Leading teams can be a lonely job. You have fewer people to turn to when things get tough. Who in the organization, after all, has had to sign off on the types of decisions that you must make each day? It can certainly be difficult to confide in direct reports. And those who sit above you in the corporate or organizational chain (such as the chairman of the board or other board members) are also not the ones to whom you want to display weakness or vulnerability.
As Sheryl Sandberg points out, ‘the best way to gain confidence is to do what you are afraid to do’. As an Executive and Leadership Coach, I work with leaders who are managing teams and I ask them: ‘what would you do with your teams to maximise their performance if you were not afraid’. I take them on a powerful journey. I support and challenge them. What if I took you on a journey to explore what’s stopping you to maximise the performance of your team?
#1 You didn’t learn to walk in one day
Positive change and learning is achieved by having a conversation where you will be thinking and acting differently. Don’t expect to be transformed instantly. You didn’t learn to walk in one day! It takes consistent effort on a daily basis to think and act differently.
Daily action call: How about giving positive feedback to your team while being specific, timely and sincere?
#2 Feel empowered as a leader
Being clear on why you are pursuing your business goal is an important first step to overcome your doubts. I work with leaders who are fully aware that they need to share the business vision more with their teams and they also need to articulate the business strategy in their regular meetings with their teams. Einsenhower once said: ‘Plans are worthless; planning is everything‘.
Action call: Take time to plan your team meeting. Isolate yourself in a meeting room, on a different floor of the building and really nail down what you want to get out of the meeting.
#3 Overcome your doubts and insecurities
Doubts and insecurities are holding you back as a leader. Remember what makes you unique as a leader. You have been asked to lead a team because your organization believes in you and trusts you.
Action call: List all the characteristics that make you a unique leader and keep updating and looking at it.
#4 You fear you are not being liked
Sometimes when you are a leader, you need to make some tough decisions and you are not going to be liked for it. You were never appointed to be liked by your team. You were appointed to deliver as a leader and manage your team. Accept this.
Action call: What will you choose to believe about yourself?
#5 You fear you are not capable
The Board that appointed you trusts you and has faith in you. You have a track record and a great deal of experience. You have been very successful. Your direct report has not mentioned anything to you about your performance. Where is this fear coming from? Sometimes our perceptions are not the reality. Why? Self-doubt.
Action call: What progress have you made? How do you celebrate it?
#6 You fear you are making the wrong choice
Strong team members are willing to tell you the truth, and will challenge and question the validity of your decisions and recommendations. Listen to them. A strong team of individuals who think differently will ultimately lead to better decisions and fewer mistakes. You have done your risk assessment and SWOT analysis. The real test of your leadership is determined by how you respond when you realize you’ve made the wrong decision, and what actions you take. Great leaders know that even the best plans can go awry, and they always have a contingency plan to fall back on. The ability to recognize a problem and say, ‘no problem, I have a backup plan’ is what differentiates great leaders. Bad decisions do not mean that they are beyond repair.
Action call: Make sure that your team challenges and questions the validity of your decisions and recommendations.
#7 You fear you are drawing negative attention
As a leader, you may work long hours with a full agenda and little time to think strategically or rationally. When you are tired, you feel worse and you fear the worst. The glass is half empty. It’s easy to drift.
Action call: What ‘headspace’ do you have? How do you let go? How about trying this Headspace app on Itunes?
#8 You fear you are being judged
There will only be one you. What people think of you is none of your business. What and how you feel about yourself is what actually matters. ‘Embrace your uniqueness. Time is much too short to be living someone else’s life’ (Kobi Yamada)
Action call: Focus on what you can control.
#9 You fear you are a failure
If your direct report has not discussed issues with your performance, then you should not doubt yourself. You are not a failure. What if another opportunity (because things did not work out) opens a new door?
If you want to explore more, watch any of these Ted Talks:
Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability
Isaac Lidsky: What reality are you creating for yourself?
Renata Salecl: Our unhealthy obsession with choice
Karen Thompson Walker: What fear can teach us?
You don’t have to feel lonely. Ask yourself: who can support you in your journey? When you surround yourselves with others who believe in you and support your vision then you can lean on them for encouragement and inspiration to reach your goals. And embrace your uniqueness. There will only ever be one of you. Your DNA is unique. Think about all the things that make you unique. It is your difference that gives you the power that you have.