In their book, The Confidence Code, Kathy Kay and Claire Shipman say, “Confidence is hard to define but easy to recognize. With it, you can take on the world; without it, you live stuck at the starting block of potential.”
It’s true that it is easy to recognize confidence in others. Why does it seem that some leaders exude confidence? They seem to believe that they can indeed take on the world and you believe they can too. How can you boost those feelings of confidence in yourself so you don’t remain “stuck at the starting block of potential”?
Most leadership programs miss the mark in developing leaders. They try to re-create the person or make them into someone else, possibly a specific leader that is revered and admired. Although it is beneficial to read and learn from others, it is crucial to your leadership confidence that you know yourself. In John Mason’s Book, An Enemy Called Average, he makes the statement, “All of us are born originals but most of us die carbon copies”. We do not need anymore “carbon copy” leaders. We need leaders who really know themselves, are self-managed and confident to move organizations forward.
Knowing yourself is self-awareness (the first component in Emotional Intelligence – for more information on Emotional Intelligence read “Leading with the Whole Brain”. What does it really mean to be self-aware and how does this affect your leadership confidence?
￼￼Controlling behaviors begin with self-awareness.
Self-Awareness is your ability to accurately read and understand your emotions, to be aware of your triggers, hot buttons and the responses that are provoked when they are pushed or tripped...
Owning is such a positive word. It conveys the simple message of a child…it’s mine. Look a little deeper into the meaning and we think about the work to procure something of value and taking responsibility to care for that something.
Here in America we define ourselves and those around us by what we do. Think about the first question we ask after introducing ourselves…. “So where do you work?” and “what do you do there?” In part, this is good small talk. We naturally ask these questions in succession. The other part has to do with sizing people up. We determine before we even get to know someone whether we think they are successful based on how they answer these questions. Is it any wonder why we personally define ourselves using this same measurement?
This type of stereotyping begs the question many are now facing, what happens when what we “do” is done away with? What happens when companies go bankrupt, jobs are outsourced, people are downsized or laid off? How then will we define ourselves, our friends, colleagues or family members? Although what we do is obviously important, we have to learn a better self-awareness, or who we are “being.” Who we are “being” is who we are, our character, values, beliefs and passions. It is not determined by titles, salary or prestige.
To discover who we really are beyond the titles we hold is a challenge. Think for a minute about who you are…. If I asked you to describe yourself could you do so without talking about what you do? The goal is that who we are being works collaboratively with what we do but it does not define us. I recently asked a client of mine while working through the “being” vs. “doing” question, “how would you respond if you lost your job for one reason or another and the only thing you could find was working at a fast food restaurant wiping down tables?” His answer was the best I have ever gotten. He said, “well I guess I would have to work hard and rise to the top in that industry!” Now that is knowing who you are being no matter what you are doing!
I want to encourage you, whether you are in the most secure position you have ever been in or whether you are having to re-define yourself due to job loss, search yourself to know who you are being in this world.
Here are some suggestions as you go through this process:
This can be an eye opening experience if you allow it to be. We would love to hear your feedback on this exercise and if it was beneficial.
Often when I read a book I find myself thinking, “Some of that was strong food for thought and some of it was a little too much for me.” When that happens, I try focusing on what is relevant so there is still a meaningful take-away rather than disregarding the entire book. Authors write to their personal extreme passion, and it’s good to remember that you do not have to agree with everything that is being said to learn something.
Leaders are very similar. We lead out of our own personal passions and values. Whether or not we are always conscious of them, they are present in our leadership. These passions and values are very close cousins to our “hot buttons".
When our hot buttons are pushed, we can have a tendency to overreact or over-correct the situation just as an author may over-write to make their point. I find that overreacting or over-correcting frequently generates results opposite of what is really expected or desired.
Allow me to illustrate… A few weeks ago, I was driving home from a meeting. I am embarrassed to admit I leaned over to pick something up (not paying attention as I should) and, when I did, I slightly went off the road. Normally this would not be a big deal… I would simply correct and get back on; however, when you combine the fact that I was in deep thought, my cruise was on about 72 mph and the startle of hitting the rumble strip, a recipe for disaster was about to unfold.
When I hit the rumble strip, instead of a gentle warning the noise of the strips is intended to give, it shook me from my deep thought and seriously startled me. I overreacted! I swerved (or should I say jerked) the steering wheel to the right. In just a split second my car swerved to the other lane, and I over corrected again to the left. It was in just a second I realized, “I think I might flip this baby.” Fortunately for me (and thanks to my guardian angels) I was able to get the car back under control. Before you know it, everything was back to normal. I settled down, regained confidence and was back to cruising at 72 mph (I was paying much closer to attention though).
Later that evening I was telling my husband and a friend about what happened over dinner. As I explained it, I realized the parallel between what happened to me and what happens when a leader “over-corrects.”
As leaders we can get lost in the moment, in our personal passions, thus losing focus on the big picture and responding without thinking or over-responding to drive our point home. I realize as leaders, being able to respond in crisis is a highly desired trait, but I also realize that there are times we cause the crisis ourselves (such as I did) from over-correcting. Either way, whether the crisis is self-induced or caused by someone else, over-correcting is rarely the answer and usually results in disaster – or near disaster, just as it did when I was driving.
Have you ever over-corrected (over responded or overreacted) as a leader? A perfect example would be, the team is working under the pressure of a deadline (now 8 days past due), a tight budget, everyone is exhausted, you just got an email that the engineering team has not been able to correct the “bug” yet, stakeholders are calling and your lead engineer just called in sick. How do you respond?
Some of you from just reading this can feel your chest tightening. I am sure your story is a little different but the stress is the same. Below are some steps to help you process through over-correcting in difficult situations. I encourage you to take just a minute to go through the questions below – they will help you to be more proactive next time and hopefully reduce the crisis response of over-correcting:
This is an issue entire books are written on. I believe the major reason new managers fail is due to lack of training. New managers go into a position with “sugar plums dancing in their heads” and wide-eyed wonder of how fantastic it is to be a leader. It is wonderful to be a leader, but it is also a challenge.
We have to look at why people get promoted to leadership. It is usually because they were great individual performers. We then take them out of the role in which they have: excelled, built identity, and earned autonomy. We then we put them in a role where they are the “new kid on the block”, have not managed people before, and are trying to figure out who they are in this new realm. That seems to be a recipe for disaster and yet it happens every day. Instead of being responsible for themselves and for personal results, they are now responsible for a team of people, motivating and managing different personalities, and let’s not forget still having someone above them telling them what to do.
I think there are a several challenges that a new leader faces in this new opportunity. I will list them below with a few suggestions as to why this happens: