Believe Better

We can be our worst enemy if we listen to our fears and limiting beliefs. Successful leaders reprogram their internal messages and mindsets to overcome fears, insecurities and limiting beliefs. They stretch themselves to believe bigger for themselves.

Changing your mindset and limiting beliefs is hard work because it takes constant attention to what you are feeding your mind. It is really building a new habit so that your actions can follow your beliefs.

Try it and see what happens!

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The Self-Confident Leader

What is it about self-confidence that is so appealing?  

  • We are drawn to people who believe in themselves.
  • Confident people are simply happy with where they are in life and believe they are capable of reaching their goals.
  • Confident people seem to know what they want, and are not afraid to ask for it, or go after it.
  • They’re typically comfortable in their own skin and well-adjusted.
  • They have a sense of ease which is appealing.
  • They are not afraid to express themselves.
  • Confident people transform the energy in the room.
  • They are authentic, they do not try to be something or someone else.

Think about someone you know who is confident. What is it about that person that says confidence? Then think about someone you know who lacks confidence. What is it different about the two?

The person who comes to my mind that exudes confidence is my husband. Why? 

  • He is confident about his abilities and is comfortable with who he is.
  • He is decisive, takes action, and follows through.
  • He is a positive person and tries to find the positive in all situations.
  • He values integrity and honesty above all things.
  • He isn’t afraid to try new things. He sees it as a challenge and is willing to work to master it.
  • He doesn’t worry about what others think about him.
  • He has a positive energy that transforms the room.

How did he get this way? Part of it is personality,part is hard work and taking calculated risks, facing his fears and building upon his successes.

Self-confidence is:

  • an individual’s level of certainty about their ability to handle things.  
  • essential for the leader to influence collaborators, or followers.
  • the leadership trait that was most often identified in a 2002 study.
  • developed at an early age and is influenced by others, experience, our successes and failures, and how they are interpreted in our minds.
  • the level of general self-confidence that we each acquire in childhood remains fairly stable over our lifetime.
  • formed through our successes and failures, how others react to us and what we expect of our future performances. 

Axelrod in her chapter on leadership and self-confidence, discusses the idea of self-leadership to build self-confidence.  Self-leadership involves changing our way of thinking to believe in what we want.  She states:

“…after we fail at a task, most of us automatically berate ourselves, but if we practice self-leadership, we can observe that we failed only because it was a learning experience and assure ourselves that we will succeed next time…positive expectation helps guide our thoughts in a constructive direction and manage our emotions, so it helps builds task-specific self-confidence, which can enhance performance because people who believe they can perform well tend to do better than those who expect to fail…self-leadership may be the leader’s single most important skill, …to shape our internal life story to foster success…”

Leaders

Take Risks: Leaders who are confident tend to have positive expectations and are willing to take risks. The willingness to take risks, along with believing in their own competence helps build success.

Our level of self-confidence also affects our willingness to complete a task when we fear failure. Those with a high level of confidence will adjust their goals to be more manageable and achievable.

Manage their emotions:  A leader who remains emotionally stable, manages his/her anxiety and anger during difficult confrontations, and focuses on constructive language will be more successful. This self-control will put the leader in a positive light. On the other hand, lack of self control can damage trust, commitment, and the leader’s reputation.

Are Authentic: When leaders reach a level of success and seniority, they may have to take a stand about their personal values, beliefs and principles. This may attract criticism and polarize people. When faced with harsh critics, the best advice is to ignore them if your decisions are ethical, and principle based. Don’t let them get in your head, if they do, banish them like you banish your inner critic. 

Takeaways to Build your Self-Confidence

Imaging/rehearsal: Picture the activity in your mind and what a successful outcome looks like. Rehearse what might happen, what might be said and how you might to respond to the scenarios your mind generates. This acts as a rehearsal for the real thing and prepares us for what might happen. Athletes and many who have life coaches or mentors, are coached to use this method to visualize success.

Constructive self-talk: Catch your inner self-talk to identify destructive patterns. Confront and silence the inner critic, boost your confidence, and reduce anxiety. Speak to your inner critic and tell it that it is wrong, it is a liar, you are going to send it for a time out, it is going to a parking lot, etc. A tip someone shared with me was to wear a rubber band on my wrist and snap it every time the inner critic started. Then call out the critic and re frame the thought to a more positive message. Catch it before it changes the message in your head.

Competence: Focus on what you do well; your competence and abilities. Avoid comparing yourself with others. Be proud of what you do well.

Eliminate triggers: Avoid negative thinking or spending time around things or people that can make you feel bad about yourself-anything that leaves you thinking you’re not good enough. Re-frame your thinking-change your mindset.

