How to Challenge your Inner Critic

Energy Block #4: Rogue Inner Critic

Do you ever hear a little voice inside your head that says, “This isn’t going to work,” or “I’m not good enough, smart enough, or experienced enough?” Say hello to your rogue inner critic. That little voice wants us to always play small and play it safe, and when it speaks it’s very hard not to listen. Your inner critic is so personal that it often doesn’t even sound like a voice, It’s just there in the background. That voice is very limiting which means that too often we won’t ask for that raise, or try that new challenge because we think were not good enough or experienced enough to accomplish it.

Some typical inner critic statements are:

I feel like I am impostor.

I don’t deserve to be truly happy.

I’m not that smart.

I’m not cut out for this.

I don’t deserve real success.

What does your inner critic keep telling you?

How to Challenge your Inner Critic
How to Challenge your Inner Critic

How to Challenge your Inner Critic

The first step in dealing with your rogue inner critic is to acknowledge its presence. Then you will want to listen to exactly what it’s saying. Keep in mind your inner critic is a coping mechanism that was created a long time ago to avoid any and all pain. When it appears next say “Thank you for your support, but I can handle it from here.” Or, “Whatever, now watch this!” and prove it wrong (Especially effective if you answered completely true to the ELI Assessment question “Being right is important to me.”) Now looking back to the section where you listed three areas that you haven’t had success in yet: which were a result of listening to your rogue inner critic’s commentary?

Employee Engagement and Listening

Effective Listening Engages

In many ways, Adrian Aragon was a great CEO; hard-working and completely devoted to his staff and organization, but it was not until he analyzed his CEO performance review that he noticed the blind spot in his leadership: the gap between how he saw his communication, and how his employees were interpreting it. Committed to becoming a better communicator and more effective leader, Adrian met with an old colleague Ivana Smith, one of the finest leaders and communicators he had ever met. After scrutinizing his report for what seemed like an eternity, Ivana asked Adrian: “Why do you think so many of your employees believe you have a negative mindset and don’t communicate effectively with them?”

Adrian took a moment then muttered, “With all the stress it’s hard to always maintain a positive and enthusiastic attitude.”

Ivana nodded in agreement. “That’s true, being positive when stressed is a real challenge, however doing so will help lower your stress, increase your energy, and make you feel a lot better. It will also help set the tone for your entire company.”

“I guess you’re right. I should probably be more positive.”

“More positive yes, but the real key is to really listen to them. The most important part of communication is effective listening. Most of us are rather disengaged when we listen, but if you can really listen to what your employees are saying you will be able to build more trust and rapport with them, resolve more conflict and connect in a deeper way with them.”

Ivana is right. Effective listening does two things; it ensures that the sender’s communication has been received as intended, and it tells the sender that their communication has value. Employee engagement and listening go hand in hand. There’s an old saying, “Listening is love.” Great listeners are masters at making those they are listening to feel important, and perhaps on some deeper level, loved. To really connect with your staff and make them feel valued you’ll want to move towards empathetic listening.

Disengaged Listening

Have you ever had a conversation with someone you felt just didn’t get anything you said despite their involved contribution to the conversation? You probably sensed their minds were completely focused on what they wanted to say next, and not on absorbing and processing what you were saying. Well, that is disengaged listening, and most of the time although we might be hearing what’s being said, our minds are actually busy thinking about what to say next. Disengaged listening isn’t just responsible for corrupting the communication that’s being received; it leaves the speaker feeling unimportant.

To escape the disengaged listening trap, the next time you are having a conversation with someone begin to notice when your mind either starts to wander from the conversation or is thinking about what to say next. The simple act of bringing awareness to how you listen will make you a much better listener and leave those you communicate with feeling valued.

Engaged Listening

Engaged listening means listening without judgment, opinions, or preconceived notions. Engaged listening creates a space for others to really express what they are thinking without them feeling like they are being judged. It also ensures they are heard, and that their thoughts and feelings are important to you. You can become a more engaged listener by asking empowering questions; questions that probe, seek clarity, focus on solutions and put the power to solve a problem or challenge into the other person’s hands. For example, “How might you accomplish that?” or “What’s another way of seeing that?”

