The 3 Curses of Confidence

There is a lot to be said about confidence.  It is important that we have confidence in who we are and what we can do.  Confidence allows us to accomplish activities, gives us courage to experiment and try out new things and helps us to negotiate challenges by providing us with an inner strength and determination.  We can see people who have confidence and those who lack confidence.  We see it in people depending on whether they are familiar with certain situations or task.  We see how a baker is confident with baking bread but may not be confident when it comes to technology.  Confidence is a product of learned skills and the more you are familiar in a certain area, the most confident you are.  So, the first aspect of confidence is that it can be a learned.  No one is born confident.  We grow in confidence with time and practice.

A Lack of confidence on the other hand is not necessarily a bad thing.  It just means that there is opportunity to learn to be skillful or just to have experiences gained through exposure to a new situation.  For example, a lack of confidence in fixing a bulb is a result of not knowing how to and never doing it before.  Once we learn how to do and give it go, our confidence level will increase and when the need arises again, we would be more confident in performing that task.  

For example, I recently had a need to fix a tap which was wobbly.  I had no clue how to do it.  I could call a plumber, or I could learn how to do it on my own.  I decided to check out the source of all knowledge, YouTube, to see how easy or difficult it was.  I did my research on YouTube and found several easy to follow videos, figured out the tools that I needed and decided to just do it.  I bought all the necessary tools, borrowed some tools, and went about replacing the old with the new tap.  After many minutes of unscrewing and screwing, I was successful in replacing the old with the new tap.  I was so proud of myself.  Afterall, who would have imagined that I could be a plumber in disguise.  Due to that experience, I am now confident that if the need arises again, I can do it.  My confidence in replacing the tap was developed through learning the steps and then applying the knowledge.  Now, I could develop an unrealistic confidence of being able to do more than just replace the tap to major plumbing projects just because of one small success.  That would clearly be unrealistic. An unhealthy level of confidence is where the curse lies.  

The curse of confidence arises when you develop an unhealthy and unrealistic level of confidence.  The 3 pitfalls are:

  1. Stop Learning and Growing.
  2. Never asking for help.
  3. Not taking responsibility.

Stop Learning and Growing.  People with a false sense of confidence believe that they know it all.  When you believe that know everything and that you are right all the time, you are not able to ask yourselves questions or seek feedback in areas to improve and develop further.  There is no one who is perfect.  There is certainly no one who knows everything.  There is no one who is right all the time.  Ask any successful person and they will be the first to admit, how much they do not know and how much more they have to improve.  The heart of our development is the acknowledgement that we have so much so learn and develop and the only way to do that is know which areas to work on.  

Never asking for help.  If you believe that you know it all, you cannot accept the possibility that someone else knows more than you.  You are not able to accept any teaching or training because you believe that you know everything.  You will not be able to ask for help even if you know you need help.  It is just the curse of confidence.  You believe that you are the only one who is able to find the answer and know what to do.  That may be true, but the time and effort spent will be more than just seeking help from an expert.

Not taking responsibility for your mistakes and actions.  This is probably the one that impacts those around you the most.  When mistakes are made, instead of taking responsibility and owning the mistake, the blame game takes over.  Deflecting the problem and directing it at others.  This will not help solve any problems, but it will alienate you from people who could be the source of help that is needed.  Not owning one’s mistake does not demonstrate strength or good leadership but the opposite.  Everyone knows that mistakes will be made.  It is inevitable.  How we own up to the responsibility of the consequences of the mistake is what makes for a good leader.

There is a need for healthy confidence.  It is that balance that is delicate.  How do we achieve that balance?  What’s the cure?

The cure or solution lies in the following:

Allow your trusted advisers the gift of giving you authentic feedback.  Your friends or trusted advisers are gifts to your leadership health check-up.  Similar to seeing a doctor for a medical check-up, getting feedback from your trusted advisers is vital.  Allow or give them permission as they should have your well-being at heart.  The feedback that they are able to provide you will be invaluable.

