Don’t let your own words limit you as as leader

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Our words speak our truth in more ways than we realize – not just the words spoken out loud, but what we continually say to ourselves in our mind as well. When we speak, both internally and externally, it makes our thinking visible, which creates our perceived reality. And we reinforce our thinking and speaking by making decisions based on our perceptions. This becomes an endless cycle that can keep us caught in a loop of our own thinking.

We work with people who want to develop their leadership skills and grow their influence so we see this a lot. One coachee had a habit of saying “I’ll have to pay the piper” when he was talking about making decisions or taking risks. As you can imagine, this thinking had blocked and hindered him. When his coach pointed this out to him and asked what price he thought he had to pay, he was stumped. His father always used this phrase when he was growing up, but it never really had any meaning to him. When his coach suggested he not use the phrase anymore, he found himself thinking about it continually during the next week, making him even more conscious of his words. Eventually, he was able to eliminate the phrase entirely from his internal and external thinking and was able to move forward as he desired, no longer worrying about “paying the piper”.

Not sure if you’re caught in a loop of your own thinking? Here are some things you can do to make yourself aware and break the habit:

  1. Elevate your thinking

As human beings, it’s easy for us to habituate and take on the thinking of those around us. It’s a survival tool that kept us alive and connected to our tribe in the past. It does the same thing now but times have changed. To elevate our work and success, we need to elevate our thinking; no longer allowing our unconscious primal patterning to take control. If you hear yourself thinking or saying things like “I don’t know what I’m doing” “I’m never going to figure this out” “This always happens to me”, or “I don’t see how this is ever going to happen”, it’s a sign you’re stuck in an unproductive loop.

  1. Look for warning signs

We’re all guilty of using our thinking against ourselves. If you’re concerned that your thinking is hurting yourself, here are some warning signs:

  • You’re using absolutes like never, always, forever in your thinking and/or speaking
  • You hear yourself saying or thinking the same phrase repeatedly
  • There’s a mental word loop going in your head, like having a song stuck in there
  • You notice your language and thinking is more negative than positive, more judgmental than accepting, more angry than encouraging
  • Your thinking and words are reinforcing what you don’t want to happen instead of what you do
  • You are thinking/saying old, outdated phrases your parents (grandparents) said when you were young
  1. Seek help from others

It can be difficult to notice habits about ourselves. It’s like playing music in the background – it’s there, but we’re not really paying attention. Try asking your friends, family, colleagues, or a coach for help. They likely know your habitual thinking and/or speaking patterns already. Embarrassingly, this is more visible to others than it is to yourself.

It’s worth noticing too. Once you’re able to observe and change your habitual thinking and speaking patterns, you’ll be able to make better, less subjective decisions, get more of what you want, and be a better leader. These loops are completely under your control, you just have to see them first.


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Lori Mazan

Co-Founder & Chief Coaching Officer

Lori Mazan is the Co-Founder and Chief Coaching Officer of Sounding Board, the preeminent global leadership development enterprise platform changing the face of leadership development through innovative technology for leaders at all levels of an organization. Lori is a seasoned executive coach who has guided hundreds of corporate executives through 1:1 coaching focused on business outcomes and developing critical leadership skills. Client companies advanced by Lori’s expertise include Fortune titans such as Chevron and Sprint as well as high growth and public companies like Intellikine, and Tapjoy, plus 10XGenomics, which became a public company in 2019 while top executives worked with Lori and the Sounding Board team.
Lori has spent the last 25 years coaching C-Suite executives to leadership excellence. Many of those public and private company CEO’s expressed that they would have liked this caliber of coaching earlier in their careers. Inspired by these experiences, Lori joined with Christine to launch Sounding Board as a feedback-driven, cloud-based leadership coaching platform that could maintain best-in-class leadership coaching while lowering costs to make it affordable and scalable for leaders at every level of their careers.
Before founding Sounding Board, Lori received her Masters’ in Adult Educational Psychology/Counseling from the University of San Francisco and a Bachelors’ in Psychology from the University of Virginia. Lori is an educator and has spent over 10 years as a professor of social psychology and group dynamics while acting as the interim Dean of Students at Holy Names University, She is certified by the industry’s gold standard, the Coaches Training Institute, and is a founding member of the Genentech Preferred Network of Coaches. Sounding Board is one of <3% of sole female founded startups receiving venture funding. In 2019 Sounding Board was selected as 1 of 7 startups (out of 100+ applicants) as part of SAP’s HR tech cohort, a group that represents the rising stars of the next-gen HR ecosystem.

Christine Tao

Co-Founder & CEO Sounding Board, Inc.

Christine Tao is the co-founder & CEO at Sounding Board, a Silicon Valley startup redefining how organizations are developing their leaders. Her extraordinarily rapid career growth to executive management in the media, mobile and tech sectors of Silicon Valley became her inspiration for founding Sounding Board. As she began to manage larger teams and be responsible for growing revenues, it became clear that she needed a “sounding board” to coach her on the development of her leadership skills. That’s where her Sounding Board co-founder, Lori Mazan came on the scene. A seasoned executive coach focused on leadership development, Lori coached Christine on real-world leadership skills that had a direct impact on business outcomes. Based on her positive and impactful experience with leadership development, Christine was driven to make leadership development coaching accessible to people at all levels of the organization.
Christine advises several startups, is a budding angel investor and is also a Tory Burch Foundation Fellow, a foundation dedicated to investing in the success and sustainability of women entrepreneurs.
Prior to co-founding Sounding Board, Christine was a Senior Vice President of Developer Relations at Tapjoy, a venture-backed, leading mobile advertising & publishing network. She led the growth of Tapjoy’s publisher advertising business from 0 to over $100 million in revenues in less than 3 years. Prior to that she led e-commerce partnerships and strategy at YouTube. Christine holds an MBA in Marketing & Operations from Wharton and a BA in Business Administration from UC Berkeley.

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