Mindset coach to startups: “get out of your own way”

Geraldine Carter, founder of Mindfulness Coaching Network in Missoula, is no stranger to the hidden factors that limit productivity, success and achievement. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

When entrepreneurs and small business owners need help, they often seek advice on ways to scale their business, handle growth or access capital. At times, they also call Geraldine Carter, a mindset coach who can shed light on the barriers to success.

Carter, founder of Mindfulness Coaching Works in Missoula, is no stranger to the hidden factors that limit productivity, success and achievement. From fear to self-doubt, she’s experienced them firsthand, and has seen the toll they can take on working professionals who get in their own way.

“I don’t think people intentionally impose their own barriers in a conscious way, but it’s absolutely human nature to have barriers that are self created,” said Carter. “The issues run the gamut, but self doubt is a big one. It manifests in a variety of different ways. People can move forward until they can’t, and once they get there, they get lost.”

Carter moved to Missoula in 2007 and started the successful nonprofit Climate Ride. After six years, she left the organization to launch her own professional coaching business, looking to help others overcome the same barriers she faced earlier in life.

Three years into her endeavor, she has worked with a variety of clients, including insurance agents, network marketers, business founders and venture capitalists. Many don’t realize they’ve internalized a personal fear that results in a range of issues, from procrastination to avoidance.

“The story will vary depending on the person, but generally, the fear of ‘no’ is not specific to a phone call or a meeting – it’s internal,” said Carter. “Instead of it being about the meeting, they make it about themselves.”

While it’s not always easy finding the root of the issue, Carter works with her clients to explore the factors behind their self-imposed barriers. If you’re procrastinating, what is it you’re avoiding? If stress is an issue, what are the factors that feed it? Are you your own worst critic?

“A lot of people create the very thing they don’t want,” Carter said. “To them it seems unsolvable because they’re stuck somewhere in their head. It’s not just about that business plan. Something else is getting in the way.”

Certified as an associate coach through the International Coaching Federation, Carter has seen the demand for mindset coaching grow in recent years. According to the ICF, that demand has been driven by rapid changes taking place in the nation’s business environment, from restructuring and job insecurity to the mounting expectations placed upon managers and employees.

In Missoula, startup business owners and entrepreneurs also represent Carter’s list of clients. The stresses of launching a business aren’t reserved for financial challenges or staffing issues. They’re also rooted in the fear of failure and self-imposed doubt – issues she has faced personally.

“I was talking to a friend and she recommended a foundation that teaches courses around this,” said Carter. “I started taking the courses and unearthing all this stuff that wasn’t helping me and was counter to what I actually wanted. I realized it was much more practical in how it plays out in your daily life.”

While everyone needs a sounding board, not everyone makes a good listener – friends and family included. Finding the right listener who’s not invested in the business is an important part of solving the problem, Carter said.

“A lot of people have trouble listening impartially – they don’t know how to just listen without superimposing their experiences and thoughts,” she said. “With coaching, you come into it with the belief that the client knows best. If they’re stuck and have those blinders of fear on, we can help them get out of the black-and-white thinking.”

While entrepreneurs are as diverse as the businesses they create, Carter has seen common traits run among her clients, including the willingness to persevere. She also believes they have the sense to seek answers to the problems they can’t solve, whether that’s scaling a business or seeking out a coach to help them work through the barriers they unknowingly place upon themselves.

“Everyone is going to reach the point along the path of their business where they’re going to get stuck, and they’re just not going to know the answer,” said Carter. “It’s important that doesn’t become the obstacle that kills them, or the fear that becomes the snag around your ankle that pulls you under. To some degree, being okay with your fear is part of the experience.”

Carter will be offering a series of workshops in February and March. To find out more, visit her website.

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com