Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Building The Confidence To Lead With Bricks Instead Of Sticks

Getting, keeping, and leveraging your confidence as a leader is one of those tricky things that can make us great, or banish us to mediocrity.

It's tricky because there are two ways to build it – with bricks, or with sticks.

Confidence built with bricks can withstand the inevitable failures and setbacks, while confidence built with sticks can fall down easily, sometimes with even the slightest disturbance.

How can we know the difference, and consequently, build our confidence in the right way?

The key lies in how we handle success – and our egos.

All too often we hit our marks, or pass a milestone, or hit an out and out home run, and push headlong into the next challenge, failing to pause and reflect on what just happened.

It simply registers in our head as a "success". Done.

Our subconscious takes that, and runs with it.

The problem is, there is ALWAYS something that can be learned from success – things that can often expose weaknesses that, if left unaddressed, could cause trouble down the road.

And sometimes, with a really cold hard look, that "success" could have been just plain luck.

By continuing on without refection, we build confidence with sticks – the subconscious just carries on its merry way, and after a string of good fortune, the ego that resides there begins to believe that it can just about do no wrong.

I remember being in a position like this early on in my career – I had been sailing right along on an important project; every move I made was the right one. My confidence was sky high. I didn't pause to reflect on those "right" moves.

Turns out, I got a little too cocky, and pushed part of the project along in a direction that I was absolutely sure was correct.

It was horribly, horribly wrong. And the confidence house, built with mere sticks, came crashing down. THUD!.

My confidence was shattered, almost beyond recognition. My boss saw that too – and I was essentially demoted the next day.

At that point, I knew it was time to rebuild, this time with bricks.

Confidence building with bricks begins with honest self-evaluation after every step.

What did I do right? What could I have done better? Did success cover problems that need to be addressed immediately? Were there positive lessons that I need to be sure to carry over to the next activity?

And, a good bricklayer also knows how to DEFINE success. When that "self-critical" part of our brain kicks in properly, we won't be surprised that our "successes" will be fewer. That's a good thing. It just makes the real ones that much sweeter.

Lastly, someone building confidence with bricks understands the importance of a constant feedback loop, with your boss, and with those you lead.

I learned this one the hard way on that important project – I should have checked in with my boss more frequently to find out if I was on the same page, and get some constructive critique and comment.

Once we understand how to build our confidence properly, any failures or setbacks can "dent" or "scratch" it, but not break it.

And our egos stay "checked at the door" of our brick house.

How are you building your confidence?

Lead well!

Thanks to TerryStarbucker


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