The manager as coach: addressing the consequences of limiting self-beliefs

By Elisabeth Goodman, 6th November 2019

helping team members deal with limiting self-beliefs

There are a number of ways in which a manager can help their team members be at their best.  Some of these approaches hover on the border between coaching (where a manager can intervene) and counselling (where it would be best to seek more qualified support).  Limiting self-beliefs is one of these borderline areas.

As a manager, you may be able to help your direct report become more aware of limiting beliefs that are getting in their way.   You may also have more scope to help them address some of the consequences than either you or they think.

However, your direct reports may want to get more specialised counselling to address some of the causes of those limiting beliefs.

This blog explores three examples of the consequences (or symptoms) of limiting beliefs, some potential limiting beliefs, and some approaches that a manager might choose to apply as a coach.

The reflections on limiting beliefs and approaches to address them are based on what I have learnt so far from my NLP Practitioner training, from “The Coach’s Casebook” by Geoff Watts and Kim Morgan, and from “The Chimp Paradox” by Prof Steve Peters.

I have already referred elsewhere to some other very good resources relating to procrastination and productivity. The Mind Gym’s “Give me time” also has some useful insights on limiting beliefs and approaches for dealing with procrastination.

Three consequences of limiting self-beliefs

These three examples (consequences) are amongst the most common that we encounter when working with delegates on RiverRhee’s courses for individual team members, managers and leaders.

RiverRhee delivers training, workshops and one-to-one coaching in range of management and team member skills

1. Feeling nervous about giving a presentation.  As Watts and Morgan point out, 75% of us suffer from some form of ‘performance anxiety’.  It can bring on the various physiological characteristics (sweating, faster heart beat, breathlessness etc.) prompted by our ‘flight, fright or freeze’ responses to perceived danger. The severity of these responses and our direct reports’ ability to deal with them will vary from one person to another.

2. Procrastination is something that many of us will be aware of.  What’s interesting with this is that we do have the option to choose to procrastinate, especially if it results in scheduling a task to a time when we will be more productive.  Or we can be a victim of our own internal productivity sabotaging beliefs and suffer lots of associated stress and anxiety.  Establishing which kind of procrastination behaviour your direct report is demonstrating would be useful to know.

3. Finding it difficult to say no can result in a direct report taking on more than they can manage with further consequences for the quality of their work and their own well-being.

Some limiting beliefs and their potential causes

1.  It’s just the way I am.  Whilst our genetic make-up will have some influence on our behaviour, we have more scope to change it than we sometimes think.  Our beliefs are often shaped by something that’s happened to us, something someone has said to us, or something that we (continue to) tell ourselves.

2. I messed this up last time, so I will mess it up again.  There is of course no pre-determined outcome of our actions.  Our self-talk is getting in the way of recognising that we can learn to do something differently and get a different result.

3. It’s too difficult for me to learn.  It may be something that is too difficult to learn.  But what are we assuming about our ability to learn? We might be able to do more than we think with the right learning approach and enough time and practice.

4. People won’t like me if I don’t do this. This belief seems to rest on another assumption: that people liking us depends on what we do or don’t do, rather than on who we are: our general attitude or behaviour.

5. Something terrible will be happen if I get this wrong or don’t do this. Many of us go through life with a mindset (enforced by the educational system) that we have to get things right and that not to do so is to fail. Prof Steve Peters suggests a different mind-set, which is that: “I will do my best and can deal with the consequences”.  The result, he suggests, is greater self-confidence and reduced anxiety.

Approaches a manager could use as a coach

So a manager could help their team members as a coach by discovering any limiting self-beliefs that might be influencing their mindsets, and helping them towards addressing them.

Approaches could include:

1. Listening, observing, playing back what you notice, asking a clean or critical question. (See Nancy Kline’s “Time to Think” for how to ask critical questions.)

2. Helping your direct report identify and adopt an opposite / positive self-belief. (More about this too in Nancy Kline’s book – she stresses that it will be most effective if the individual comes up with this new belief.)

3. Sharing some calming approaches – such as breathing techniques, anchoring, or mindfulness  (See this lovely video from Pam Cottman on how to build confidence like a superhero).

4. Encouraging a mindset of learning rather than failing – something that will be most influenced by how the manager agrees and reviews tasks and outcomes with the individual.


There is a certainly a lot more to be explored on this topic.  I hope you find these reflections helpful.  I am sure they will trigger more reflections of your own.

Do feel free to add comments to this post, or please get in touch to discuss anything further.


Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

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