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
One Response to Principle #2: Notice Patterns in Your Thoughts and Behavior
  1. Kirsten Olson says:

    Hey Randall, This is great stuff that I can send on to a client immediately. I especially like your skillful questioning here: what is really getting in the way? Do you see a pattern here? I want to use both of those in my client calls this week.

    Thank you dear friend and great coach.


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