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Several years ago, I was managing a group of brand-new entrepreneurs. They were young and energetic. Full of life and vitality.

However, only a few short months later, it was very easy to see who was going to survive and who wasn’t. This is interesting because each of these new entrepreneurs:

  • Received the same training from our parent company
  • Had no prior experience in the industry
  • Experienced the same roadblocks and frustrations

A few members of the group were doing really well. The remaining, however, were clearly in trouble.

[shareable cite=”Jason R. Owens”]Are you leaning into your problem, or away from it?[/shareable]

The ones who are doing well, or simply going about their business, were setting appointments, having conversations with prospects, and writing contracts.

Most interesting to me though, was the behavior of the people who were not doing so well.

Diagnosing the Have-Nots

When I began doing my coaching sessions with this group of new entrepreneurs, my opening question was, “How’s it going?”

This simple open-ended question was really meant to see what was at the top of their minds.

Oftentimes I would hear stories such as “I had this great meeting set up with the client, but they cancelled” or “I had a very good deal on the hook, but the client never came to sign the paperwork.”

Layer 1

So, for a moment, let’s call this Layer One. This is the beginning of the conversation– it’s when people tell you where they are mentally.

[shareable cite=”Jason R. Owens”]Here’s how to overcome your entrepreneurial hurdles.[/shareable]

The danger here is that we can’t just attribute the problems of the low performers to scarcity thinking, as if thinking differently would magically solve all their problems.

Performance Themes

After a few minutes of conversation with each entrepreneur, I started seeing themes which differentiated the achievers from the non-achievers.

The achievers were doing things that, at first glance, didn’t appear to be that amazing. They were simply doing what they were told to do in their initial training:

  • They were setting appointments.
  • They were seeing people.
  • They were writing contracts.

And really, at first glance, like I said, it doesn’t seem like this was anything spectacular. The ingeniousness lay in the fact that they were indeed:

  • Setting appointments
  • Seeing people
  • Writing contracts

Let’s contrast this for a moment with what was happening with the non-performers.

Here’s a list of the behaviors that I observed in that particular set of people:

  • Spending an inordinate amount of time learning about the company products
  • Filing papers
  • Setting up their office
  • Getting distracted by home and automotive repairs
  • Setting up systems for their workflow, yet not actually doing any revenue-generating work.

A Name for What I’m Seeing

As I researched this performance issue for my doctorate degree, I learned there is a name for what I was seeing.

These two types of behavior are called problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping.

Problem-focused coping is leaning into your problem. Meaning, essentially, that you are doing the work required to get out of whatever hole you’re in.

Emotion-focused coping, on the other hand, is leaning away from your problem. This means you will do everything but deal with the problem itself.  This behavior is so common to entrepreneurs that it deserves to have a book of its own.

[shareable cite=”Jason R. Owens”]Are you leaning into your problem, or away from it?[/shareable]

It is safe to say all of us have used emotion-focused coping in the course of running our businesses.

Combating Emotion-Focused Coping

How should we combat it?

  • Recognize when you are leaning away from your problem rather than facing the issue. The first step is always acceptance.
  • Put pen to paper. Answer this question: Why aren’t you (fill in the blank) — setting up more appointments, picking up the phone more often, attending more networking meetings, etc.?
  • Dig into the issue to name what you are feeling.

Layer 2

After you have put pen to paper, look at what you have written and ask yourself this next set of questions:

  • Is this an issue of not having the right skills or knowledge?
  • Do you simply need additional coaching in this area?
  • Is this more of an issue of abilities? Meaning you have seen someone else do this before, but you just don’t know if you can do it yourself.

The real payoff comes when you dig deep here. Again, look at this list of questions and ask yourself:

  • What kind of emotions arose as you were putting pen to paper?
  • Did you find yourself saying “I always seem to be dealing with (fill in the blank) — fear, procrastination, perfectionism, etc.?

To solve issues related to knowledge, skills, and abilities, it’s a good idea to seek out a professional coach who can help with these matters.

When sorting through issues which have to do with emotions, a good licensed counselor is a great place to start and this can truly be the key to overcoming the roadblocks which have been holding you back.

[reminder]What techniques do you use to stop emotion-focused coping (leaning away from the problem) when you notice it in yourself?[/reminder]