Self-Awareness is a good radar system.   Exercise self-awareness.  It is a great self-checking system that you have.  Have a meeting with yourself and ask these simple questions:  What have I learned this week or month?  What situation or circumstances have you caught yourself being offended or defensive?  Are the people in my team staying away, avoiding or being hyper careful around me?  Have you noticed any changes in how you react to situations differently (negatively) than the past?

In a nutshell, confidence is essential but over-confidence is a curse and a stumbling block.  Keep yourself in check frequently and consistently.  Be aware of the red flags of your over-confidence zone.  Allow your trusted advisers to give you feedback and use your self-awareness radar to never stop learning and self-check up on your leadership through frequently seeking feedback.

3 killers of effective feedback

In the workplace, one of the essential management tools to develop an individual is the effective use of feedback.  Feedback is a great tool to help individuals identify and take steps to improve their skills and competencies.  As individuals we know that we need to continuously improve, develop skills and competencies for us to be effective in not just our current role but also future roles.  Therefore, if feedback is one of the essential tools, why is it that people shun it or view feedback through a negative perspective?

Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

There are many reasons as to why feedback is viewed negatively, these are just some of the top 3:

  1. Bad past experiences.  You had received feedback, which was negative, was vague and left you feeling confused and probably hurt.  The worse part of it, you had no idea what to do about it.  You did not know specifically what areas to work on and there was no assistance given to improve. Some bad experiences could be a result of feedback which was emotionally driven rather than objective and constructive in nature.
  2. Comments or opinions disguised as feedback.  Often, we are confused between hearing opinions or comments from people and placing those into the feedback category.  Feedback is distinctly different from opinions or thoughts or comments.  Opinions or thoughts are just that.  It is someone’s perspective and interpretation of an action or situation.  It is their version of the “story” vs. fact.
  3. Superficial feedback.  Feedback that only gives you high level statements that are not helpful to get to the heart of the issue for real action items and development to take place.  A common example of a superficial feedback is “Good work!” or “You need to improve in your communication skills.”  What does it really mean?  If the feedback is vague or too generic, it is hard to know how to put the right development plan in place.

Regardless of the above reasons, feedback is a skill that is learned.  Essentially there are 4 key elements to effective feedback, and they are:

  1. Specific:  Feedback needs to be specific and based on an observable action or behaviour.  Specificity helps to zoom into the action or behaviour that needs to be reinforced or rectified.  It is impossible to develop a competency without breaking it down to specific areas.
  2. Impact:  Succinctly explain what the action or behaviour made you think or feel.  what was the implication or impact to me?  This will help put the specific observable action into your perspective.  You can only speak for yourself so ensure that it is your perspective of the impact and not others.
  3. Acknowledgement:  This portion is to gain understanding as to whether what you have observed is acknowledged or identifiable by the person.  Once we can agree on the specific area, then we are able to move to the final step.  Acknowledgement and agreement is an essential step as this helps both the giver and the receiver of the feedback to understand, discuss and take the next steps.
  4. Joint Action:  This is key to enabling any feedback to take concrete steps to improvement or development.  It is a joint action plan as no one can improve on their own.  As a manager, you have the responsibility to help your direct reports to improve, develop and support their development plans.  One of the most impactful activity any manager can perform is to support your team in their efforts to improve.

Let us put this into a simple scenario. 

Manager:  I noticed that during your presentation you were moving around the stage a fair bit which was distracting to me and made feel nervous for you.  What do you think? 

Direct Report:  Yeah you are right, I was nervous and so pacing around the stage was my way of dealing with it.  I am not sure what I can do to manage my nerves.

Manager:  thank you for openly sharing that with me.  Let us think about some tactics that we could use to help you manage that and put a plan in place.

As you can see in the simple example above, it is rather easy to put 4 elements into any conversation but it will take preparation on the part of the giver of the feedback to be clear and succinct with the intention of enabling the feedback to its desired outcome.  The giver of the feedback must be willing to provide the support and help required which is the key to unlocking the effectiveness of any feedback.

