Results show that in only four months, BOLD leadership participants are:

  • increasing confidence
  • setting clear boundaries
  • increasing executive presence
  • effectively managing work and life priorities

and realizing many more quantifiable results that are transforming their leadership, relationships at work and at home, advancement and ultimately, their feelings of energy and empowerment.

How are they achieving these results? 

The #1 factor helping them – or getting in their way – starts with the thoughts they think.

The “Why” Behind Negative Thoughts

Humans think thousands of thoughts per day, with 95% being the same as yesterday and 80% being negative. One study (Leahy, 2005, Study of Cornell University), concluded that 97% of our worries are baseless and result from an unfounded, pessimistic perception. Negativity is hard-wired into our brains (from 40,000+ years ago) – talk about an old story! We must protect ourselves to survive. When we feel threatened, we react as if a tiger actually IS behind that computer screen. 

The perception of threat automatically triggers us to fight, flee or freeze – for instance, every time we get asked a question in a large meeting, consider speaking up or providing feedback, get cut off in traffic, or anything that endangers our comfort zone. Anytime we feel unsafe, our thoughts instantaneously become like ponies escaping from the barn. 

Leaders’ Secret Thoughts

In BOLD leadership, we have cohorts of leaders who create a community where they reveal real thoughts and struggles, get and give coaching to overcome their challenges, and then engage this sustainable community to overcome these challenges and be their best selves during and after the BOLD journey. 

Here are some examples from two recent BOLD sessions about the private, perpetual thoughts they think (and rarely reveal):

  • I need to be PERFECT 
  • I’m unworthy
  • I don’t deserve to (say no, not answer emails 24/7, etc.)
  • I’m not good enough
  • I should stop saying should
  • I need to prove myself, then I can ___ (speak up, say no, ask for what I need, etc.)
  • If I open my mouth, I might not have a job
  • Don’t overstep with people more ____ (senior, older, etc.) 
  • What if they find out I am a fraud? Work harder to make sure they don’t
  • I need to second guess myself to make sure I don’t screw up
  • I need to do more (I’m not doing enough for my family, for work)
  • What do you mean you can’t handle it? Work harder!
  • Who do I think you are?
  • You’re not walking the walk – make sure they don’t find out
  • You don’t have the right, you’re too ____ (young, old, inexperienced, new, etc.)
  • Be quiet – you don’t know what you’re talking about

These ruminations are not the truth! They are the Vicious Voice – the inner, constant commentator about everything you consider, do, and do not do throughout almost every moment. It’s vicious because it can feel unrelenting, unforgiving and unstoppable. 

The Cost 

The impact of the Vicious Voice is significant: exhaustion, overwhelm, burnout, anxiety, anger, resentment, fear, depression, to name the most common.

It stops leaders from taking risks, saying no, setting boundaries, taking care of themselves, making requests, giving feedback, holding others accountable, to name a few. In short, it prevents leaders from BEING BOLD: those who are their best selves, leading from their full potential, who are inspiring, trustworthy, reliable, and empowered.

The First Step


Most people don’t hear the Vicious Voice because it’s so embedded, the background noise we no longer notice. The real danger is that it becomes our truth. “It’s just how it is. It’s who I am and how I am wired. We lose our ability to take back our power to create a different option when we can’t hear it in the first place for what it is – utterly untamed and untrue. 

To create a breakthrough, we must develop awareness about how we think. Noticing the Voice(s) and becoming aware of the messages (there are usually themes such as the ones above), is the first step to interrupting the cycle. 

To return the ponies to the barn, you have to be
aware they escaped in the first place! 

The more awareness you have about how you are talking to yourself, the more choice you will have about letting the thoughts run wild or bringing them back. Start with the simple (not easy) practice of tuning in to listening to how you talk to yourself. Look for future posts about how to manage your Vicious Voice effectively. 

Ask Yourself

  • How aware am I of how I am talking to myself?
  • What is the message my Vicious Voice is telling me?
  • What people or situations trigger the Voice?

Please reach out and my team if you’d like to connect about how to apply these ideas, to help members on your team navigate these conversations, or to discuss the biggest current challenges you are facing today.

Wishing you good mental, physical, emotional and social health.

Remember to find resources to inspire you here.

Yours in practice,


If you are interested in exploring how to unlock the potential of yourself, your team or the women in your organization, contact us for a complimentary discovery conversation.