I recently worked with an amazing coaching client, who doubted her skills despite a long record of achievements and promotions.
Her teams were successful. Her projects achieved and even exceeded their goals.
And yet, she doubted her skills. She felt that she wasn’t enough, that she wasn’t a good enough leader.
When she was competing for a promotion, she assumed another company leader would get the promotion and she would have to report to him.
A few weeks later, the boss asked her to meet one afternoon. She panicked and thought she might be fired.
At the time, she had 2,500 people reporting to her.
I poked holes in her theory that she wasn’t enough and might be fired. I asked, “The company trusted you to lead 2,500 employees. What are some of your successes that led them to trust you and your leadership?”
She told me about goals met and projects accomplished, of strengthening her team through effective communication, listening, and encouragement.
I wanted to know her evidence that she might be fired.
She had nothing, beyond that the boss wanted to meet with her.
Why do we doubt our own performance?
The answer is that we often tell ourselves a story. It might go something like this.
“They hired me to do this job. I’m OK at doing that job, but not great. They probably aren’t that happy with my work because the boss said ______. I’m really worried they might fire me.”
You feel bad about yourself and your performance, that somehow you are not enough. It can become a negative whirl of self-defeating thoughts.
Focusing on those negative thoughts leads us to see more and more evidence that we aren’t good enough. We don’t see or temporarily forget the remarkable things we’ve done, the projects that we led to a successful conclusion, the events that raised a ton of money for our community, the genuine and meaningful relationships we’ve built with our donors.
We may even look back on our career and recall times when we wish we had done something differently.
What happens when we doubt ourselves?
When we doubt ourselves, the result is that we walk around tense and distracted. We’re stressed. We stay small. We feel that we aren’t enough, that we aren’t good enough. We limit ourselves. We may not reach our full potential.
We all make mistakes and have things we wish had turned out differently but focusing on the negatives of our past performance keeps us from seeing all the positives of it. It keeps us from fully succeeding in our current role.
It undermines our confidence and our future success.
Evidence of your success
You’ve been entrusted with big responsibilities in your nonprofit work. You lead a large team and ultimately guide a multi-million-dollar organization.
I feel confident there’s plenty of evidence of your success.
Here’s a good exercise you can do right now, in the next five minutes.
Grab your phone and make a list of five things you’ve done well in the past year. It could be a grant you got funded, or a board meeting that you handled well.
You might get on a roll and keep listing your wins and successes. You probably have more than you realize.
Keep that list on your phone and look at it often. Keep adding successes to it.
When you have a moment of doubt, look at that list. You may want to make it a habit to look at the list every Monday morning as you begin your week.
The next step
My coaching client began keeping a journal and examining her mood and mindset daily.
Through regular journaling and coaching conversations, she developed awareness about her thoughts and what influenced her mood and her behaviors, and how those thoughts and behaviors showed up in many different parts of her life.
Journaling and coaching helped her see the power of her mindset and how her thoughts and beliefs led to specific actions and results.
If you’d like to examine your mindset and create space for growth and better performance, I encourage you to give me a call. Let’s set up a time to talk and examine the story that you’re telling yourself.