Principle #4: Free your mind from limiting thoughts

Many of us spend a significant amount of time living in an imaginary mental world created by limiting thoughts. Fortunately, we can free ourselves from these limiting thoughts when we use our own will to accept or reject the thoughts in our heads.

The most productive tool I have as a leadership coach is teaching people how to observe their thoughts. Our minds are like a theatrical stage with a variety of scenes, characters, dramas, and the like continually crossing the stage all day long. The reality though is that much of what we think is created by us and not by what we actually see, hear or experience.

We create stories about our managers, co-workers, clients, friends, spouses/partners, and ourselves that just aren’t grounded in reality. The breakthrough comes when we learn to see a thought crossing our mind’s stage and recognize “it’s just a thought.”

Apply the Principle:

I ask all my clients to journal (write down) their limiting thoughts.  Once the observation is written on paper (or on the iPhone’s notepad as I do) then you see the thought for what it is – a thought – not an absolute. You can then take the time to consider if the thought is “grounded” in reality. You can observe it like one who is looking at an elaborate centerpiece by walking all around the table to see the various perspectives before jumping to a conclusion about its meaning and value.

The result for my clients is that many thoughts are often tossed out as ungrounded – only getting in their way of taking the actions or building the relationships they really want.

April 20, 2013 Posted by: Leave a comment - Permalink

Principle #3 How you do it is as important as what you do.

You’ve probably heard the refrain, “How you say it is just as important as what you say.” The same is true with how we go about our work.
I consult with many organizations and businesses on how to improve employee performance, including how to set individual performance goals and how to evaluate an employee’s completion of those goals.
Often an important part of the goal and evaluation is overlooked – “how” the goal is accomplished. Did the employee demonstrate the core values of the firm in the process? Or did the employee leave a wake of disruption in the likes of unengaged team members, damaged relationships, poor quality, or even unethical actions? Sometimes the effects of such behavior are as obvious as a “bull in a china shop” while others slowly chip away at employee morale and company culture.
Apply the Principle:
Think about and include “how” you will do things when setting performance goals, and then evaluate not only on completion of the goal but on “how” it was accomplished and how the core values of the organization were demonstrated in doing so.
The application of this principle increases self-awareness and improves individual behavior – collectively enhancing overall organizational behavior and morale.
It is also applicable in our personal lives. Will you just read the book to your child or will you engage your child in the telling of a story? Will you take your spouse to dinner only to spend it on the phone?
Think about how you are doing things when you do them and you will find greater joy and satisfaction.
February 23, 2013 Posted by: Leave a comment - Permalink

Principle #2: Notice Patterns in Your Thoughts and Behavior

Have you ever heard yourself or others complain or make excuses about the same things over and over at work? As a leadership coach and management consultant, I often hear clients make repetitive assessments about their work environment. These assessments often reveal more about the client than they do about their colleagues and organizations.  

Noticing patterns helps identify what’s holding you back from what you really want. 


A client was regularly making the following assessments during our meetings:

“My employees can’t seem to do things right and they never improve.”

“People don’t talk to each other around here.”

“My boss is always trying to find fault with what I do.”

“The people here just don’t know how to manage things well.”

“The culture in our organization is toxic.”

She also believed top leaders never listened to her division’s ideas and she influenced her staff to believe the same thing. Poor morale was growing and she was finding it more and more difficult to produce results and meet her performance goals. She was convinced that it was a conspiracy against her and there was nothing she could do to change it. She was ready to quit her job.

I asked her, “What is really getting in the way?” Her initial response was to list the same complaints and excuses. We then explored how things had gone in her previous jobs. She revealed similar issues, complaints, and excuses. I then asked her, “Is there a pattern here?” Her response was an emphatic, “Yes! I don’t do well with criticism!”

Criticism was holding her back from having the conversations she needed with her leaders and with her staff. She was so overwhelmed with the fear of criticism that she did everything in her power to avoid receiving and giving it. We discussed options for seeing criticism differently – seeing it as a gift and opportunity for growth; and she agreed to proactively set-up regular meetings with her leaders and staff to discuss ways to improve results.

