I watched the small bird for scarcely a minute, wings flapping frantically as he dipped and swerved side to side in an attempt to ride the wind. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of the hawk, climbing against the face of the cliff with four or five powerful strokes before seeming to rest on the breeze, gliding with grace and ease. The different approach was striking, and I considered whether my own process was more like the former or the latter. I want to create from the external environment with ease, like the hawk dancing on the wind. But too often I’m that little bird, fighting hard to find my place in the larger world that lives outside my thoughts and fears.
Many who know me would say I’m confident, and that’s mostly true. But what’s also true is that I doubt my choices, question my abilities, and worry if I’m smart enough more often than I’d like to admit. I have years of practice, learning how to tune out the self-defeating voice in my head. And I’m not alone. I’ve coached hundreds of people over the past twenty-five years. If there’s one thing the majority had in common, it was a soft and rarely exposed vulnerability; a wondering if they were enough. A healthy self-confidence grows out of the hard work that comes from paying attention to all the ways one avoids, over-compensates, and otherwise lets fear and doubt hold them back.
I have been on a journey this year to re-evaluate, analyze, and challenge my assumptions about my work. Part of that process is looking at my own leadership. I recently took two assessments; one was a 360, where I gathered feedback from clients, colleagues, and my team mates. The other was a self-assessment. Both pointed me in an interesting and similar direction.
When I first looked at the feedback from others what struck me was that I didn’t rate myself as high as others did. There were wonderful comments and acknowledgements, and while I felt pleased at the confidence others had in me, I was also sad at the confidence gap between their view and my own.
The other was a self-assessment called Human Patterns, which I’m in the process of certifying in (stay tuned). It integrates MBTI, DiSC, and several other well know instruments. I got a lot of rich information about how I respond as a leader. I’ve taken a lot of assessments over the years, and some familiar information showed up that validated things I already knew, but what caught my attention was how my characteristics amplify under intensity and high-pressure. I become more alive. I knew this, and had always thought of myself as a bit of an adrenaline junkie, but what I didn’t know is I also take uncalculated risks under pressure. My confidence goes up, but in ways that may not be discerning.
I’ve spent time the past few weeks contemplating how to incorporate this new information about confidence. To be the leader I want to be, I must notice when doubt causes me to hesitate, or when pressure and intensity shifts my survival mode into high-gear and I throw caution to the wind. Like all things there is a balance to be found, a confidence that awaits each of us that is authentic, and grows out of a safe place that lives inside one’s self. That’s the difference I felt that day between the little bird and the hawk. The little bird wondered if it could catch the wind and was determined to do so. The hawk was the wind.
If you want to learn more about how to increase confidence in yourself or others, contact me at 303-238-9733 or email me at [email protected].
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Deb Siverson is a seasoned executive coach, certified as a PCC through the International Coach Federation. If you want to schedule time to discuss how you or your organization can increase engagement by having a different conversation at work, contact us now.