May 27

Episode 37: How to Gain Confidence in Yourself With Dr. Nicole Tschierske


In this episode of Get Unstuck & On Target, Mike speaks with Dr. Nicole Tschierske about how women and leaders can break down barriers in the workplace. Nicole describes some of the most common issues women face at work and how to overcome them. She offers excellent advice that will help women to become more confident in themselves. 

Dr. Nicole Tschierske is a scientist and Positive Psychology Coach. Nicole’s passion is helping women in STEM become influential in their fields. Through her coaching, clients gain confidence and learn how to be visible to their leaders and peers.

Dr. Nicole Tschierske’s Biography

Nicole is passionate about helping overlooked women in STEM become influential, so they can confidently unlock new opportunities for themselves, get their employers saying, “we need you on this job!” and make a bigger impact. As a Scientist and Positive Psychology Coach, Nicole helps her clients strategically turn their career frustrations into a renewed love for their work.

In This Episode, You’ll Learn…

  • Companies can have the best inclusion policies, but women are still not applying to the jobs they are qualified for. 
  • Companies need to create the culture, space, and room to embrace employee’s strengths and quirks.
  • Girls are typically raised to be modest, let others stand out, and not to break the mold, but employers should try to foster self-confidence in women.
  • Employers should believe in the individual employee and help them foster confidence and a strong sense of self.
  • Leaders should spot specific strengths and give examples of them being used to help female employees gain confidence and belief in themselves.
  • Women should share their achievements and talk about the things that interest them to have more visibility in the workplace.
  • Women should ask themselves what they want to have in their career, define what it would look like, and then create an actionable plan to get there.


  • “The one thing that helped me pull through more than anything else was really knowing that my boss believed in me no matter what, he never deviated from that no matter what.”
  • “Something you can really do as a leader; show that you truly believe in the capabilities and the drive that your employees have.”

Links & Resources Mentioned…

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Read The Transcript

Episode #37

Mike O'Neill: Welcome back to the, Get Unstuck & On Target Podcast. I'm Mike O'Neill with Bench Builders and we're business coaches who love to help leaders get unstuck and sleep better. In this podcast, we're talking with thought leaders to uncover tips to help you break down the barriers that may be keeping you or your business stuck. Joining me today is Nicole Tschierske . Dr. Tschierske is a scientist turned coach who helps women in science and tech get noticed in their company and gain the recognition that they deserve so they can achieve their next career level with total ease. Welcome, Nicole. 

Dr. Nicole Tschierske: Hi, Mike, it's great to be here. 

Mike O'Neill: I'm looking forwardto this conversation, I think I mentioned to you, a past podcast guest, Sarah Avram gave me your name. And she said, based on this podcast, she said, I think Nicole would be a great guest. And when I reached out to you, I agree wholeheartedly. Let me share a little bit more about you. And that is, I described you as a scientist turn coach, but as a scientist and positive psychology coach, Nicole helps her clients strategically turn their career frustrations into a renewed love for their work. Her coaching firm is called Into Action Coaching. I love the title of that. We at Bench Builders work closely with HR departments of all size and regardless of the size, the issues of equity and diversity and inclusion are recurring themes. And that is something I wanted to pick up on. And that is, Nicole is an expert on this topic, but beyond succession planning beyond equity beyond diversity and inclusion initiatives. I would like us to spend our time together kind of wrestled with this question is what else should either we, as a leaders be doing or as listeners be doing to really support women in our organizations? 

Dr. Nicole Tschierske: Yeah. I mean, if I may add to this, it's. I'm not really an expert on the organizational level, diversity and inclusion and so on. That is there are, plenty of other, really great experts on this. But for me, it's really the point what we're exactly going to talk about today. You know, when we have good policies in place and when we have done all of the awareness trainings and whatever you want to implement as an organization, and then you still find, there are no women coming through the pipeline, you know, as quickly as you might want to, then there's something else going on. And that is really what I'm that's what's what's my jam, basically. Yeah. So what I'm fascinated by is how do we, how do we help women and men and anyone basically, who wants to grow and is curious about developing themselves, how do we help them get unstuck and get moving? And, yeah, so that is what I really love doing. 

Mike O'Neill: I love that term. This is my jam. And I know this, the setting in which you described that, but what I'm also fine is that sometimes this idea of, you know, we need to be promoting more women. We need to be doing these things. We, we, we slap labels on it and in reality, what happens, it gets all gummed up. And the question really is, is, are the things that we know we should be doing. Are they working and why not? And I think what I would like to learn from you is you are offering practical guidance, both individually and to organizations to kind of help them. This is your jam. So what are the kinds of things that you recommend that we pay attention to?

