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Understanding the nuances of psychology is an invaluable business coaching skill for today’s leaders. Though many of us lack the formal training to use psychology to address genuine mental health concerns, a bit of basic psychology can be helpful in dealing with followers and employees. It is often key to unlocking their potential. 

Psych 101

Psychology is the study of the human mind. By considering the psychology of your followers, you can provide the business coaching they need to achieve results you want. Your goal is not to manipulate them, but to recognize in yourself and them the pillars of leadership psychology:

  1. Positive characteristics, such as motivation, passion, confidence, courage and pride
  2. Negative characteristics, such as anxiety, fear, uncertainty, egotism and self-doubt
  3. Goals, such as avoidance, attention, recognition, and security

In any climate — business, religious, social, educational — people are ruled by their own motivations and fears. They have goals common to the group and unique to themselves. Your job isn't to erase the unique goals of every employee, but to help the common goal resonate within everyone.

Positive Is Powerful

Dr. Alan Lickerman, M.D., points out some positive psychological traits to foster within yourself and project to others through business coaching:

  • Be confident
  • Allow others to disagree with you
  • Mentor others
  • Assert your expertise — Compare “Fourth quarter sales are down 13 percent because clients are using up existing inventory” with, “I’m sorry, but if it’s not a bother perhaps we could look at how much the sales are down and sort of find out why?”
  • Have a strong vision you can articulate
  • Show compassion for your followers

Like all good attributes, these positive traits are contagious. You'll see them reflected back in your followers when you radiate them outward.

Negative Has Value

As powerful as positive motivations are for driving human psyches, negative characteristics increase survival. Only when you let the negatives overwhelm and immobilize you will you suffer. Respect and understand the psychology of negatives, says Jason Shah, founder and CEO of Do.com:

  • Fear — Use past experiences and mindfulness to combat fear
  • Anxiety — Fear is a momentary reaction; anxiety is a pervasive worry that hampers creativity and action
  • Uncertainty — Uncertainty is the reason casinos exist and are so popular; we humans like a degree of uncertainty, but we cannot allow it to stifle innovation


The core of helpful business coaching is to get your team to see balance between the positive and negative characteristics, then direct that balanced approach toward common goals. The goals need to meld individual ambitions with your vision, your direction for your company.

Having a basic understanding of the goals within your employees or followers can help you unlock their strengths. This team member consciously avoids attention, while that employee thrives on praise. This follower loves risky ventures while that manager seeks the security of a predictable outcome.

If you first acknowledge that you are an amateur psychologist and will do no harm, you can tap the tools of psychology to strengthen your leadership.


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