Leading Bravely Part 2: Protecting Your Confidence
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Today we continue our series on the number one quality great leaders need: bravery.
In the first post of this series, I mentioned that being brave requires taking action in the face of uncertainty. That’s not easy to do.
To act bravely, you need confidence. You need the confidence to believe that what you’re doing is probably right. You also need confidence to bolster you when you’re inevitably wrong.
If you’re emotionally wrecked every time an idea doesn’t quite work out as expected, you’ll quickly lose faith in yourself.
How do you know when your confidence might be faltering? You’ve experienced the symptoms.
You feel jumpy or agitated OR you feel exhausted or fatigued
You’re irritable and quick to snap at those around you
You aren’t able to communicate clearly, which leaves your team feeling confused
These things aren’t just a recipe for burnout. They’re also a quick path to alienating your team, which causes all kinds of other challenges.
As a leader, you must protect your confidence.
Protect Your Confidence to Act Bravely
There’s no one right way to protect your confidence, but there are some basic things that everyone should be doing. (And if you think you’re the exception to the rule, I’m here to tell you: you’re not. You need the same protection as everybody else).
Here are the actions I take to ensure I can continue to lead bravely:
Exercise. If I miss a few workouts in a row, I end up with massive anxiety. I feel skittish, and it impacts my judgment and my ability to work productively. For me, exercise looks like the bike or treadmill most mornings. For you, it might be something else.
Eating/Drinking. Both are great pleasures in my life. But too much of either one, and you end up tired, moody, and probably down on yourself. Everything in moderation.
Sleep. The quickest way to wrecking your confidence is not getting enough sleep. When you’re tired, it feels like the world is going to end. And that can lead to half-baked and reactive decision-making.
Time off. 14-hour days aren’t uncommon for me, and I can sustain that up to a point. But what I can’t do is work 14-hour days without a vacation to look forward to. The rhythm that works for me is working hard for several weeks, then getting away from it all in a new location. For you, it might be something else. Align time off with the way you work, but make sure time off is part of your schedule.
Planning. My calendar doesn’t have much white space these days, but if it does, without the right planning, I tend to waste it. That means that time for reflection, working on the business, or maintaining key relationships has to be compartmentalized and built into my schedule. That kind of planning also helps me feel accomplished at the end of the day…instead of wondering what I have to show for all those empty hours.
Fact-finding. Conjecture has its place in decision-making, but endless worrying undermines your confidence. Instead, look at the facts you have available. Dive into the numbers on your forecast. Build out cost projections for that new hire. Evaluate the financial impact if your biggest customer goes away. The facts will help you make a plan instead of getting lost in the fear. Use information to take concrete action.
Choose your friends wisely. Spend time with people who lift you up instead of bring you down. I’m not suggesting you constantly upgrade your friends, but actively seek individuals and organizations that embody the best of what you want to be. Avoid negativity like the plague.
Again, your list of confidence protectors may not look exactly like mine. But you should have a toolkit that helps you rebalance whenever you feel off.
It’s crucial that you own your ability to act bravely. This may be a bit cynical, but I don’t believe the world is inherently rooting for you to succeed (it’s neutral at best).