Strong contributors in the workplace have mastered the practice of self-reflection. Taking a long, hard look in the mirror throughout your career reveals the trouble spots that can create problems at work and stymie your ability to move forward as a leader. One of the biggest detractors from upward mobility is a lack of confidence.
A leader’s lack of self-confidence is often the root cause of breakdowns and inconsistencies in organizations. Leaders who lack confidence often manage in dysfunctional ways because they are plagued by uncertainty. Instead of making firm decisions, they add qualifiers to hedge their bets. They may micromanage the work of others for accuracy but, perhaps more so, to preserve their reputation as leaders. Insecure leaders are compelled to set up guardrails to limit their vulnerability to criticism.
But believe it or not, being vulnerable and willing to be wrong comes from a place of true self-confidence. Fear and egocentricity are the traits that cause us to project and protect a façade of perfection, limiting us from being able to make mistakes – and own up to them. And most importantly, grow from them.
The Road to Self-Awareness
Developing self-awareness, which is foundational to developing emotional intelligence, is key to building self-confidence. Understanding your strengths and growth areas removes the veil of ambiguity and empowers you to move forward with budding confidence in your abilities. And the process starts with you.
Take the time to study yourself, taking note of your tendencies, behaviors, likes, and dislikes. For example, you may notice that you spend a lot of time criticizing yourself or others. Ask yourself what these thoughts, or patterns of thinking, are telling you about yourself and your approach to work and relationship building.
Then, focus on your career. Make a list of the things that you’ve accomplished. You should start to see a pattern in the areas you excel in, so place an asterisk by those. In the margins, note examples to support your belief. Once you’ve created your list, reflect on what situations and tasks tend to reduce your self-confidence. Notice if you are comparing yourself to others, in-person or online. (It’s true that you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet.) Helpful to this process are assessments like StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath, which can reveal some clues about your strengths.
Once you have done your self-reflection, start asking for feedback from trusted advisors and colleagues, or a coach or mentor. This “advisory team” can hold up a mirror to you in an authentic, non-judgmental way to help you see yourself as others see you. This will reveal if others experience you the way you want to be experienced. For example, you may feel that you excel in one area, but others who see you operate in that space may suggest that you spend additional time growing in that area. That insight is beneficial to building your confidence in that space.
Finally, act. Acting from a place of knowing is very powerful in building self-confidence. Develop a plan to address the self-limiting behaviors you’ve identified while celebrating the areas that you excel in.
The Reward of Confidence
The Ancient Greek adage “know thyself” is as relevant today as it was centuries ago. As a leader, knowing yourself through the eyes of others will improve your effectiveness and impact, and decrease stressors and dysfunction in the workplace. The more aware you are of your drivers and motivations, the more confident you will become in your position as a leader – confidence that will reward you in a positive response from your team.
Does this sound familiar? If you are struggling to find what motivates you as a leader, send me a note. Let’s work through it together.