Self doubt can be a scary part of leading a team. When you have self doubt, it sits on your shoulder like a constant companion.
Why should they listen to me?
Am I cut out for this?
To me, doubting yourself is a good thing. It can be uncomfortable and reduce your confidence from time to time. But if you take note of what it is telling you, self doubt can be a useful friend to have.
A lack of self doubt can be dangerous
When a leader stops questioning themselves and becomes overconfident, bad things can happen. Gotham Culture writes about just how to avoid the overconfidence trap. If you think you have all the answers and you don’t need any help, you’re in danger of making bad decisions.
Even worse, some leaders experience self doubt, but choose to ignore it. This is usually because they want to be seen as confident and capable leaders. They see self doubt and questioning themselves as a sign of weakness.
They’re wrong. Self doubt is not a sign of weakness. When you sit up and take notice, it can give you strength. Addressing your feeling of self doubt will make you think harder about what you’re doing. Then, you will be able to take more considered actions.
How to use self doubt to improve your leadership
1. Find out what you’re worried about
When you’re feeling a large bout of worry and doubt, stop for a second. In my experience, self doubt is associated with something specific, it isn’t just a general feeling. Self doubt is your mind’s way of telling you that you are concerned about something that you need to address.
It is often associated with a decision, a course of action or an upcoming event. If it’s not immediately obvious, write down your thoughts in a notepad to gradually pinpoint the source of your worry.
Now, you have a clear idea of what you’re worried about. That’s the first step.
2. Identify actions that will address your concerns
Now that you know the source of your worry, the trick is to do something about it. You want to take action that reduces your feelings of worry and doubt.
Perhaps your worry is about making change in your team. Your self doubt kicks in and you start to worry that you are making the wrong decision. In this example, you might choose to test out your plan with a trusted colleague. Or perhaps you might discuss the change with your team directly to get their feedback first.
It’s not just about making yourself feel better. In this example, if the cause of your concern is the potential impact your change has on others, addressing your own doubts is likely to result in a better outcome for everyone.
The point of this is to make yourself think harder about what you’re doing. Then, you can improve the way you’re doing it, for yourself and for others.
If your concerns are about the reactions of other people, your actions are likely to involve making sure you have considered how what you are doing is impacting them.
3. Measure and repeat the process
Once you’ve taken action to address your feelings of doubt and worry, take a moment to check if it has made any difference. If your feeling of self doubt has reduced, you’re on the right track.
If it hasn’t, then you need to make a correction, or try something else. Repeat the first two steps to ensure you’re focusing on the right concerns and addressing them.
Remember that sometimes, self doubt won’t go away completely. Ask yourself the following question:
Have I done what is practical and reasonable, to address my doubts and concerns?
If the answer is “Yes”, then you’re on the right track. After following this simple process, you are far likely to reach a better quality outcome, that addressed your key concerns.
Self doubt can feel like a crippling problem for leaders, but it can be a positive force when used correctly.
Don’t ignore it.
Listen to what it’s telling you and take action to address it.
You will make more intentional, well thought-out decisions and take considered actions. That’s how self doubt will make you a better leader.