A Simple Step to Confidence
Thanks to many of you who responded to my survey on topics of interest. Overwhelmingly the topics you asked for were Confidence and Burnout, so I’ll give you both. This is the second of my confidence series. Also watch out for the webinar coming in January: The Confidence Toolkit – How to Know What to Say in Every Situation, From Navigating Your Career to Inspiring Your Team
Does this sound familiar? Maybe you want to be like your colleague who has amazing ease with clients and you just never find the right thing to say. Or maybe your boss wants you to just get things done and you swirl in indecision. One of the biggest challenges to confidence I see is that we think we have to be good at everything to be effective. In “Managing Oneself,” Peter Drucker says, “One should waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence. It takes far more energy to work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.”
If you are early in your career, take some assessments and pay attention to the projects or jobs that energize you. If you are farther along, it’s not too late. Most of us do our jobs, “our way.” That means that if you look backwards at peak moments in work, you can find what skillsets to carry forward. A great tool for this is the Strengths Finder 2.0. Take it, then do what I call the Impact Bullseye. On a sheet of paper put each strength in the middle, one by one, then make flower petals for how that strength impacts your team, your boss, the organization’s bottom line, your friends, etc.
A surefire confidence killer is to step over what you are good at. Please pause to really understand what you bring to the table and learn to embrace it.
This is the first of my confidence series. Also watch out for the webinar coming in January: The Confidence Toolkit – How to Know What to Say in Every Situation, From Navigating Your Career to Inspiring Your Team
Every semester in the public speaking team I work with we ask students on stage, “On a scale of 1 to 10, with one being a bumbling fool and 10 being a polished professional, please rate yourself as a speaker and tell us why.”
Phew! You can see the pounds of tension on their shoulders. What’s interesting is that over the years I’ve watched men consistently give themselves a score of 7-9 whether they perform well or poorly, and women give themselves a 5 or 6 even when they perform well. One semester I watched one of the men, knowing he had done a terrible job, scan the room then give himself a 7.5. He knew they were expecting a show of confidence, so that’s what he did. I was stunned. But the lesson I took away was not about a double standard; it was this: just because you feel a lack of confidence, doesn’t mean you have to listen to it.
Every day I see professionals wanting to feel that things are perfect or to feel confident before they take action. A small part of us is afraid to be the guy above, who’s not actually that good. This is so normal — it’s easy to say that we should take risks, but you don’t want to get criticized by your boss or even feel that your job is at risk. Maybe presenting to a big client or the board of directors would be a great experience, but it’s just too scary. Maybe you want to give some difficult feedback to your team but can’t risk their taking it badly and going to HR or worse, finding another job. The problem is that so much learning lies on the other side of action.
This week think of something you keep pushing off. Between you and me, I’ve been procrastinating this series on confidence. The topic is so vast that I wonder if I can do it justice. Here’s what you do. Take the thing you want to do. Schedule time to think it through and ask yourself what’s actually involved (hint: it’s almost never as big as you imagine). Break it down into steps or pieces. See if there are guidelines or someone who can help. Then, just do it. You will feel the weight melt off your shoulders, and you will have so much learning available to you.
A Hidden Trick to Avoiding Procrastination
Recently I was asked to contribute to an article on Today.com. Very exciting overall! But especially so because the author used one of my favorite procrastination avoiding tricks. Here’s the deal. Do you find that you have a revolving To-Do list that never quite goes down? Or that at the end of your week, you look back and realize you’ve done a lot but it didn’t feel that way along the way. What if you could enjoy a sense of accomplishment every day?
This trick is in two parts:
- Schedule your To Do’s: Reserving time for things makes them harder to avoid (when they are not fun) and creates pleasurable anticipation when they are fun. It also makes it easy to see, and give yourself credit for, what you’ve done.
- Schedule fun and recovery time: Instead of beating yourself up for watching cat videos and scrolling on Facebook, get curious about why you’re doing it. Chances are you’ve scheduled work tasks but not: lunch, a quick water cooler break (for extroverts), alone time between meetings (for introverts), exercise, making breakfast and prepping the kids for school.
There’s a lot you do automatically that takes a lot of your day. You also need time to take care of yourself in spurts throughout each day. Making sure to account for those, and scheduling it all, leaves you feeling like you are in front of the 8-ball, and that provides more energy, and more resolve to be productive.