Dr. Nicole Tschierske: Yeah. So this is really. Yeah, this is where maybe a little bit of a lag comes in. Let's say you're really good as a company on policy, and you have the best of intentions of, helping women, you know, progress in their careers and you still find they don't seem to show up and there's really. It is, you know, this sometimes maybe forgets to work on is how do we build up their confidence or help themselves, but up their confidence. And all of those are the things that we can talk about today because just because the opportunity is there doesn't mean from one day to another, a woman forgets that she felt intimidated. And excluded and not good enough for the remainder of her life. And, and we'll just jump onto that. So we have to, you know, learn how to lean into those opportunities and how to seize them. And that is, yeah. And that is what I'm really all about. And, this is really the first element that I would suggest is that what women need to learn is to learn to believe in themselves. And I remember for myself, when I did my PhD, I did it in the industry and. I came up against so many barriers or limits where I just didn't know, you know, am I on the right track? Or it's like, I'm doing this for one and a half years. I don't have any substantial data. Or this seems to be leading nowhere. And then I often felt so bad about myself. And the one thing that helped me pull through more than anything else was really knowing that my boss believed in me no matter what.

And he never deviated from that. I never had any, any moment of doubt, even when I fell short of expectations or when I made a mistake. And so that is something that you can really do as a leader show that we believe in the capabilities in the drive that you are, employees, have all of that, but at the same time, how do we help people uncover their strengths and their passions? How do we help them embrace their quirks? You know, all of those things that make them unique and, you know, to, so that they really can show up and feels safe enough to show up. So one thing is about creating the culture and the space in the room for that. The other thing is, you know, helping people. You know, get away or get over this, this shyness in insecurity, but learn to embrace themselves and who they are. Yeah, that is, that is one of the first things for me to really start that. 

Mike O'Neill: Nicole. I know that one of the niches that you tend to work are women who are in STEM roles, science technology, I guess it was an engineering and math roles. You know, you have a PhD. You clearly are accomplished from an academic standpoint. But what you said was it starts with belief in yourself. Do you find that folks who have even advanced degrees who are very accomplished in their research capability to defend a dissertation, do you find that sometimes in the actual workplace, their self-confidence in fact does lag.

Dr. Nicole Tschierske: Oh, yes. It's like, no one is bad. We're all humans. And, yeah, and I actually, that is something that's you know, I talk to these women regularly and that is what they share with me, that there are obviously certain things when it comes to the technical elements, you know, they, they are very well versed in their field and they really know what they're doing, but when it comes to sharing this openly in a meeting or going out and bringing the new ideas, you know, where you're still a bit unsure with this work out with this be, like that super valuable. What will people think? And so on then, no matter what degree you hold. It can happen that you did, you let your negative self talk, stop you from that. And you're stuck in your self doubts and all of that. And yeah, so it really has nothing to do with the, educational training that you had before. 

Mike O'Neill: Okay. Let's go about, let's talk about this negative self-talk I'm reading a book right now called Chatter. And the premise of that is we allow this chatter to get in our head. It's that negative self talk. Why are we and women in particular prone to chatter to this negative self-talk? 

Dr. Nicole Tschierske: It is a fascinating topic. Isn't it? So for one thing is it keeps us, okay. That is my suspicion. Yes. So I don't, I don't own the truth on this. It keeps us, keeps us safe and levered so, at least there's also how I relate to it because then, I don't over promise. And thereby disappoint someone, maybe. I also don't I was, I also, won't annoy people when I am super proud and super happy about things. So it's almost, and this is, you know, as we grow up because just think of children. I mean, know as all children, when you look at them, like they can come to you with the most, you don't, you don't even know what it is on the sheet of paper, but they're so proud of the drawing that they made. It's like, look at me, look at what I did. And, somewhere along the way, when we grow up, we lose that. And girls much more than boys simply because of how they're socialized and how they're raised, you know, to be modest, to be, you know, keep to themselves and to like let, let others shine. And, and it doesn't even, actually that reminds me, I have even been told that, you know, in my corporate career by another woman, no less. You know, I was, I was super engaged. I was in the project. I was contributing. I was in that is just me, you know? And it's like, when I'm fascinated by the topic, then I just give it my all. And then she once, took me aside and said, you know what, Nicole, you need to give other people an opportunity to shine. And while that is true, but what it sounds like is it's like, stop it, you know, take yourself back. Whereas during the conversation, maybe it's her role as a leader to like, listen to me and then address the other person. So there we are, again, you know, it's like, how do we help that other person that isn't as, I mean, that might be just as enthusiastic, but you know, isn't prone as prone to jump in and share everything. Maybe they're a bit more insecure and I don't know if this is the right thing to say right now and so on. How do we help that person feel safe without stopping the other person an and demotivating them on the way 