There is a direct link between employee engagement and how much those employees feel their company values them. Organizations that have created a culture that values its staff by listening to them in an engaged and nonjudgmental way will find its members reciprocating the value and respect they feel by raising their energy and level of engagement while at work. You can become a much more engaged listener by acknowledging and validating the feelings other people express to you the same way Ivana did with Adrian.

Empathetic Listening

This is the highest form of listening and will build strong ties with your employees if you master it. Empathetic listening is feeling what the other person is feeling through their communication. It includes deciphering body language, reading between the lines, listening for tonal discrepancies, and looking for what’s not being said as much as what’s being said.

Listening at such a high level lets the person who is speaking know that you’ve captured their emotional experience. Although empathetic listening requires considerable focus, effort and concentration, with enough practice it can become routine.

Adrian worked hard at being a more positive and effective communicator. He became a lot less judgmental and shifted his focus from finding problems to finding solutions. Whenever his employees were upset about something he’d acknowledge and validate their feelings. And when they became stuck or frustrated, he’d ask them empowering questions to shift their perspective. He developed more rapport with them, and earned more of their trust, which left them feeling more valued, respected and connected to him. It didn’t take long after that for their own performance and engagement to increase as well.

Ascanio Pignatelli is an employee engagement expert. He is an award winning speaker, seminar leader, coach, and author of the forthcoming book Lead from Need: Raising Employee Engagement from the Core. He is the founder of ApexCEO, an executive coaching and leadership development group that helps executives develop the leadership and communication skills to create more engaging workplaces. To find out how Ascanio can help your next speaking event or executive leadership / employee engagement workshops please call 310.913.2313.

Engage Employees with Elevated Communication

Engaging Employee Communication

Kevin Wilson was a great leader, but his team was not producing the results he knew they were capable of. One day he arranged a meeting with Jim Hefner, a recently retired executive who had built and led a team that shattered every single company performance record. “Jim, how’d you build such an amazing team? They not only outperform the rest of us but they seem to have more energy, confidence and fun than anyone else.”

“Kevin, I’m a big fan and follower of a branch of industrial-organizational psychology known as Core Self-Evaluations (CSE). That’s what made us so successful. Ever heard of it?”

Kevin shook his head, “No.”

Then with eyes fixated on Kevin’s, Jim leaned in to explain: “Well, CSE is the personality trait responsible for our temperament, our wellbeing, and how we judge our circumstances. It’s also what drives our behavior. People with high core self-evaluations are generally positive and confident in their abilities, satisfied with their jobs and perform them extremely well. On the other hand, those with low core self-evaluations lack confidence, view things negatively and aren’t as satisfied with their jobs and perform them poorly. As manager, your job is to coach and raise the CSE levels of each of your employees.”

Jim is correct; every leader’s primary focus should be to personally coach the best out of their team members. Raising their employees CSE levels is the simplest, quickest and most effective way to do so. Fortunately, CSE can be easily assessed and increased by:

Shifting the Locus of Control

Employees that believe that they control their future have an internal locus of control (Internals) and are generally happier, more empowered, and more productive than (Externals) those who attribute their success or performance to fate or their surroundings. As a result, internals are more satisfied with their work and perform better. You can find out whether your employee is an internal or external by simply asking “What’s been responsible for your success/performance?”

If the answers reveal an external locus of control shift power back to your employee by asking “How does believing that you aren’t causing your success been impacting your career?” Let them explain so they can really experience how they’ve been limiting themselves, then ask: “If you knew that you were in complete control of your success, what would be possible?

Increasing Emotional Intelligence

Employees with a tendency to easily experience unpleasant emotions like anxiety, depression and despair have lower emotional intelligence (EQ) and will react far more negatively to stress. Because their EQ levels are lower, their ability to connect, understand and influence others is severely impaired. For Kevin and others in leadership positions, the need for emotional stability is even more paramount, as they are the face of the organization and set the tone for employee morale. If you have an employee that’s emotionally unstable consider asking: “What can you do to not get so stressed out next time you have a presentation/sales call)?” Or “What would be a more appropriate way to react to an upset client/colleague?