One of the big challenges to creating change at work today is that people are tired of change. They’re tired of learning a new project management software. They’re tired of training their replacement. Or of re-doing plans and forecasts because the company got unexpected results in Region XYZ. Maybe I’m making too big a leap, but I connect this to people being too busy…on their smartphones! It’s like today “iPhone is the opiate of the masses.” No kidding.
How do we get a break from the onslaught of information and change, so that we can create the meaningful change we want? Good question.
It’s different for everyone, but a few things that I see work are:
- Take time to prioritize 3 goals per quarter
- Plan your days, weeks, month, always with those 3 goals in mind
- Pause, meditate, exercise regularly each day or week. For teams, this can mean taking time to pause over coffee or lunch.
- Decide on phone and computer free times
- Get the help you need from colleagues. For many, this means learning how to delegate and choosing not to “be a hero.”
There are no easy answers. The truth is that our busy-ness will never stop and at some point, it’s a choice. If you have plans for evolving your team long-term, make it a priority and make the other stuff fit around it.
One of my core beliefs is that we lack confidence because we don’t truly, deeply understand what we bring to the table. Based on that I work with people to understand their areas of strength, then link those strengths to their effectiveness at work. And for the most part, it works. What Ben Bergeron says in “Chasing Excellence,” is that he makes his elite CrossFit athletes really focus on their areas of weakness. That doesn’t mean they’re off the hook on the easy stuff — they also spend A LOT of time practicing their areas of strength. But they don’t stop there.Similarly, in the public speaking team, I worked with we began the semester by filming students so they could see themselves speak, then asking them to select two non-verbal or vocal elements to improve. With the focus on just two things they made much more progress, and the confidence that built made lots of other issues go away.
To be clear, I still believe it’s key to begin with your strengths. It’s human nature to focus on our mistakes and weaknesses, and if you dive right into those you’ll just beat yourself up. That actually slows progress. Ben Bergeron’s athletes know what they do really well. And our public speaking students got lots of recognition for what comes easily to them. But if you feel grounded in your strengths and positive impact, and feel ready to turn up the volume, this is a great way to increase your bench strength as you create change.
Do you ever get tired of saying yes to that favor at work, even though you know you’ll resent it? Or being the one who takes the lead because you just know no one else will step up? Habits are hard to change and even harder to change when they are linked to our identity. In these examples, it’s the pleaser/nice guy and the responsible one.
According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, there are three types of learning: Cognitive, Motor, and Affective. In coaching I see these as, I can give you the tool and tell you what to do (cognitive), you can do it to learn what it’s like (motor), but you won’t really embrace the change if it doesn’t sync with your identity and who you are (affective). In Immunity to Change, the authors explore this phenomenon beautifully with an example of a man who can’t lose weight. As they explore his circumstances, it comes down to the fact that he comes from a big family that has dinner together each Sunday. And he can’t say no to his aging aunt who’s cooked all day. His identity as a good, loving nephew makes it impossible to say no.
Effective change is linked to vision, clarity, and passion, but sometimes something’s getting in the way. So if you find yourself saying, “That’s just not me,” or your team saying, “We don’t do that,” those may be positive values that you want to uphold. They may also be an identity rut that’s keeping you from adapting to today’s fast-changing business environment. This week why not think of something you’re struggling to accomplish. Then ask yourself what identity is behind the stuckness. If you gave yourself permission to let that go or found a different way to be around it (ie-bring that doting aunt flowers instead of overeating), what might happen next?
Change has been on my mind a lot. Maybe it’s the fall leaves. Maybe I’m ready for a change! The thing about change is that we want it, but we resist it. Or kick it down the road. It’s normal to fear change and that fear shows up in all kinds of ways. My take is that we have to pull the change dreams out of the clouds and break them down so they’re less scary. We have to face the fear it brings up. And we have to get clear on what we really want and what’s actually in the way. Over the next several weeks, I’m writing a series on change that’s inspired by recent events I’ve attended and reading I’ve done. I hope you enjoy it.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a live podcast with Melinda Gates as the guest. My biggest takeaways were:
- Get the facts. Melinda said that in her foundation work, her data science background is super helpful in measuring what actually keeps communities from changing. It turns out that having clean drinking water so children can thrive leads to having fewer children so women can work, and that is directly correlated with building wealth in the community. Not wishful thinking, but following the facts.
- Create pathways to change. Melinda talked about a woman who was ready to leave her husband and move to the city after the birth of their first child. She said that now that she had to take care of the baby, she no longer had time to fetch the water every day. Her husband, who loved her and didn’t want her to leave, started going to get the water in her place. The other men laughed until their wives started making them do it too.