Mike O'Neill: I got you? So, one thing you've kind of stress is it starts with us individually. And that is, we have to believe in ourselves. And you mentioned two illustrations. One example was, someone who pulled you aside and her recommendation to you was let others shine. But you mentioned in another situation by which your boss had a strong belief in you. And I guess as I'm stepping back, and these are two similar situations, but what a powerful difference that can make. So we're, we're appealing to leaders in this podcast. If leaders are listening to you right now, and they're saying, okay, the first thing that she's saying is help the people I lead believe in themselves. What might we do as leaders to foster that sense of self-confidence in the people we lead? 

Dr. Nicole Tschierske: So one thing that you should get really good at as a leader is spotting strengths. So, and going beyond, or you are so well organized or you are always on time. So these are not really, I mean, they don't, they don't resonate as much. However, if you, if you notice in what your employees are doing, let's say, for example, somebody shared a new half-baked idea in a meeting, then you can say to them afterwards, you know what, when you step forward and you shared that idea, even though you didn't know if this would work out, I really saw the strength of courage and bravery in you. This is how it shows up for you, or then another person, you know, who, who always manages to create the great atmosphere in the team meeting. You know, because they have a funny story to tell or they read a great joke that day that they share. And so on, then you can say to them that, you know, you really, you really help us create that positive mood that makes us also creative. So I really see the strength of humor, humor in you. So spotting strengths, and then actually telling people, I see that strength in you when you do this. That is something, Oh, you should see people who, who do that or who hear that and how they light up. And it's like, I sometimes even did that. So we once ran internally as strength, spotting challenge. So we had a set of cards printed out for every every team member with 24 different strengths. And the challenge was that they should be attentive to, you know, where they saw the strength popping up. And I once went and gave those strengths cards to very senior leaders and you know, they blushed when it heard like I see the strength of teamwork in you. I see the strength of authenticity in you. So it sort of strength of social intelligence or leadership or whatever it is in you. And it just, it just feels so elevating both for the person who hears it, but, and also for the person who says it or who delivers the message.

So get good at spotting strengths. At the same time, help people to learn, to embrace their quirks. So obviously we don't want to go overboard with our weaknesses, but we also don't need to fixate on them and make sure every weakness you know, gets kinda like, gets eradicated, but we want to learn how to embrace it as part of our unique self. So, for example, for someone who, in a negative description might come across as standoffish, you know, then. It is easy to say, you know, you need to be more approachable and you need to be more warm and fuzzy maybe. You know, if you want to go to the polar opposite. But if we wanted to force that person to develop in this direction, that would feel so not like them. And they, they would feel, you know, it w it just would drain a ton of energy because they have to force themselves to be like someone who they are not. And so instead of learning, helping them to reframe that. Okay. So instead of saying your standoffish it, Oh, you are very professional, but mind you, can you use one of your strengths? To still, you know, make sure people want to work with you well. So these are really two of the first things that I would start as a leader, spotting strengths and helping people to embrace their quirks. 

Mike O'Neill: I like the term you use with quirks, let's go back to the spotting strengths. So your advice to us as leaders is if you're leading others, you need to be mindful is that everybody does have strengths. But just to spot the strengths and, and put a label on it is not enough. What you're encouraging us to do is when you have identified a strength is to give the people you lead specific. Examples where you have seen that strength being used now that you're cautioning us not to totally ignore the weaknesses or I like what you call it, the quirks, but keep a sense of balance. And if you have to err, err, on the side of strengths. So we've been talking about leading others in particular, we've been talking about when you are leading women. I know that your consultant practice is you work a lot with individual clients, women in particular who are in the STEM roles, why don't we kind of shift that gear and that is as you step back and look at at women and what they're experiencing, what might be the things that you find consistently emerge from these conversation, these coaching conversations that are recurring things? Things that you're really encouraging individuals to be pay attention to? 