To help you overcome the 3 killers of effective feedback, you will need to:

  1. Change your perspective around feedback.  No matter what your previous experiences are, the first step to being a better giver and receiver of feedback is to know that feedback is.  The intent or desired outcome of any feedback is to either reinforce or rectify a specific behaviour.  The process to achieving that outcome requires clarity and a support structure as an enabler.
  2. Learn what elements are required for effective feedback.  Nothing is preventing you from learning how to be an effective feedback giver and receiver.  There are countless books, papers, audiobooks, podcasts and so on where you learn and broaden your knowledge around not just this subject but any subject.
  3. Practice the key elements of effective feedback.  Just like any other skill, it needs to be practiced.  Its uncomfortable and unnatural at the start but you will over time figure out your own style and will become a natural part of your management toolkit.

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”  Ken Blanchard.  Just like the importance of breakfast, feedback is the key to any growth journey.

Please subscribe to enjoy these short articles on growth and development to get the week going.

3 ways to be a Great Follower

There is so much expectation and pressure on every one of us to be leaders.  In every arena, leaders are admired and respected and for the most part that is appropriate.  However, we have all experienced or know of leaders who have disappointed, misused their position and broke the trust of those who follow. 

I know that each of us aspire to be great leaders.  Leading people with charisma, integrity, and being inspirational and all things that are admired.  However, let’s face it, not every leader today has those qualities and not many are successful in that role.  There is one leadership role that we each play and that is to be the leader in our own lives.  We need to lead ourselves by continuously learning, developing, building our capabilities and skills with an intention to make a difference with the people that we do have in our circle.  We don’t need to be “in a leadership” position before we can make a positively impact on someone’s life.

There is one role that we all have and that is to be a follower.  No matter what level of leadership you are in, you are a follower of some kind.  The term follower has somewhat been turned into a taboo word.  A word that almost denotes that you are not as important or as good. 

In today’s “everyone must aspire to be a leader” culture, we have forgotten the importance and critical role that followers play.  If everyone is a leader, who are they leading?  Imagine the chaos in the workplace if everyone is a leader at the same time playing the same role.  We have undermined the role of a follower and in fact made it into a taboo word that only someone who is “not good enough” to be leader naturally falls into the “follower” role.

I would like to change that perspective and identify 3 key areas that makes for a great follower.  Yes, not just a follower but a great follower.  Before we do that, I want to demystify the word follower.  A follower is someone who follows a leader, but a follower is not someone who has a lower IQ, less skills or lower competencies but different set of competencies that might not fall into the leadership category of competencies.  In fact, whether you are leader, or a follower depends on the situation, roles to be played, expertise or skills and environment.  For example, you could be a great business leader but if you are in the jungle and needs to survive, you might be best suited to be a follower of a someone who knows how to survive in the jungle.

A great follower should have these attributes:

  1. Great individual contributor.  He has his specialize set of competencies, performs his role well, works well with others and is well respected.  He knows that he is competent in the area that he is working on, loves what he does and does it well.
  2. Confident and adaptable.  He is confident in his own abilities, has strong sets of values that he lives and works by and is therefore comfortable with change, thinking out of the box and is adaptable.  In today’s ever-changing landscape, to have a follower that is adaptable is an enormous asset for any leader and organization.
  3. Challenges constructively.  In any discussion or brainstorming session, there is a great need for people to think out of the box, to share perspective that not tunneled by the organization’s culture, to help the leader by challenging assumptions and cultural norms all with the purpose of getting the best possible solutions for any problems.  Followers are not to just blindly follow whatever the leader decides but to follow with commitment and conviction and that can only occur if the solution is agreed upon and is in alignment with the company’s values and goals.

Think about the role that you are playing today.  Are you a leader?  Are you a follower?  Are you a leader/follower?  I dare say that for most of us we are in the hybrid role of leader/follower.  We are leaders in a certain area but are followers in certain situations.  To be the best leader/follower is to understand and value the role of the follower.  If we only value the leader, there is a misalignment in the essential role that a great follower would play.  In fact, the world has more “followers” than leaders.  I know that in my “leader” role, I love to have great followers which those 3 attributes as mentioned above.  It is challenging but extremely rewarding when the team is performing at its best level.  That happens when we are comfortable with playing the most appropriate roles depending on the situation. 