Instilling Self-efficacy

Self-efficacy is the trait responsible for how likely we are to succeed with current goals and tasks, or take on a challenging assignment or “write it off” as impossible. (How likely we are to adhere to a diet or workout program is dictated by our self-efficacy.)

Employees with high self-efficacy are more determined and persistent when dealing with adversity, and more likely to welcome new challenges as opportunities for growth. The greater a person’s belief in their own power to influence an outcome the more likely they are to succeed with a new challenge. The following four step process can help you develop someone else’s self efficacy:

  • Build confidence- Challenge any belief they might have that is limiting their performance. For example, if an employee thinks they aren’t experienced enough to manage a project you can remind them of their unique strengths and capabilities.
  • Promote modeling- Have inexperienced employees watch other colleagues with similar skills perform more advanced tasks. Seeing others with similar abilities succeed at a task will help them develop positive, “can-do” beliefs.
  • Evaluate to motivate- Rewards, recognition and positive feedback are key to helping your employees feel more competent, motivated and open to growth. Negative feedback can devastate those with low self-esteem, as they almost always take it personally. Adopt the 70/30 “sandwich” method when giving an employee feedback on their performance:
    • Start by acknowledging their contributions to date – 35%.
    • Then explain areas and, more importantly, ways their performance can be improved – 30%.
    • Conclude with some positive reinforcement that leaves them feeling respected, supported and valued – 35%.
  • Optimize the environment- Take a page from any olympic athlete who knows that investing valuable time and energy into their physical and physiological wellbeing is essential for optimal performance. Create a vibrant, energetic, stress-free workplace that encourages your staff to get the food, exercise, rest and water their bodies need so they too can perform at their best.

Increasing their Self-esteem

Self-esteem is the approval we have of ourselves and the extent to which we see ourselves as capable, significant, successful, and worthy. It is one of the most essential of the CSE domains because it is the overall value we place on ourselves as human beings. The productivity of workers with low self esteem is often very low due to their indecisiveness and fear of making mistakes, and striving for perfection which often is not achieved and leads to frustration. Generally they are highly irritable and pessimistic, and can drain the positive, enthusiastic energy of their more self-assured colleagues. Predictably, those with low self-esteem are more likely to be unsatisfied with their jobs, performing them considerably worse than those with higher self-esteem. To boost the self-esteem of your employees:

Recognize and celebrate their successes and accomplishments as much as possible.
Express your gratitude and appreciation to them for the contribution and difference they keep making.
Be a model of kindness and compassion to others, especially those with lower self-esteem.

Jim Hefner understood that coaching the best out of his team meant raising their CSE levels. He did everything he could to raise those levels and as a result his team was always more satisfied with their work, performed it better, and were more confident, motivated and enthusiastic. They were also far less stressed, had less conflict, coped more effectively with setbacks and were better equipped at capitalizing on opportunities. To better engage, empower and motivate your greatest resource and boost the bottom line lead like Jim and raise those CSE levels.

About the Author

Ascanio Pignatelli is an award winning speaker, executive coach and author of the forthcoming book “Lead from Need: Raising Employee Engagement Levels from the Core”. He is the founder of ApexCEO, an executive coaching and leadership development group that helps C-level executives develop their leadership and communication skills to create more engaging workplaces. To book Ascanio for your next speaking event or workshop, please call him at 310.913.2313 or visit

Energy Leadership

Over a hundred years ago, Albert Einstein turned the scientific community upside down with a radical idea that everything we see, hear ,taste, touch and smell is not matter, but energy. Every thought you have has energy. Some of those thoughts are limiting, while others are empowering.  Your limiting thoughts are comprised of catabolic energy — destructive energy that shows up as doubt. worry, guilt, regret, etc. Thoughts that motivate and inspire you are constructive and anabolic.

Leadership is your ability to inspire (yourself and others) and is determined by your level of energy. Your leadership ability is predicated on your energetic state (the amount of anabolic or catabolic energy present at any given moment).

Energy Leadership is a process that helps you become a better leader by raising your level of energy, engagement and awareness. Our system has helped CEO’s and C-Suite executives influence people with far less stress and effort, by shifting them from a destructive, catabolic state to a constructive anabolic state.

For more information on our Energy Leadership Index Assessment and Executive Leadership Workshops please visit