I am not smart or creative enough to deliver on this task.”
“I am not ready to take on a challenge this big. I’ll not succeed.”

If you’ve had thoughts similar to the ones above, you’ve experienced self-doubt firsthand. And it is perfectly fair to assume that everyone experiences it. Self-doubt restricts human potential fiercely. It also has various identities, like that of the Inner Critic, Limiting Beliefs and Fixed Mindset.

As leaders, you’ll work with people whose relationship to such thoughts is varied. Some might know how to manage it, while others might find it crippling. The power of self-doubt lies in its ability to inhibit skills of risk-taking, creativity, learning and ownership. It is like rust to the well-oiled machine you envision your team to be. To support your team in breaking through this wall, enabling them with tools is desirable, as opposed to just providing praise to allay self-doubt. Visualize it as teaching them to fish, rather than giving them fish.

One such effective tool is the awareness of self-doubt as a fixed mindset, where we believe that our abilities are limited. For example, after receiving feedback on improvement areas, employees might think that the work they put into a presentation will never be good enough to be shared with executive level audiences. As a result, their effort will be half-hearted because they expect to be corrected anyway. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The growth mindset challenges this view. It thoroughly embraces a passion for learning more and doing our best. The most evocative analogy capturing this is: How do you view half a glass of water – half full or half empty? It is Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck, who defined this understanding of human mind. She even designed a test to assess one’s view. In her book ‘MindSet: The new psychology of Success’, she illustrates the exponential impact of growth mindset. Here’s what the two mindsets look like:

How to Build a team that beats selfdoubt

If you notice someone shying away from a project, remaining reserved with their ideas, or not showing up even after being interested, know that doubt has taken over. This would be a golden opportunity to encourage the mindset conversation. Invite your team to take on this approach of shifting mindsets, by adopting the steps briefly described below:

  1. The first step involves knowing that the fixed one is a negative voice in our head – the inner critic. This voice is critical and demotivating. But, it is not our complete identity, and never will be.
  2. The second step is to acknowledge that you have a choice over this voice. You have the power to change its impact, and not be held hostage by it.
  3. The third one is about talking back: respond to the critic’s voice with a growth mindset voice. The table above shows what form this response can take.
  4. And finally, take action aligned with the growth voice, while tuning out the inner critic.

Simplistic though the tool may seem, it demands grit and resilience from its practitioners. This is where we call on your presence as a leader, to hold your team true to the depths of their resourcefulness and fullest potential. For organizations, this can mean employees aligning with the vision completely, owning their part, and delivering excellence. A Pandora’s Box of possibilities awaits. When are you diving in?

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