Micro-changes that Transforms

  

We live in a culture where we celebrate major milestones, major achievements and everything that is big and great.  And so we should.  We should acknowledge and celebrate those big successes.  However, on the downside we have neglected or overlooked what it took to achieve those big successes.  We have forgotten to recognize the micro changes that went into achieving the success.  We have put less emphasis on the small steps that it took to achieve a giant leap.  We all strive to achieve the major without realizing that it’s the micro that is required to make the major.

Photo by JorgeArturo Andrade on Pexels.com

There is no success without small steps taken.  In fact, micro-changes are required before you are able to even observe or experience any changes.  A very simple example and experiment that you could do today. For a day, perform all the task that you would normally do but with your non-dominant hand.  Try brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand.  I have no doubt that you would feel extremely awkward.  You would require extra focus and concentration in order to get a simple task that is habit for you to be completed.  And even when you do finish brushing your teeth after all that effort, it was probably not a very good brushing for your teeth.  And then try the next task, combing or brushing your hair.  How did that feel?  Try eating with the other hand, slicing an onion, cooking an egg and so on.  You will realise that something so insignificant could actually be so difficult.  That one change in how you would perform your everyday task took a lot more time and effort.  It was harder and uncomfortable.  It was outside of your comfort zone.  It was a micro switch in your mindset.  By the end of the day, you will realise that even just one small change, a micro change, the implications and impact can be great.

I did that above experiment and so through my experience, I have learned these 3 simple facts:

  1. Micro-changes can make an impact over a series of actions and time.  All our habits and actions are a result of micro-changes that we made at one point in time and repeatedly being practiced.  We are an accumulation of micro-changes.
  2. Micro-changes require intentional and deliberate thoughts and actions.  Even though they are micro or small in nature, our minds still require a lot of effort to focus and be intentional in making the changes. the difference is that because we perceive it to be small therefore simple and therefore possible.
  3. Micro-changes can transform your mindset and life.  These micro-changes over a series of intentional changes can be transformational in your mindset of growth.  Your mindset will determine how you view youself and the situation around you.  Your mindset will shift from tackling a big task to breaking down the task to smaller more manageable components.  Not many people are able to change their actions or thoughts easily.  It is through small steps or micro-changes that accumulates over time and perseverance that achieves noticeable changes.  

For most of us, we don’t even attempt to change a habit or toxic thought because we believe that it’s too hard.  The image of success is too far-fetched and impossible to achieve.  However, if we change our mindset to break down the challenge into micro-changes, the goal becomes easier.  For example, when we are at the foothill looking up to the summit, we think that it’s so far away, too hard and almost impossible to achieve.  However, if we just look down and focus on one step at a time, as we walk, the summit looks slightly closer than before you started.  Eventually over time and yes effort, you would probably be able to reach the summit.  There are many times when faced with challenges, I feel defeated even before starting.  The challenge looks impossible to overcome.  However, I also know from experience that through commitment and determination and making changes along the way, I am able to overcome and achieve the goals set out before me.  

These micro-changes in your mindset are critical to help you create new habits, change behaviour and transform your outcomes.  The most powerful transformation is viewing changes through the lens of micro-changes.  This makes it achievable and possible.  Making micro-changes is far easier that making big changes.  Your mindset or perspective can be transformed exponentially just with a micro-switch.  

The ripple effect of micro-changes can be huge if you persevere and practice.  Practice makes permanence (not perfect).  Practice as a result of micro-changes can make permanence the actions or habits that you want to create or change.  More importantly the transformation of your mindset will be from the negative to positive.  From “no, its too hard” to “yes, its possible if I take small steps”.

Give it a go and discover what you are able to learn from this experiment and experience.