Bounce back from your mistakes: No one is perfect. Even the most confident people have insecurities, and there’s no one alive who hasn’t made a mistake. Don’t let one wrong turn, or even a few of them, make you think you don’t have what it takes to achieve your goals and reach your success.

Surround yourself with people who believe in you: Nothing is as powerful as people who think you’re great, who believe you can do the impossible, and who have all the confidence in the world in you. Surround yourself with those people and be intentional about maintaining those connections. Stick with the people who lift your perspective and avoid (or at least tune out) those who make you feel bad or doubt yourself.

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Jim Rohn

Take pride in yourselfSome people think that taking pride in yourself means that you can’t be humble. You can recognize and appreciate who you are and what you’ve accomplished without being arrogant. Sometimes it’s the motivation we need when things get tough.

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Character – Courage

Leaders have courage. They face their fear by meeting it head on, by putting aside their emotions, and taking one step at a time to conquer fear. Otherwise it will derail them from their goals and vision. There are steps to overcome the fear and keep going. The more experience you get being courageous, the more fearless and courageous you become.

Integrity and courage are critical to leadership.

Courage has three features: a noble goal, personal risk, and choice.

I’m not talking about running into a burning building courage. I’m talking about Brené Brown’s:

”ordinary courage; the courage to be vulnerable and disappointed. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.”

When you accept the invitation to be a real leader, whether at work, at home, or in your community, you are accepting the condition of feeling uncomfortable. I would suggest that sometimes it is way more than uncomfortable – it is outright fear. Whatever you need courage for, you will have to walk through your fear to get to the other side.  

Courage means that you:

Face your fear and just keep going afraid. Fear is a powerful emotion that can paralyze, derail and take over your life.

Persist. Keep going, find a way to overcome your obstacles.

Think differently.

Have a difficult conversation that you have been avoiding.

Take a calculated risk that considers trade-offs.

The Courage Plan

This article focuses on those acts of courage that require you to come face to face with your giant or fear, and it offers a road map on how to do it.

I suggest that taking courageous action needs a courage plan. Before acting, there are steps that will help embolden you. This plan helps prepare your mindset to take courageous action and for success. 

A study on power found that those who prepared their minds for success were more likely to have success. The study focused on a pre-performance ritual, like writing about a time when you felt powerful. Study participants who performed this ritual were more successful in obtaining a job than those that didn’t have a similar ritual. 

Athletes, performers and others in leadership positions have rituals to help them focus their minds on success, settle their nerves, and improve their performance.

Courage is not only needed for leadership in a work environment. It is needed for any situation that requires courage no matter how big or small that giant or fear is in your life. 

Step One: Identify the problem.

The first step in the courage plan is the realization that something is not right in your world and you want to change it but, are afraid. It doesn’t have to be a big thing like running into a burning building, it can be leaving a paid job to stay home, going back to school after working for a while, getting married, having a baby, moving away from home, or changing hairdressers.  Everyone has a different level of tolerance for change and fear. However, the motivator is dissatisfaction with something in your world, and requires courageous action of some sort to make a change.

Step 2: Gather information and analyze the situation.

As the dissatisfaction grows, so does the idea that there needs to be a change. But what needs to change? This is the analysis step – figuring it out.  This process can be long and involved, or short and sweet; depending on what you decide needs to change.

The other reason I say that it is a planning process, is that it saves you from being impulsive, and prepares you mentally to accept the challenge and move forward.

Step 3: Next steps.

This is the how of change. Throughout this whole process of planning, you are becoming more comfortable with the idea of change while mentally preparing yourself for action.  As you are becoming more comfortable with the idea, you begin to think about what you need to do to achieve your goal. You begin to plan your next steps:

For work – It may be a big initiative, a change in direction, or mandate, new branding, etc. It will involve all your staff to help make that change. As a leader, you will need to talk to staff and prepare a plan to help manage the process and expectations.  When will you let them know? Are you ready for the questions they may have? How will you calm their fears? How will you calm your own fears? How will get them on board with the change? Who will be your champions?

Or, the change may be a difficult conversation, that will require courage; what do you need to discuss, what will you say?

For your personal life – Do you need to move?  What do you need to do? What arrangements do you need to make?

Step 4:  Decidewill you act or not?

As a part of your decision making you may also have to:

Prepare a backup plan.

Be mentally prepared to live with any decision you make.

Practice what you need to say or do to get the courage you need.

Take a deep breath, walk straight towards your fear and take action on your best plan.