Apply the Principle 

1) Pay close attention to your complaints and excuses. Write them down. If you don’t verbally complain, but can hear yourself complain in your head or under your breath, then write those down as well.

2) Ask yourself, “What is really getting in the way here?” Sit with this question and allow yourself some time to really become aware of what the deeper issue is that is holding you back. Notice the patterns in thought and behavior.

3) Identify actions within your power that you can take to eliminate the complaint or excuse.

4) Act upon it and evaluate the outcome.


Start a journal as part of your work on each Principle Challenge. It doesn’t matter if it’s in a paper notebook or on your smart phone. What matters is that you take the time to capture your reflections and write about the experiences you have as you apply each principle.

Randall Thacker, Leadership Coach and Management Consultant


October 10, 2012 Posted by: 1 Comment - Permalink

Principle #1: Challenge Your Assumptions

We all make and carry with us a variety of assumptions about matters at work and the people with whom we work. We may question others’ motives, their willingness to listen to our ideas, or accept our offers. We may wonder if we can directly request things of others or be completely authentic in our interactions.

Challenging our assumptions opens new possibilities. 


One of my clients assumed a colleague didn’t trust her and was competing with her because the colleague consistently asked to be copied when my client emailed draft letters to the external affairs division.  I asked the client, “What are the other possibilities?  She at first struggled to come up with other possibilities.  After further exploration, she tentatively stated that maybe the colleague just wanted to be more informed so she could be of better service to her once external responses to letters started arriving.

I invited her to apply this new perspective in her future work with this colleague…and guess what?  She immediately felt less stress in the relationship.  She eventually talked with her colleague and realized her previous assumption was not true.  Their working relationship improved, as did their ability to better serve their clients.

Apply the Principle

I invite you to think of a work related matter or working relationship where you currently experience significant stress.  You can use something from your personal life as well.  Write it down and describe it well.  List the assumptions you have about the matter and/or the people involved.  Then write your answers to the following questions:

  1. What are the absolute known facts in this situation?
  2. Are my assumptions grounded in the facts?
  3. What are the other possibilities beyond my own assumptions?
  4. What action can I take to test other possibilities?

Take the action!

Once you’ve applied this principle, consider sharing your story and what you learned with others by posting a comment below.   Also, if you found this challenge helpful, share it with others!


Start a journal as part of your work on each Principle Challenge.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a paper notebook or in electronic format.  What matters is that you take the time to capture your reflections and write about the experiences you have as you apply each principle.

By Randall Thacker, Leadership Coach and Management Consultant

June 27, 2012 Posted by: Leave a comment - Permalink

Plan & Prioritize

You worked too many hours this week and feel you didn’t get the most important things done or much done at all. You might have blamed this on your immediate supervisor, your employees, your clients, or your organization’s culture. Let’s break this down though and see if there is something you can do about it by applying the principle of “Plan & Prioritize”.
Consider asking yourself the following questions:
  1. Did you start your week with a plan that prioritized the things to be accomplished, putting those with the greatest return on the investment of your time at the top of your list?
  2. Did you share these priorities with your superiors, staff, and/or clients (as applicable) and reevaluate based on their feedback?
  3. Did you consider tackling the priority tasks earlier in the day and week, before new tasks surfaced?
  4. Did you then block time in advance on your calendar for the top priority activities?
  5. Did you clarify with staff and colleagues that these blocked times would mean you’d be unavailable for interruptions? Did you determine to not check email or answer phone calls during this blocked time?
  6. Did you delegate authority to someone to handle emergencies that may arise during your blocked timeframes?
  7. Did you willingly delegate activities that can be done by administrative assistants or your staff?
  8. Did you push back on a peer or employee who tried to transfer an activity to you because they didn’t feel confident enough to complete it?
  9. Did you help clarify priorities for your staff and/or team at the beginning of the week and establish a means for follow-up?
All you have to do is work at turning one of the above answers into a “yes” for a few weeks and you will begin to see a difference. If you turn many into a “yes” then you are guaranteed to succeed over time at getting the most important things accomplished. Share these ideas with others and let us know how it goes by commenting below. Also, feel free to share your own insights and lessons learned from applying the principle of Plan & Prioritize.
February 12, 2012 Posted by: 2 Comments - Permalink