3 Guiding Principles to the New Normal.

Image result for empowerment images

It is safe to say that the last 6 months has been different than previous years.  Different on so many fronts.  We have never heard or used words such as unprecedented, lock-downs, restrictions, shortages, ventilators, flatten the curve, testing, shutdown and sadly deaths.  We have never encountered a tsunami of changes to the way we go about life and work.  We have never had to make immediate changes. 

Literarily overnight the world around changed.  Streets were eerily quiet, people staying home, and online delivery system struggled to meet the demands, supermarket shelves emptied of toilet paper, bread, flour, meat and hand sanitisers.  People working from home and sadly many lost their jobs and their only source of income.  Those are just a small number of changes that took place, not just in one city or one country but the entire world.

Despite the terrible and horrible impact of Covid-19, human nature and the spirit of love and life powered through the darkness.  Each of us coped the best that we could.  We changed our routines and created new ones to adapt to the changing nature of our lives.  We experienced how amazing the sacrificial efforts of healthcare workers, cleaners, supermarket staffs, delivery people and the essential workers behind the scenes running the critical and essential needs of others.  We watched with tears in our eyes when survivors of Covid-19 walked out of the hospital and shared tears with those who lost loved one as well.

This challenging times brought out the best and the worst of our nature.  I choose to look at the best of what trials brings out in us.  The word choose means that I have the power to control what and how I look at the situation around me.  That is the most empowering and powerful mindset to have during crisis.  We cannot choose what happens around us or even things that happens to us but we can choose how we respond to it.

Why is it that some people seem to be able to respond and handle challenges well?  What makes them different?  I believe that there are 3 key principles that enables them to do so.  The 3 guiding principles are:

Freedom to choose our response.  Each of us has the freedom to choose how we want to perceive a situation.  We can view it half empty or half full.  It is a choice.  If we choose to look for problems or issues, we will find it.  Often, we will find more issues than we could imagine.  Whatever you choose to focus on, you will find.  If we choose to look for the silver lining, the good, we will find that too.  Do not fall into the trap of unrealistic optimism but realistic optimism.  Ask yourselves these questions:

  • What is my current situation?  What am I in control of?  What am I not in control of?  What can I influence?  What I am not able to influence?
  • What can I do now?  What can I do if I made some changes?  Be innovative and look for opportunities that you would otherwise not have looked at.

Be resourceful and innovative.  In times when resources are limited or challenges so great, it brings out the best of our creative thinking.  It is when we are faced with a problem, that innovation comes out with the best solution.  Penicillin would not be discovered if there was no problem with bacteria.  We would not have anything today if it were not for people thinking outside the box to find solutions to everyday needs or problems.   Ask yourselves:

  • What resources do I have now? 
  • What resources I do not have now? 
  • Be creative and resourceful, what can I use instead of this or what can I put together to do the same function.

For example, there is no bread in the supermarket, but you have flour and water.  Learn how to make sourdough starter which leads to great sourdough bread.  I think that there are now a great number of sourdough experts as a result of this lockdown.

Be kind and generous.  Look beyond yourself.  Fear does bring out our survival instinct as demonstrated by shortages experienced in supermarket.  However, once the initial fear passes, let’s take some time to think not just about our own needs but to look up and out to see the needs of others.  Your one small act of kindness or generosity has a much greater impact on you and those around you.  I am reminded of Capt. Tom Moore, a 99-year-old war veteran who raised $33 million for the British Health Care System by walking around his garden.  Clearly, age is no barrier but more importantly what one man’s action could do to bring out the generosity of millions for a good cause.  It speaks as much about one man but also the people who so generously gave.  Ask yourselves these questions:

  • Who can I help?  Who is in need that I can reach out to?
  • What do I need to do to look after myself, family, and friends?
  • Who can I be generous with?
  • Who should I connect and keep in touch with?

As countries move to end restrictions and lockdowns, let us now forget what we have learned and experienced.  Let us all remember that we do have control over how we respond to crisis.  We have the freedom to choose, be resourceful and innovative and show others kindness and generosity.