At this point you need to decide; will you act or not? If you see this as the only option, it is because the status quo no longer suits you. All the planning you did has prepared you for action.

Or…. Maybe you are not ready yet, and need more time and mental preparation

Or…Maybe you’ve decided you don’t want the change after all

Or…Maybe the time isn’t right 

These are all courageous decisions.  

Ordinary courage needs you to be brave to act against the giants and fears in your life. The giants and fears may be people, places or things. Giants and fears say and do things to hurt, humiliate or scare. They leave you trembling, anxious and fearful because they are scary. As you take back your power with acts of courage, and face new giants and fears, they become less and less scary.

Each small act of courage builds upon the previous, until you become more comfortable with courageous acts. You are building your courage muscles.

Where real life meets theory

Here’s the thing… I learned about courage one step at a time. My journey started with a small act that was low risk, but it was still a giant that I had to face. Then I had more acts of courage that kept building upon the previous ones. With each step, act, and victory came more confidence. With each success I was able to face bigger giants and take on bigger acts of courage. 

Step 1:  Identify the problem:

One of my earlier acts of bravery was undergoing laser eye surgery. I longed for perfect vision without glasses or contacts. I wasn’t sure I could have it because my vision was so poor. It took me about two and a half years to make the decision to have surgery. I needed that much time to mentally prepare myself.

Step 2: Gather information and analyze the situation:

I had warring thoughts in my head: you want to be able to see without glasses or contacts, but what if something goes wrong.

To make an informed decision, I spent this time researching. How safe is the surgery? What are the risks? What do those who have gone through the surgery say?

I talked to people who had this surgery, and listened to their experiences, and outcomes, I asked how they prepared for it. I investigated the reputation and success rate of the clinics offering the surgery. I mentally prepared myself.

Step 3: Next steps.

I went for an assessment. Was I even a candidate?  Yes, Yea! I decided after weighing the pros and cons that I would go ahead with the surgery.

Step 4:  Decidewill you act or not?

Once I made the decision to have the surgery, I quickly booked the appointment, sooner than later, so I wouldn’t lose my nerve. I will never forget how I felt two weeks before my surgery; I started to feel physically ill, weak, panicked and terrified. I think that my friends were ready to run when they saw me, because I was asking them yet something else about laser surgery; how they overcame their fear, what it was like, etc., etc. etc.  I thought about cancelling the surgery, but I was torn!  I so wanted to see without glasses or contacts, and I was truly terrified.

On the day of the surgery, I felt like I was walking to my death. I tried to numb myself emotionally so that I could manage. The surgery turned out well and I love that I have vision without glasses/contacts.  I think that this was one of the toughest experiences I went through, and it made me braver to conquer my fears.

Takeaway

While I didn’t feel a sense of power before the surgery, once it was over, I felt like I had taken back my power. It was like a switch was flipped. I became less afraid of giants in my life. I took that experience, because it was so profound, and have used it every single time as an example of success and power when I need to take another act of courage.

As I said before, the more experience you get being courageous, the more you grow and can take on bigger and bigger acts or courage.

Leadership and Character

It is simple acts and decisions repeated over time, that build and define your character. It is your personal values and beliefs that show up in your leadership. Character is the foundation for leadership, it is the moral compass for how leaders lead and live life. Poor character is one of the reasons for leadership failure.

Watch your thoughts, they become words.

Watch your words, they become actions.

Watch your actions, they become habits.

Watch you habits, they become character.

Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

Frank Outlaw

Character the Foundation for Leadership

I love studying leadership and management. I devour books, scholarly articles, and business articles to soak up information on good leadership and management. I’m not sure why it fascinates me, but it does.

Originally, this passion set me on a search to find the perfect manager and the perfect leader. In fact, I went on to get my master’s degree because of that search and passion. I used to equate leadership with management, but they are not the same. You can be a leader without being a manager and a manager without being a leader.

I can honestly say that good leaders and good managers are hard to find. For the longest time I didn’t think they could co – exist. Now I do. I found that the qualities that make for a good manager are embodied in good character.

I also used to think that leadership only happened in a work environment, but I know better now. You can be a leader at work or outside of a work environment.

Character sets the foundation for leadership and is key to personal and professional success. Your character says everything about who you are as a a person and a leader – because we function from the inside out.

Your character has been developing since you were born. Your parents, family, teachers, friends, life decisions and media have helped to shape your character.

A person with good character is described as someone who has integrity, honesty, courage, loyalty, dependability, responsibility, truthfulness, conscientiousness and more. Someone described as having a bad character has the exact opposite traits.

