An Interview With Executive Coach Tania Friedlander + Her Top 3 Most Important Habits To Be A Successful High Performer

An Interview With Executive Coach Tania Friedlander + Her Top 3 Most Important Habits To Be A Successful High Performer

Tania Friedlander has helped more than 150 high performers find personal clarity and direction, leverage their strengths, achieve their goals, and become the best leaders and professionals they can be. Tania is an attorney by training and a former champion athlete.

She is driven by her passion for helping individuals break through their challenges, whether professional or personal. She has the privilege of working with executives and emerging leaders from global Fortune 500 companies using evidence-based coaching assessments, frameworks, and tools. Her approach is designed to increase connectivity, awareness, and accountability to elevate the internal dynamic, increase morale, and enhance workplace culture.

Have big goals? Big vision? Big dreams? Read on!

How did you get started in business? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today. 

My journey really started a long time ago when I was in school, torn between psychology and law. I remember being intrigued by psychology, but it wasn’t what I had envisioned. It was centered around theories about mental health disorders, which somehow didn’t align with my interests. This realization led me to understand that psychology wasn’t really for me; I wanted more than just learning theories.

Therefore, I decided to embark on the legal path. Being analytical, with a great memory and the ability to see both sides of an issue, everyone around me believed I would make a great lawyer. My dream was to become a human rights lawyer, to stand up for what’s right and defend those who couldn’t stand up for themselves. I wanted to protect people’s rights, and this vision fueled my ambition. However, life had other plans. I ended up in real estate law instead of pursuing human rights law. I found myself trapped behind a desk, drafting contracts all day, missing the opportunity to leverage my strengths and make a meaningful impact. I yearned for more meaningful connections and conversations, as my current role lacked that personal touch.

When I moved to the US ten years ago, I was faced with the question of whether I should continue going down the legal path. I started out wanting to create an impact, which was my initial drive for becoming a human rights lawyer. Unfortunately, the reality of being in real estate law left me feeling disconnected and limited in my ability to make a difference. Sitting there day in and day out, drafting contracts, was too dry for me. I needed more human interaction and a greater sense of purpose. It was during this time I saw this as an opportunity to reinvent myself.

This realization prompted my personal journey to identify my strengths and what was missing in my life. Renewing my passion for psychology, specifically positive psychology, I began looking into the field of coaching. 

It was then that my path shifted from my initial career aspirations in law to supporting others on their unique journeys. This eventually led me to delve deeper into the world of positive psychology, where everything finally fell into place. Positive psychology focuses on what’s right with people rather than what’s wrong, and this perspective resonated with me deeply. It wasn’t about exploring the dark side of mental health; it was about discovering and nurturing people’s greatness.

I became passionate about unleashing the potential in everyone, which drove me to pursue coaching, dedicating two years to intensive professional coach training. 

When I first started coaching, I aimed to coach lawyers because I understood the factors that led to burnout in their profession and wanted to help them reach their full potential. Since then I’ve drawn from my diverse experiences in the legal world as well as a former professional table tennis player and began high-performance coaching. I apply concepts from sports, where coaching is a given, understanding that if we need coaches for sports and fitness, the same applies to life. I wanted to be that coach for people’s lives. Currently, I’ve expanded to coaching high-performers and emerging leaders from Fortune 500 companies.

How did your experience as a professional athlete influence you as a coach for high-performers?

My experience as a professional athlete has greatly influenced how I coach for high performance. In athletics, there’s both a physical and mental aspect. Physically, you train, recover and eat right. However, the mental component is where I specifically focus when coaching high performers. It’s about creating that state of flow, that mindset of winning, which is crucial for those who aspire to reach the next level.

The mental strength required in sports is akin to the mental game in high performance. High performers differ from others in their ability to persist when things get tough. In sports, you lose many games, but the key is staying in the game, building endurance, and loving it despite the setbacks. These are some of the key lessons I teach my clients: how to build resilience, stay motivated, and not give up.

In this process, clarity is vital. You need to know who you are, what you’re trying to achieve, and what your focus should be. Winning isn’t just about the final outcome; it’s about setting clear goals and understanding how to measure success. Keeping motivation over time, enjoying the process, and knowing your strengths are crucial aspects of high performance. High performers recognize their strengths and know how to leverage them.

Courage is also a significant factor. Fear and doubt can be overwhelming, sometimes even debilitating. In my table tennis days, I often didn’t know who I would play against, sometimes facing the best players early on. The mental game involves not letting external circumstances affect your performance. 

In life and business, you’ll face triggers that can derail you. For instance, in sales, rejections can be disheartening, and understanding these triggers, knowing your goals, and staying connected to your ‘why’ and purpose is essential. My role is to help clients create a state of flow or peak performance, where challenges are just right, maintaining focus, and building momentum over time.

This is the main connection between my athletic experience and how I use it to guide people to reach peak performance and become the best versions of themselves. 

We all face challenges, looking back, what have been some of the biggest challenges and pitfalls you’ve helped your clients navigate?

Some of the most significant challenges and pitfalls in my coaching experience have revolved around helping people stop holding themselves back. It involves guiding them to step out of their own way and understand their patterns, particularly how they repeatedly find themselves stuck. Oftentimes, the key challenge is facilitating self-understanding so they can make better, more powerful decisions. This is crucial when they’re stuck, torn between multiple options, or unsure of which direction to pursue

Gaining clarity is a major focus, especially when clients are confused about their next steps or what’s holding them back. Peeling back the layers to uncover the real challenge is a vital part of my process. Removing self-doubt, lack of confidence, and distorted thinking often leads to powerful transformations. It’s incredibly empowering when clients realize that what they perceive as weaknesses are actually their greatest strengths.

