Overcoming Self Doubt
Covid 19 has upended the functioning world as we know it. It has forced us to ask questions.
- What is truly important to us?
- How best can we achieve this?
So my attention was hooked by the radio interviewer’s question that Saturday morning, as I turned the car from Harbour Road into Main Street.
‘….do you think that some kind of self-doubt can be an important attribute for a business leader to have?’
As the interviewee (an Irish C.E.O.) paused, my mind reeled back to the series that had occupied my evenings during the first phase of ‘lockdown’.
‘The Crown’ depicts how the current monarch of the United Kingdom is believed to have dealt with specific challenges before and during her reign.
It masterfully portrays the isolation and loneliness of the position. We are presented with a character who constantly questions her own ability. A person who grapples with the confines of tradition. One who is constantly forced to confront the limitations of her position and the challenges presented by change. All the while she keeps her self-questioning hidden from those who expect her to ‘lead’.
In her acclaimed book ‘Flourishing’, Dr. Maureen Gaffney explores what makes us feel, behave and act as we do. She offers guidance on how we can improve our understanding of ourselves. And suggests how we can best harness this knowledge to move forward.
She reveals how self-doubt is related to one’s genetically based temperament. How those who self-doubt can be worriers, and tend towards negative feelings and thoughts. And are more likely than others to see neutral happenings as negative.
Self-doubt has the power she says, to negatively influence one’s mood. It also has the power to influence our capacity to perform.
Mood in anyone, especially a leader, can be ‘contagious’. A positive mood enhances a leader’s ability to think and resolve conflicts. It enables them develop and maintain good relationships. This positivity can boost the level of optimism and morale across the entire organisation. It can create an environment where both innovation and execution can thrive.
In contrast, a negative mood caused by self-doubt can shackle both leader and team. The leader’s poor mood can seep down through the team. It can lower both morale and performance. Steer their focus away from opportunity, towards threat avoidance.
But it’s not all bad news for those prone to self-doubt.
Ms Gaffney cites a study on personality development which suggests that life experiences can often quell the intensity of one’s self-doubt. As we reach our 30’s and 40’s we begin to recognise our competencies and feel more comfortable in our skin.
So, what steps can a person who self-doubts take? ‘Flourishing’ provides a number of suggestions.
1.Find ways to manage and enhance your mood. Proactively,
- spend more time with friends
- look on the brighter side of things
- cease to self-compare yourself with others.
2. Question your reaction to an event.
- Is your interpretation truly valid, or has it more to do with how your mind works?
3. Use ‘approach’ not ‘avoidance’ goals. They focus your attention on opportunities and possibilities. They’ll encourage you to reach out and explore, to meet new people, and try new things.
And so, back to the radio interview.
As I parked the car, the C.E.O’s gentle voice nudged my ear again…….
“I think it’s important to always question yourself, and put yourself under pressure but……..when you’re leading a team it’s important that they believe in you, and that they don’t pick up that you’re doubting the direction that you’re taking……..I’ve never been one of those people who has been able to go home at night and not worry about work…….about decisions that I’ve taken. I do and I think it keeps you on your toes……”
The interviewer delved no further but I’m curious.
The character in ‘The Crown’ hid her self-doubt for years. She occasionally revealed it, as she sought counsel from the few who earned her trust.
Does the interviewee have a trusted listener(s)? One who walks in her shoes with her. Who provides empathy, shares insights and offers context specific counsel?
Desmond Howett ©
8 October 2020