I like writing about Wendy Rhoades, the high-flying performance coach on the Showtime show Billions. Having said that, I want to make two things clear. First, Wendy Rhoades is a fictional character. She is not real. This is important in a world where fact and fiction are often very muddled. Second, Wendy is not a moral exemplar. She lives and works in a world whose moral code is highly problematic. She has already gotten in trouble for a lapse in her professional ethics, and my guess is that she’ll continue to make some very shady choices.

So why do I keep writing about her? She is an intriguing character, she’s a powerful female figure, and she demonstrates some of the tactics of successful performance coaching. It’s the last point that keeps me watching the show and writing about what I see.

In a recent episode, Wendy is called on to help an artist who is suffering from a creative block. I often work with business leaders who are struggling with a similar challenge — how to focus and be productive when something they don’t understand is getting in their way.

3 real techniques Billions therapist Wendy Rhoades puts to work

Wendy uses three ideas that are core to this kind of work. The first is “imposter syndrome.” It’s a feeling shared by many high-achieving people — the feeling that you’re a fraud, that so far you’ve been able to fool everyone, but that sooner or later you’re going to be exposed for the loser you really are. One of my very first clients was a young man who had been promoted three times in two years, a bright and charming man who was crippled by anxiety because he didn’t believe in himself. It’s not unusual for a high-powered artist or leader to suffer from imposter syndrome right after they have achieved a new level of success. Confronting imposter syndrome and replacing it with healthy self-confidence is very liberating.

Wendy’s second tool is “transference.” This term comes from psychoanalysis. It happens when you meet a new person and find you are reacting to them in an exaggerated and inappropriate way. In common terms, they are “pushing your buttons.” This often means that your reaction is being triggered by an unconscious memory of a person or an event from early childhood. The new person, often quite unintentionally, is reminding you of some old pain, and so you respond with an intensity that makes no sense in the current environment. Figuring out where the transference is coming from and recognizing that you are no longer in that situation is, once again, liberating.

Her third tool is visualization. She asks the artist to imagine what it will be like when he succeeds — when he has created a magnificent new work. I often ask my clients to imagine what will be different when they have achieved their coaching objective. That visualization inspires hope and can provide the energy they need to do the hard work they have to do.

Wendy is fictional, but many of her coaching techniques are not. They are powerful tools that coaches use to help people perform at their best. If you’d like to know more about performance coaching, contact us at ggolden@gailgoldenconsulting.com    

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