Distraction when writing a book is a classic issue…
And the distraction I found recently whilst writing my book on Honest Conversations, was discovering the idea for my next book!
“Why you don’t need to be confident” is likely to be the title, and I already have in mind the majority of the chapters and content. Don’t you just love procrastination.
As we were preparing to launch our Summer Series of public workshops, I decided at the very least, I could run one of the workshops on this content, perhaps providing a good testing ground for the idea of the book.
I’ve been running Confidence and Impact workshops of various styles and titles for over a decade and the question is often on my mind… Is confidence the right goal? A top exec joined one of our workshops last year and talked about his experiences, seeing countless people (mostly women) being told they had to be more confident. “That’s unhelpful advice,” he shared, “as it makes the individual focus on building something they don’t know how to build.”
Why not focus instead on behaviours that will achieve the best outcomes? I couldn’t agree more.
In fact, I believe that focusing on our confidence is a complete distraction from what we need to be doing. And that’s backed up by all of the research on self-talk, mindset and flow or productivity. When we are doing something brilliantly, we are not thinking about how great we are, we are focused on the task at hand.
So if we move away from the goal and the task and focus on building our confidence, what will happen?
Imagine trying to ride a bike and instead of getting on and learning whilst doing, you spend time in advance thinking about how to feel more confident on the bike. Then you get on the bike and focus on your thinking, “I can do this,” wobble, “I’ve got this.” The focus on thinking positive, confident thoughts is getting in the way of you being effective on the bike.
What’s the alternative? If working on building your confidence is not the most helpful move, then what would be more helpful?
Having a sense of purpose will trump confidence every time in terms of driving the most helpful behaviour. In fact, overconfidence is a risk as we see with many leaders who wing their way through anything, confident in the sound of their own voices, leading their teams into unhelpful decisions and inappropriate action.
Far better than confidence then is purpose. What are you wanting to achieve? Why?
If you think you need more confidence in speaking up in meetings, play instead with focusing on the questions, “what is the objective of you speaking up?” “Who benefits if you speak?” “Who loses out if you don’t?” “How does it add value to the business for you to share your view in meetings?”
If you have been told you need to be a more confident leader, have a thought experiment instead with the question, “what is my purpose as a leader?”
Connecting with your sense of purpose will shift your thinking from “can I do this?” and the sinking feelings of no confidence that come with it, to “how can I do this?” – which shift us to action planning mode.
Then we have the power of courage. Having explored your purpose, you will be more likely to have an emotional connection to the outcome you want. Which can drive you to be more brave in pursuit of that outcome.
A coaching client recently shared with me that she lacked confidence in asking for funding. Once she connected with her purpose of giving a voice to others, she now saw it was her duty, her obligation to get the funding. How dare she not? That shift in thinking can help us be courageous….
Which, funnily enough, looks a lot to the outside world like confidence.