsibilities to the organization’s goals. The thing you need to consider when proposing a third option is things beyond your needs and wants. If you can include the goals of the organization, it becomes a win/win and makes it much more likely to be considered and adopted.
When you have options on the table, start by going through the exercise of “what does it look like if everybody is happy?” As achievers, we tend to look at things that are right around the corner or why something might not work. For this exercise, you need to relinquish the limitations and start with a blank canvas.
Most people filter their ideas through their perceived judgement of others. When starting the brainstorming process, begin on your own and consciously give yourself permission to let go of your expectations and be free to come up with ideas, not all of which will be good.
True brainstorming happens when you allow yourself to think differently and even be a different person in that moment, to surface new ideas, options, and pathways.
Achievers have an identity of being able to figure out problems and have a high tolerance for stress and ambiguity. In a coaching setting, they often struggle with vulnerability. They know they need help and a coach, but they still usually show up as a powerful achiever.
It’s important to be vulnerable in a coaching setting in order to meet your goals, which is a challenge because as leaders we are taught to be invulnerable and always have all the answers.
Nicole calls out her clients directly to help them identify the disconnect. She questions the stories they tell her as well as themselves, because if the stories were true they would be getting the results in their careers and lives they want.
The quickest way to vulnerability is finding a coach that creates a safe space for you and calls you out. The sooner you can get to those tough questions, the better the results will be from your coaching engagement.
Most people don’t understand emotions. There are four fundamental things you can do with emotions. You can suppress them and act as if they are not there, which will eventually come back to bite you. You can resist them, and procrastinate with distractions. You can indulge them, and let the emotion fester instead of taking action. The final choice is to process emotions.
In order to process an emotion, you have to feel it and not avoid it. Then you have to think about what thoughts or beliefs about your circumstances are leading to that emotion. Then you need to observe your emotion and how it’s manifesting in your behavior, and question whether it is serving you or holding you back.
Emotions don’t just happen to you. You can decide in advance how you’re going to feel, and by processing your emotions you give yourself the opportunity to pick something else to feel.
As a leader, you are an example for what’s possible. Your employees are looking for cues for how they should behave. One notion to let go of is that you can control another person’s emotions. To help someone else manage their emotions, you have to set the tone for the environment and show them how it’s done. If someone is looking for guidance, help them, but otherwise it’s about modeling the behavior you want to see.
Navigating the New World
Part of being a leader is being able to make decisions when information is ambiguous. You need to be able to make a decision with the best information available and be willing to change when new information comes up. You have everything you need inside of you to make a decision.
As long as your decisions are proactive, managing a remote team is easier. Instead of catching up and feeling confused, think about what your team needs and how it operates and make it the standard for remote work. Dictate how the work gets done and make it easy to understand if they are doing well or not.
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