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Eliminating Self-Doubt

Will I apply for that position or won’t I? Will I apply for that position or won’t I? Does this statement sound familiar? The reason its repeated is that people often find themselves asking these types of questions repeatedly throughout their careers.

This was evident at a workshop I recently ran for aspiring school leaders at Canterbury University. Throughout the time we worked together great discussions took place around preparing middle leaders in schools for principalship however I couldn’t help but sense trepidation about ‘taking the leap’ and committing to becoming a school principal. This is often the case especially for people who are highly competent however doubtful of their ability.

This feeling differs for the people who are currently in middle leadership positions who have enough other challenges to keep them busy and fulfilled for e.g. further study or family commitments.

In the first part of this article, I, will unpack an important question: Why are very capable middle managers/leaders often hesitant to apply for major leadership positions? and secondly, what does it take to encourage these great people to go that next step?

One of the biggest factors is being put off by the enormity of a job. Sometimes people can tend to focus more on the difficult and challenging parts of a potential leadership position, for example, having difficult conversations, ensuring health and safety procedures are sound and the finances are in shape.

Another reason is negative self-talk. I think we can all be guilty of talking ourselves out of potentially amazing positions, as we don’t feel we are good enough, confident enough and capable enough of doing the job when in fact we are. 

Being influenced by other peoples thinking can also cause self-doubt. I’m talking about these types of statements: “Why would you apply for that position”? “You wouldn’t want to lead that organisation would you?” “Think twice before applying for that job as I haven’t heard very good things about that place.”

Lastly, potential leaders can miss winning great positions because they get stuck in the environment they are working in and can’t see all the incredible opportunities that exist out there. 

The following strategies can be used to ensure your decision-making skills are robust and you are applying for leadership positions because they are ‘best fit’.

  1. Make the call. Do I want to become a leader or not? It’s as simple as that. If you keep flip-flopping around this decision, you will never go there. I often use WHY or purpose statements to clearly define my career intentions and get me into the place of making clear decisions. For e.g “I educate and passionately influence people”
  2. Make a list of your dream leadership positions and start to visualise your self working in those positions.
  3. When you know a position is coming up, start researching and investigating that organisation. If there are issues or negative aspects currently in that organisation, don’t let that put you off. The greatest leaders have the ability to turn workplaces around. 
  4. I am a firm believer in meaningful goal-setting when it comes to the next steps in my career. However, make sure goals and subsequent actions are challenging and far-reaching instead of easy to achieve.
  5. When you are setting career goals back these up with evidence to prove to yourself that you can achieve these. This will decrease self-doubt.
  6. Visualisation is really important. Be open to looking for the position you want and be aware of the signs that lead you to this. I use vision boards as a strategy to allow me to focus on professional and personal goals. When these visualisations are around us, we start focusing on them more. 
  7. I enjoy talking to people who I respect and admire about career aspirations. These people often create more questions than answers for us, but that can often be a good thing as it allows us to go deeper with our thinking. 
  8. I think it’s really important to acknowledge that self-doubt is OK when it comes to deciding our next career steps. We all experience it, however, our aim is to move past this into greater clarity and understanding. 
  9. If I continue to have negative thoughts, I list them down and then turn them into bridge statements. For example, if you are being negatively influenced by others, create a statement like “I am more than capable of making my own decisions”. 

As a leadership consultant, I have a responsibility to continue to grow and develop potential leaders and get them to the stage where they feel confident to take the next steps in their careers. Let’s move away from self-doubt and see the real potential in people!

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