I have a belief that there’s no real success in life or business without challenge, but if we take on those big personal goals, it brings us into an emotional space where mindset is an important element of success. Big goals in business always challenge our leadership skills – and our leadership skills and our ability to inspire so often depend on how we communicate and interact with others. Our team’s willingness to believe in us is dependant on our own ability to believe in ourselves. If you don’t show confidence in your own ability to have a sense of what lies ahead and follow your chosen route to that destination, others will sense that self-doubt, lose their faith in your ability to lead, and they’ll lose unity of purpose and cease to work as a cohesive team.
I was on a climbing trip in the Alps about 10 year ago with a mountaineering friend, and one morning we were walking from one mountain hut to another. We had anticipated a relatively easy morning. It was going to take us 3 or 4 hours, and we knew that no significant difficulty or danger lay ahead. The only thing we needed to take into account was the typically rugged alpine terrain. We were following a very faint line on the map – and I was confident that our route was going to take us to our destination. But my buddy wasn’t – he kept saying things like – “Peter – I’m not sure we are on the right route – we need to go back to that last junction and look again.” Or “Peter – we’re walking down the hill – we should be walking upwards!” Having someone on your team who displays lack of confidence in your route-finding can undermine the whole team, and can undermine the team’s belief in the leader’s ability to find the right path. I looked at the map and I could see that the route seemed to turn sharply to the left a few minutes ahead. The map was so faint, I wasn’t sure, but I suggested we walk those few minutes before making a decision. Luckily for me, that path turned. Once our route switched to the right direction, my friend became quiet, and after a few minutes I could sense he was feeling much more comfortable. When he said – “We’ll be there for lunch!” I knew that he knew we were on the right path.
Sometimes you are doubted by your team, and you need to show confidence even though you don’t feel confident.
Another day, another mountaineering expedition, and it was a dark and cold December evening. I was with a group of climbing friends, it was beginning to snow, and it was very hard to see the route ahead. I was the one with the map and the compass, so I think everyone believed that I understood where I was going, and everyone seemed to have confidence in my ability to get us to the top of the mountain. I wasn’t so sure – I couldn’t see anything, I couldn’t see the route ahead, and I had a foggy vision of what we were trying to achieve. But in a situation like that, when you doubt your own abilities, you must show confidence even though you don’t necessarily feel sureness in your own heart.
Whether you are doubted by your team or you are doubted by yourself, displaying ‘Sureness of Path’ ensures your team remains focused, works cohesively, and reaches the top of that mountain.
Business can be a little bit like that at times – sometimes as a business leader, you don’t necessarily feel confidence in your route, you don’t necessarily have a clear vision of what lies ahead, and in those situations, you need to display confidence even though you have doubts in your own mind. If you don’t show that outward confidence, and if you begin to doubt your own abilities, your team will sense that self-doubt and they in turn will begin to doubt you as a leader. Your team will begin to feel you have no sense of direction or purpose and they’ll begin to stop working as a focussed team. So sometimes, as a business leader, you need to show confidence when you don’t necessarily feel that confident inside.
So YOU’VE GOTTA FAKE IT TIL YOU MAKE IT!? NO! – It’s not as simple as that. Confident expressions from you can help spread positive emotions to others. It’s well known that if you smile, others will smile too – as they say, smiling is contagious. If you smile it can affect others and make them feel better, but it’s also known that if you put on a smile when you don’t feel like smiling, that smile will affect the way YOU think, not just what others think. So making a choice about being positive can have a real effect, but it’s not about a false confidence. That doesn’t work – your team will see through that. There’s more to success than just portraying ‘Positivity’.
As a business owner, there are many areas where having the correct mindset can play a key role in the success of your venture. Being open to learning new skills, developing talent in you and your team, and practising learnt skills are all an essential element of growth, and growth brings confidence, and confidence develops a deep sense of ‘Can-Do’ in a team. You’ve also got to bring structure into you business – make a plan, work out how that translates into actions for today, and encourage a culture of responsibility and accountability. And don’t forget that you need a mindset that allows you to fail – failure for you and your team brings a deeper sense of shared experience into your company’s culture, and that subconscious experience will reflect in your outward confidence and your ability to guide customers to a common goal.
I was signed for my first ever sales job when I was in my early twenties. We had an inspirational CEO, and his tuition has been a significant positive influence on my career ever since. Once a week, on a Friday afternoon, he’d bring our sales department (we were all young and inexperienced) into his office for a coaching session, and he’d talk to us about a specific aspect of customer relationships. Those sessions were simple, but they made a strong and lasting impression on me. One of the things I learnt (and still remember) was that “You can change the way you think, you can change the way you communicate with others, and you can manage the way you both interact”. Attitude and mindset are important in business success and life in general. And it’s not just about you and your team. More importantly, it’s about you, your team and your relationship with your customers. It’s your job to guide your team on a journey, and it’s your team’s job to guide your customers on a journey. But attitude matters – You’ve learnt the skills, done the planning, and encouraged the right culture – then somebody offers you a great opportunity but you are not sure you can do it. Be positive, say “Yes!”, then work out the details!
One of the great learning insights of my life was to realise that significant decisions often involve two decisions – the first decision is the choice of path, and the second decision is how I portray my choice to others. Choosing the route may be difficult, not least because unseen challenges can lurk ahead, but the second choice determines your attitude (and your team’s) to those challenges when you do encounter them. And your attitude will play a significant role in helping you find the right solution to those challenges. As Henry Ford once said – “If you believe you can or believe you can’t – You’re right!” So make that decision – take on that challenge, and make that choice – “I CAN!”