At work, we think a lot about change. Maybe you’d love it if your boss wouldn’t call you into his office for a casual project review right when you’re ready to go home. Or you’d love it if your colleague didn’t interrupt you in meetings. Maybe you wish your team would be more excited about work so you didn’t have to micro-manage them all the time. Thing is, we think about change but we don’t always:
- Get the facts. Maybe there’s a way to update your boss earlier in the day. Maybe the interrupter thinks they are supporting you by finishing your sentences. Or your team would love to take more initiative, but they don’t like failing. We often see a situation from our point of view and that can make us spend a lot of unnecessary energy.
- Create pathways to change. When your boss, team or colleague does the same frustrating things again and again, why not get curious. For each thing that’s bothering you, write it down and then write 2-3 questions you could be asking. As soon as we shift from frustration to curiosity, the brain shifts into creative gear. Then possibilities emerge.
When change is too sudden or people haven’t been included, they are likely to resist it. So make sure the change makes sense and that you’re seeing it from their point of view. And try to include them along the way so the barriers come up early in the process.
This week I got a Harvard Business Review email that tickled me because it’s exactly what I’ve been saying for years!
“Throughout history, people had little need to manage their
careers — they were born into their stations in life or, in the
recent past, they relied on their companies to chart their career
paths. But times have drastically changed. Today we must all
learn to manage ourselves. What does that mean? According to
Peter Drucker, author of the classic HBR article, “Managing
Oneself,” it means we have to learn to develop ourselves. We
have to place ourselves where we can make the greatest
contribution to our organizations and communities. And we have
to stay mentally alert and engaged during a 50-year working life,
which means knowing how and when to change the work we do.”
When I’m working with managers, it’s all about understanding the workplace they’re operating in, knowing where they have the best leverage, and making sure they have the tools to navigate their environment. When we know what we contribute and understand how things hang together, it builds breakthrough confidence. That leads to lower stress, greater balance, and more creative problem-solving.
If you want to be a more effective leader, think about what support you need, and what support your middle and junior level employees have. Please click here if you would like to have a private conversation about your effectiveness as a leader.
This spring I worked with a team that had seen impressive growth over an 18-month period. But you wouldn’t have known it by how they presented themselves. They were exhausted. They were experiencing low-level conflict and tension. They complained that if things kept going this way, they were expecting significant employee turnover. Despite their success, the future looked bleak, like a recipe for burnout.
The first thing we did was to take stock of where they were and what they had accomplished. Not the version of things they were making up, but the real reality. We talked about how they’d grown. We talked about how their communication was mostly successful, even with their fast-moving client. We talked about systems that they had built, without even realizing, along the way. It was a collective hugfest, and once their mood had shifted they found a few very simple solutions that could significantly increase their efficiency.
What they realized is something so many of us forget. Success doesn’t mean that all problems will be resolved forever. Change invites new opportunities…and new challenges. So the next time you feel like the problems never end, ask yourself: is this new challenge is here because just before it, I did something well?
For more on how to be more creative and solve bigger problems, take a look at “Positive Intelligence” by Shirzad Chamine. Please feel free to schedule a call with me by clicking here about your role on a team that feels like it is in chaos.
One of the things I hear consistently from clients is, “We’re working on clarifying roles and responsibilities.” And while that’s important, it’s not the whole issue. Take my recent visit to Dunkin Donuts. When I asked for more milk in my coffee, the woman said, “How many milks?” ”Huh? Just the one?” I thought to myself. For those employees, each squirt from the machine is a “milk” and they, in turn have trained the customers to ask for milk by number. It’s one approach — roles and responsibilities are clear — but I believe it leaves people disengaged and not accountable. The Dunkin Donuts was in the middle of farm country and we were talking about milk. What could be more basic?
Marie Kondo woke us up to the reality that we can’t organize our way to a beautiful home. Buying more boxes to organize stuff only gets us more boxes. The real issue is that we have too much stuff. It’s the same with organizing people and work. While we do need to organize ourselves, without the simplifying element of trust, and without understanding the underlying dynamics of the organization’s culture, we don’t get the productivity we want. According to Patrick Lencioni, absence of trust leads to artificial harmony and conflict avoidance. In one of the most powerful exercises I do with teams, each person gives and gets positive and difficult feedback about their behavior. People love it because they finally learn that they can ask for what they need without creating conflict. Combine that with well-defined roles and responsibilities, and it’s a powerful combination.