Dr. Nicole Tschierske: Hm. So one thing that actually funny enough, just before our conversation right now, I had a workshop with, four amazing women, but the one thing that they all had in common or that they all mentioned was, Oh, I need to get more visible somehow. You know, I'm doing great work. And within my immediate team, they also noticed, but I'm not visible enough to then be top of mind when it comes to, you know, putting people on a new project or even for succession planning, things like that. So that visibility piece and again, here it's about how do we think about this? And oftentimes. What women find or when I listened to them is what they say is okay. Yeah. But getting visibility is just, you know, being showoffy everywhere of what I have accomplished. And it is true. That is one thing that we shouldn't be shy about, you know, talking about our achievements and what we have done. And, you know, like the last milestone in that big project or just anything so sharing our achievements. But again, here, we can get a bit more creative and that's also what I advise them. You know, also talk about the things that interest you. Because leaders, when you hear that you clock that, you know, you don't even have to take a note, but if you, if you keep hearing from a person that they are interested in, whatever artificial intelligence that they're interested in, new product development or things like that, then this is not the core of their role right now. And then you have, you know, your, the meetings on your level and you notice as a project coming up, then, you know, this person is interested in that. They want to learn more about this. And so why don't I recommend that person to be as a learning opportunity part of this project? So speaking about our interests and our passions, and this is also, you know, when we, when we really come alive and display, it's a much nicer human connection. And when we just like robot, like, say like, okay, these are all my achievements of the month. So what we're interested in talking about our strengths, you know, so again, it's like learning for ourselves to identify them and to give them a name. And an example, so we can, we can say, okay, so one of my strengths is actually, honesty, and that is why in tough project discussions, when we're talking about potential risks, I really thrive because that's when we can, we can get real with each other, you know, and again, it brings it so much more to life than, when somebody just says, Oh, I'm just good at risk assessments.

And. Aspirations, you know, so we have an idea of where you want to go or not even like, you know, your five-year plan because five years ago I had no idea I was going to be where I am right now. You know, that is sometimes it's a bit abstract, but have a sense of, you know, what could be the next thing? What, what would you like to learn next? What would you like to contribute next? Is there something in your line of sight, that is intriguing to you and it's not even about going, to your boss and being obnoxious about it and saying like, you must, you must put me on that next project. But just saying regularly okay. I'm interested in this. And I would love to develop my skills in that area a bit more. So when the next project comes up, I'd love to be considered. And you just keep, you know, consistency is key here. You know, they just keep mentioning those things in the situations where it's, where it fits and, yeah, that is a really good thing to start building your visibility. Not where you have to speak to an audience of 500, but you use those everyday situations where you're talking to people and yeah. And you just, you just get known for what you like for who you are for what you experienced in for what you can do for them, what you want to do. 

Mike O'Neill: You know, as I'm listening to you. And I shared with our listeners that you are a coach and therefore you work one-on-one you work with teams, you work with organizations, but in your working one-on-one with clients, would you share maybe an, an example by which maybe one of your clients got stuck and how did you help them get unstuck?

Dr. Nicole Tschierske: So there are many different coaching techniques of how we can go of how we can go about basically, helping people find their own path. Yeah, because there's so much wisdom inside of us, but often if we just fixate on that, on that one puzzle piece that's missing, we don't see all of the other stuff that there is. And this is what coaching is really all about asking really good questions in a structured way so that people can uncover this, you know, the solutions that fit to them personally, for themselves. So I remember there was one, There was one client and she wanted to build a bit more of an expert reputation. And, she wanted to do that by speaking up more in meetings and really voicing her opinions, maybe also constructively challenging others, all of those good things. And so what we basically, there are a few steps to this coaching technique that we then use. So first of all, we defined on what would good look like? So that's the one thing that you can always do for yourself. Okay. I really want to have more of this. It's the first trick, by the way, not to look at what do I want to have less off, but what do I want to have more of? What do I want to grow? And. Define what that looks like in an idea in a 10 out of 10, what does that look like? And then the next thing, what we, what we did was this was a bit of a creative coaching technique. We had a little role play, so she would pick three experts that she would hypothetically interview. And one of them was her sister. One of them was Rosalind Franklin, and one of them was Barrack Obama.