Through our coaching sessions, I help them overcome these internal obstacles to live their best lives and reach the next level. The biggest challenge often lies within oneself. Many people know what they should do, but something holds them back. Unlocking this internal barrier is where my expertise comes in.

My goal is to help clients understand themselves better, which leads to more powerful and effective decision-making and significant breakthroughs in their lives. One of the main goals of coaching is helping my clients live a life they’re proud of, feel empowered, and recognize their own strength and beauty. By shifting thinking patterns and behaviors we are able to unlock their full potential. My coaching process is all about helping clients see that nothing is fundamentally wrong with them, but rather by making some adjustments in their perspective and approach it can lead them to profound changes and realize their true potential.

Can you share some of the most important lessons you’ve learned from coaching your clients through their successes and failures as leaders?

Through coaching my clients, I’ve learned valuable lessons from their successes and failures as leaders. The successful leaders I’ve observed are those with a growth mindset. They continuously seek improvement, prioritize their team, and embrace servant leadership. Their focus is consistently on areas that need enhancement for advancing to the next level and understanding their team’s needs.

On the other hand, failures in leadership often stem from an oversized ego. The less successful leaders are those who place themselves above the team. They lack a big-picture perspective and are more self-centered. Their leadership is impeded by their ego, prioritizing personal gain over team well-being. This attitude leads to a lack of openness to new, innovative, or creative ideas – a fixed mindset that stifles their team’s potential and hinders the company from becoming one that people admire and rave about.

The key takeaway is that putting your team first will always be beneficial. The more successful leaders are those who not only focus on their team but also strive to improve their leadership.

What are the three most important habits to be a successful high performer or leader?

High performers and successful leaders cultivate specific habits that drive their success. Firstly, they constantly seek clarity. This means being clear about their mission, vision, and purpose. They frequently reconnect to their ‘why’ and ensure their goals are well-defined, aligning with their motivations, values, and long-term objectives. This clarity on goals and motivations is fundamental to their direction and progress.

Secondly, setting boundaries is crucial for high performers. Based on their clear understanding of goals and priorities, they know what to accept and what to decline, effectively protecting their energy. They understand the importance of surrounding themselves with the right people and situations, differentiating between what drains and what energizes them. This conscious choice in setting boundaries aids in better managing their time and energy.

Lastly, regarding mindset, high performers prioritize their mental state and perspective. They make time for mental conditioning, much like one would for physical health. They recognize the importance of clearing limiting beliefs and maintaining a positive outlook. High performers view the world through the lens of their mindset, understanding that they create their reality. They embrace a growth mindset, welcoming feedback as opportunities for development, and redefining failure as a learning experience.

High performers and leaders thrive by seeking clarity in their goals and purpose, setting firm boundaries to manage their time and energy, and prioritizing a positive and resilient mindset. These three habits enable them to constantly improve and adapt, pushing them towards greater success and personal fulfillment.

What advice would you give to an entrepreneur or founder leading a team for the first time?

Starting off as entrepreneurs or leading a team for the first time often brings a wave of nervousness and fear. Questions like, “What if I mess up?” or, “What if I fail?” build up in our minds, creating overwhelming self-induced pressure. In search of confidence, many turn to external sources, such as leadership training or certifications. While these are valuable, they can lead to an overload of information without real action.

The truth about leadership and entrepreneurship is that there is no perfect script or formula. Action is irreplaceable. You learn significantly through real experiences. It’s important to prepare and educate yourself, but setting a timeline for action is crucial. Continuous learning without action leads to a loop where you’re always seeking external validation for confidence. Confidence actually builds when you keep the commitments you make to yourself, and stay true to your vision, contribution, and the impact you want to have.

Learning on the job is a reality. Making mistakes is part of the process, and it’s okay. Waiting for perfection before taking action is a common trap. Perfection is an illusion; the most substantial learning happens through action. On the job, you’ll discover what truly makes a difference and what you need to focus on.

For entrepreneurs and first-time leaders, it’s important to embrace the journey. Don’t wait for perfect conditions. You’ll continuously learn and grow on the job, iterating and practicing deliberately. You’ll identify what’s not working and improve on those areas to become a more effective and impactful leader. Remember, the key is to start, take action, and grow from there.

Do you have a favorite quote or motto that inspires you?

One of my favorite quotes perfectly encapsulates a core principle of my work: “Greatness is not for the chosen few, greatness is for the few who choose.” This resonates deeply with what I observe in my profession. Often, people doubt their leadership abilities, thinking they’re not cut out for it or that effective leadership comes naturally to others. However, the reality is that no one is born a leader. What sets apart people who seem like “natural leaders” is their active choice to embrace their potential.

Those who excel as leaders, professionals or business owners do so not by chance, but by understanding and fully utilizing their strengths. They go all in on their vision and leverage their abilities, making conscious and intentional choices to succeed. Along the way, it’s common to lose motivation or drive, but the key is to recommit and continue making those choices.

Greatness lies within everyone. It can either remain dormant or be actively pursued. It’s what you do with your inherent greatness that matters. You can choose to leverage your potential and strengths. That’s why I am drawn to this quote – it emphasizes that greatness is a choice, not a predetermined destiny.

In my work, clients come to me because they have made a conscious decision to improve their lives, to become more impactful leaders, to thrive in their business. This choice is fundamental. I work best with those who are self-motivated, not just sent by someone else. The underlying question is always, “Do you want this?” because it’s about the choice each person makes to pursue their greatness.

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