I had just been promoted to my first sales manager position. Among my competitors for the job was a salesperson with an impeccable sales record, and who prior to selling, had been the field support engineer for our manufacturing division. On paper, he was entirely better qualified than I was. To make matters worse, he now reported to me. He was clearly having a problem with the decision, and the tension was palpable. It was getting in the way of our mutual success.
We had very different styles, and to be honest, I found his entirely annoying. (As I was to find out later, so did the manager that promoted me.) Yet, even as the victor, I would imagine arguments of every sort with him, in which I would create the position I thought he would take, and then mentally argue energetically against it. I would find myself being quite distracted by the back-and-forth of these imaginary arguments, and I could feel my own tension build.
Who was the loser in these imaginary debates?
Clearly, me. I was wasting my intellectual and emotional energy fighting an argument that only existed in my mind.
Here are some ideas that will help you become an astute observer of yourself, and to turn the observations and conclusions you make about yourself into ones that build up your self-confidence, not tear it down.
First step: Learn to have an “out of body experience” with yourself.
As you are out of your own body, notice yourself, your feelings and interactions. Take on the role of a third party consultant. Don’t make judgments. Just observe. Pay attention to what is happening around you, and notice how you react. Notice whether certain external factors are triggers for repeatable feelings or reactions.
Second step: Look for events that trigger a drop in your mood or self-confidence.
In my example, my teammate would often refer to his “extensive experience” and how that drove his proposal for any given situation. I realize now, that when he made those assertions, he would trigger me into having one of those self – generated “arguments” and I would go into my head to engage.
Third step: Ask yourself if you see any beliefs you are holding that would cause the feeling you experience when the trigger event occurs.
Looking back on it, I believe that when my colleague asserted his greater level of experience, it triggered a belief on my part that I really did not fully have the necessary experience and skills to effectively lead my team. That belief in turn put me “into my head” and I would start the debate.
Fourth step: Have an open debate with yourself as to whether or not the belief is accurate.
While my colleague did have a deeper technical background and more years of direct selling experience, his relating skills were weak, and it diminished the quality of his interactions with both his internal team and customers.
I was far stronger in that area. I later came to understand that my relational skills were what earned me the promotion. If I had been able to have that clarity at the time, I would have been much less likely to get in my head every time he made those assertions. My self-confidence would have been stronger and of course that would have driven higher performance.
Fifth and final step: Once you have established the link between the trigger event and the limiting belief, ask yourself: “What new belief might drive a more productive reaction to that trigger?”
Once you devise a better belief and a more powerful response, you can train yourself to be aware of the trigger, and intentionally choose the better response. Like any skill, that will take awareness and practice, but it will eventually become automatic.
Epilogue: What I needed at the time was the ability to “just notice” and not go straight to a judgment.
Research has shown that self-judgments are more likely to be negative than positive. By “just noticing” and delaying judgment, we give ourselves a better opportunity to illuminate and debate self-limiting beliefs and to create alternative beliefs that serve us better and enable our success.