Three of my last four clients have unearthed a common theme, something most leaders don’t want to talk about or admit. For one client it was mentioned in the commentary of his 360° feedback report by three different people! He was shocked that people identified it as a development area. He said he always knew he was struggling with it but thought he had masked it well enough that others didn’t see it.
So what could this pervasive but disconcerting thing be? Confidence. Yes, a lack of confidence among successful, senior leaders in national and multinational organisations. I’ve seen low confidence among women and men, among those newly promoted into a new position and those with seniority in their posts.
With this most recent leader who thought he had hidden his low confidence, we worked on three things. First, reviewing the situations where he felt the uncertainty the worst. By doing this we were able to identify what it felt like, what he was saying to himself in those moments and what it caused him to do (or not do). By knowing what low confidence feels like, a client is able to realise when it’s happening by being aware of what it feels like in his body. Often at these times the mind is on autopilot so the feeling in the body is a signal to alert him to the presence of low confidence. Then by identifying what he says to himself at these moments, we were able to name a ‘saboteur’ or ‘gremlin’ that was causing him to hold himself back, keeping him small. He could then choose to listen to that voice or not – and he didn’t want to. He decided that when he heard the gremlin he’d put him in a metal box with a padlock on it to keep the gremlin at bay.
Second, we talked about the beliefs he had about himself that lead to these disempowering thoughts and feelings. We dissected the truth of those beliefs in the various situations he’s been in. Many of them were no longer valid, he had other evidence to disprove them. He even took the work further, doing more therapeutic work, and figured out where these beliefs originated, in his upbringing.
Third, what does confidence feel like in him. I had him remember times where he has been confident, whether at work or outside work. What does that feel like in your body? Once he was able to recreate it and feel it again, he could then recreate it in the future when he needed it.
Changes as a result of this work:
By knowing what low confidence feels like, you can be alerted to its presence and choose a different behaviour than the habitual one it has historically resulted in. Awareness allows for conscious choices.
Identifying gremlins and developing coping strategies to occupy them.
Creating new beliefs that serve you for where you are now in your lives and where you want to go in the future.
Use the physical feeling of confidence in your body from other situations and make it present in situations where you need it.
What would you do or be if you had even greater confidence?