The traits that make up the core of your personality are your personal value and belief systems – they are your character. So, whatever is inside of you, will eventually come out. It is who you are when you are alone and no one else can see your actions. It is simple acts and decisions repeated over time that build and define your character. A person acts according to their values. Here’s something to think about: what do you do with garbage when you are walking down a street? Do you throw garbage on the ground and keep walking, or do you throw it in a trash can? Or what about a grocery cart? Do you take it back to where the other carts are stored, or do you leave it where it is and it becomes someone else’s problem?

Character Matters

Character is so important in life, that many professions and trades will check out a person’s character before allowing them into their chosen field. Regulatory bodies will allow someone into a profession or trade if they are satisfied that the person will practice with decency, honesty, integrity, and in accordance with the law. If the person doesn’t have those qualities, they may never get into to their chosen field or they may lose their right to practice in that field. That is how important character is.

There are many examples where poor character has been found out and the consequences of that can be quite severe, for example, people may lose their job, their credibility and be publicly humiliated as a result. Universities have software to check on plagiarism. If you are caught plagiarizing, you can be expelled from university. I know of people who have lost a job because they lied on their resume. Some people call this karma, I call it the principle of sowing and reaping; if you sow dishonesty, be prepared to face the consequences of your actions.

Lack of good character is the biggest reason for leadership failure. Why?

Without integrity, it is hard to gain trust and be a leader

Without courage, it is hard to achieve your vision

Without emotional control, you lose credibility

Strong Leaders with Good Character

The world is crying out for strong leaders with good character. When I think of strong leaders, I think of someone who is calm and steady, who has integrity, empathy, and whom people want to follow. They don’t always have the loudest voice. They listen and ask questions. Even when those around them may be emotional, they remain calm. They know who they are. Their character is the foundation for their leadership, and it serves as the moral compass for how they lead and live life. They are the ones that inspire me to become better; they raise the bar on behaviour and performance.

I read an article that talked about Ben Franklin (yes, the same one who invented the lightning rod and electricity). This article talked about how Ben Franklin focused on one of 13 qualities he associated with character. Each week he would pick one and focus on it for that week to strengthen it. They were things like: humility, calm (serenity), honesty (sincerity), listening (silence). Although he didn’t always live completely by his values, he tried, and in the trying, he felt that it made him a better person, more successful and happier in life.

So What?

A while back, I was feeling out of sorts. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I just didn’t feel right. I realized I was feeling the effects of cumulative bad behavior. I’d been through one rough patch after another, and I had started to take on some behaviours that I wasn’t proud of. Being around some really terrible managers exposed me to some nasty behaviours that I found myself imitating. Experts say that hurting people hurt others. It’s true. I was hurting and lashing out, I’d justify my behaviour by saying, “well they deserved it, or I don’t care what they think, etc., etc.”

The truth was that I cared. At the very core of my soul I wasn’t that person, and I was tired of myself.

So, like Ben Franklin, I decided to work on one character trait at a time. But, I did it differently from Ben, I did it for much longer than a week. I have been doing it for more than a year. My project was being kind. I am still working on it, and it is becoming more of a habit now. Like Ben, I’m not perfect and have to work at it because it takes time and patience. For me, kindness is the single most important character trait. It is a simple gift you can give yourself and others. A simple act of kindness can make a big difference in someone’s day.

I heard a speaker talk about homeless people. The speaker had many interactions with the homeless and said that the one thing that struck her, was that they felt invisible. No one wanted to acknowledge their presence. People would walk by and not make eye contact, they wouldn’t say hello, or smile. They told her that they just want to be acknowledged.

Kindness is a way of life. It lifts others up and it lifts you up. You may never know the difference an act of kindness will make, it can change a day, a week, or a life.

I resolved to do an act of kindness weekly, then twice a week. Now I try to do something kind every day. Yes, it takes time, effort and patience, but I remind myself, I can change my own little world one act at a time, and maybe make someone else’s day better.

Did it change me? Yes!

Do I like myself more? Yes!

Is the quality of my life better? Yes!

Are my relationships with people better? Yes!

What happened? I changed my inside thinking and my actions followed.

I have now moved on to my new character – building exercise – listening more actively.

Takeaways

Do you like who you are?

Are you feeling out of sorts?

Is your outer person aligned with your inner person?

Take a page out of history and try what Ben Franklin did, train yourself to be a better person – the person you will be happy with.

The small actions you take, and the motivations behind them, will define what kind of a person and leader you are.

The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude;

Be kind, but not weak;

Be bold, but not a bully,

Be thoughtful, but not lazy,

Be humble but not timid;

Be proud, but not arrogant; and

Have humour, but without folly.

Jim Rohn

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