And then basically we did that role play and she would step into the role of her sister or of Rosalind Franklin or of Barrack Obama. And I would talk to her so. Hello, Rosalind, you know, so I have the client and this is her issue. And this is what she wants to get better at. And what would your advice be? And then she would just, she was so in her role and at that moment, she would really come up, that with advice that actually that person might have actually given herself and then you have from three people, you get at least five to seven. So you end up with police 15 tips, and then we went back and said, okay, now we have all of those options that would help you to speak up when meetings and how you can go about it. And then she would just pick the ones that fit the most for her. And then the most important thing to round up the coaching session is, to form an action plan. So, so really concrete plan. What are you going to try next? And when are you going to do it and what are you looking for? So to make a really like, almost a little contract with yourself, that all of those insights that you just thought that you really put them into action. Yeah. 

Mike O'Neill: Nicole, I love the suggestion that you've just shared. And that is if you were to talk to someone who you admire, what might they share with you? That is a wonderful way to kind of open up possibilities. And if they, in fact, can you really get into that role? That's, that's phenomenal. I love that, that suggestion, you know, I'm speaking to you from United States. Folks might notice you have a little bit of an accent you're in Germany and I hate to generalize, but the conversation we've had thus far. It sounds to me that the issues that I see primarily in United States are the exact same issues that you are dealing with in Germany. I know you have a us clients as well, but is that an accurate read? Are the kinds of things we're talking about? Yes. We speak different languages. Yes. We have different cultures. But when we're talking about fostering an environment that encourages women, particularly women in STEM roles, are you seeing the same? Are we more alike than different?

Dr. Nicole Tschierske: Yes, I would say so. So like the call that I was on earlier, There was one lady from Mexico. There was one lady from Spain and another lady from, from she, same experiences. And I also noticed that, you know, when I have other conversations or when I, when I post content on LinkedIn and so on, it's really across the board. So, I would, I would say is even all of those westernized cultures, and again, I don't want to make like a, this is not a scientific assessment yeah. This is just the impression that I have. They share these issues sort of. Yeah. 

Mike O'Neill: You know, as we reflect on the conversation we've had thus far and we've covered a pretty wide variety of topics, if you were to kind of summarize some closing thoughts or takeaways, what might they be?

Dr. Nicole Tschierske: Yeah. So really redirecting the focus on the good things that are already there and what's already working, because that is really the nicest place from where we can inspire positive change is to see what's works and magnify that. So, yeah. that is why also, so that is a key difference for me when it comes to working with people where as opposed to when we're working on processes, for example, or, you know, problem solving these kinds of things. So that is also something that I really liked doing business process improvement, the whole lean stuff, everything where we really do, you know, where we start with, you know, problem statement, problem. Proper analysis and so on and so on. And then we define the goal and the solution and all of that. If we, if we go the exact same way about this, when we're talking about people, then we're spending all of our time on things that drain our energy. But instead finding those small bits from where growth is possible, is a completely different starting point. And you accelerate speed much quicker. 

Mike O'Neill: You know, that is an excellent starting point. Regrettably, we're at almost an ending point at, on this podcast time wise. So if folks want to reach out to you and connect with you online, what's the best way for them to do that Nicole? 

Dr. Nicole Tschierske: Yeah, so come say hello to me on LinkedIn. I love connecting to new people and have those in my network there. Then obviously, we have my website but we're gonna put it in the show notes. I suppose. And for all of the women who are listening or just anyone who really wants to learn twice a year, I host a free one week long master class series where I bring together really great experts. Everyone generously shares their knowledge. And, this is called women in STEM re-imagined. And again, there's no bouncer at the doors. So even if you're not a woman and even if you're not in STEM, you are allowed to join and learn with us. Yeah. And, yeah, you can get on the wait list right now. It's coming around every March and September.

Mike O'Neill: Oh, that sounds exciting. For those who said, well, how do I get hold of her? We're going to include, her LinkedIn profile link. We'll include a link to Nicole's website. We'll include a number of things so that if you want to reach out to Nicole, she clearly wants to hear from, from us. Nicole, this has been a treat. Thank you. 

Dr. Nicole Tschierske: Thank you for having me. 

Mike O'Neill: I also want to thank our listeners for joining us for this episode of Get Unstuck & On Target. We upload the latest episode every Thursday. And if you haven't already please subscribe. You know, life is too short to let business problems keep you up at night. Our coaches love helping leaders solve those tough problems that are holding you back from the success that you deserve. So if you've been listening to my discussion with Nicole and you're realizing that something's keeping you or your business stuck, let's talk, you can go to our website, or just go to your browser and type to schedule a quick call. So I'd like to thank you for joining us. And I hope that you've picked up on some tips that will help you Get Unstuck & On Target. Until next time.

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