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Step into a New Level of Success by Slaying that Internal Saboteur

  Jan 22, 2021

The month of January always brings with it a sense of optimism, renewed energy, and self-reflection.  New year’s resolutions are made with enthusiasm. However, after an audit of the previous year’s achievements and failures, that pep in your step may have faded a little or completely vanished altogether. You may be left wondering why you or your organization have not reached the greater levels of success and growth that you had hoped to have achieved in previous years. What could be derailing your efforts and stifling your growth? As a Coach, I find that educating my clients on identifying their internal Saboteurs can help them to push past their fears, break habitual patterns of behavior that keep them stuck and take the kind of action that helps them to reach their potential. If you want to boldly share your unique talents and gifts with the world and achieve more than you ever thought possible, working closely with a Coach can help you finally make a breakthrough.

The concept of Saboteurs has been studied extensively in the coaching field. Other terms that refer to Saboteurs may be more commonly expressed as ‘Inner Critic’, ‘Gremlin,’ or ‘Limiting beliefs.’ These negative internal voices influence our behavior and prevent us from taking the necessary action to transform our lives. As the years pass, we remain stuck and wonder if we will always be spinning our wheels as others around us climb the ladder of success and achieve the lives of their dreams. 

So how can you neutralize these Saboteurs and take control of your life? The first step is to label them and identify when and how they show up in your life. Awareness is key to breaking the invisible grasp these Saboteurs have on your life. As you become more self-aware you will see how these Saboteurs crop up in your daily life which gives you the opportunity to make conscious choices to mitigate their harmful effects. Saboteurs can trigger your body’s fight or flight response which shuts down the brain’s ability to problem solve and promotes reactivity versus proactivity. 

The following list elucidates some of the most common Saboteurs:

  1. People pleasers must gain acceptance through pleasing others sometimes at the expense of their own interests and needs.
  2. Victims get empathy from others by gaining sympathy for their troubles. They shy away from the action they need to take in order to get out of their troubles. They operate in an aura of disempowerment.
  3. Avoiders try to procrastinate and avoid necessary conflict. Procrastination can sometimes be disguised as activity. However, the activity avoiders engage in is not productive and moving them towards their goals, so they remain stuck. Executives at work may avoid all kinds of conflict even healthy conflict which brings about necessary change, encourages growth and debate, and takes the organization forward.
  4. Perfectionists are very idealistic and have deeply rooted needs for perfectionism. This keeps them stuck and prevents them from taking action if they perceive their results may fall short of their lofty ideals. Executives that are too perfectionist may take longer to complete tasks and therefore affect the productivity of the entire organization.
  5. Judges find fault with others, their organization, and life in general. They are usually highly self-critical and impose the same exacting standards on others which can make them very difficult to work with. If your boss has this Saboteur, you will find it almost impossible to please them because there is always something, they will find fault with.
  6. Controllers try to control themselves, the people around them, and the situations that arise. They are very anxious when they cannot control things. Controllers avoid taking risks and can be very difficult to work with as they tend to be very rigid and inflexible.
  7. Hyper-achievers pursue achievement and praise from others. While this can be a very positive quality, it can turn into a Saboteur when the hyper-achiever must achieve at all costs harming others and themselves in the process.

Turning Self-awareness into Action:

Working with a Coach can help you to identify your Saboteurs. If you are the Leader of an organization, imagine the toll these Saboteurs can have on your business. Do you recognize them in yourself? Do you recognize them in your Executives? Investing in hiring a Coach to help your Executives move past their limitations and can have a tremendous impact on the success of your organization. Helping them to play at the top of their game will translate into better relationships, an improvement in employee relations and morale, intelligent risk-taking, increased efficiency, and expedited results. 

In order for us to have the business and lives that we desire, we need to reframe our relationships with our Saboteurs and recognize what they are inherently trying to achieve. Are these voices trying to keep us safe in our comfort zones? Are they trying to serve us in some way? First, find their positive intent and then explore how they are stifling your growth and development. In order, to free yourself from the grip of your Saboteur and disempowering it, you need to first begin with awareness and study the ways it affects your life. Coaching helps us to gain deeper self-awareness and identify our deepest values and desires.  By practicing vigilance and ongoing commitment to a higher vision of yourself that aligns with your values you can begin to courageously move past your anxieties, insecurities, and fears and start separating yourself from your Saboteur. Empowered living is only possible when we become conscious of our habitual patterns of thinking and behaviors and move into the driver’s seats of our lives.   

About the Executive Coaching for Managers Programme 

Executive Coaching has become an integral part of management and leadership.

This skill is essential for any manager seeking to bring out the best performance in the teams they lead and unleash their potential for sustainable growth.

With the ever-changing dynamics and added complexity in the workplace, a manager with coaching skills is best placed to steer the employees through these challenges while maintaining staff connectivity to the mission and vision of the organization.

Our Executive Coaching for Managers Programme provides today’s managers with additional skills that enable them to connect better with their teams while achieving greatness. It is designed for executives who wish to build their knowledge and expertise without interrupting their careers.



Article by Shailja Sharma, Executive Fellow, and Coach


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