Is This the Hardest Leadership Skill to Master?
Back in 2014, I decided to step out of the family business I had built up with my husband and start my own company centered on trust (Trustologie®).
A wise friend cautioned me that if I was to teach other people how to build trust, I had to learn to trust myself first. I was surprised, but intrigued by her response. She was right.
But it took me years to fully understand what she meant.
The last seven years have meant trusting my skills, capabilities and beliefs at a level I never had to think about before when I could hide behind a company name. When you’re out in front promoting yourself, trusting yourself is key. And it hasn’t been easy. In fact, I realise now that I need to work at it every day.
What I find fascinating is that every leader I coach or train in workshops is dealing with their own self-trust issues whether they are aware of it or not. In fact, I am finding that about 70% of my coaching work is helping people trust themselves more.
I believe there are three oppositional and supporting trust forces that impact us everyday. As you can see in Figure 1, the three forces are – micro forces which are within ourselves, meso forces that are between team members and macro forces that reside outside of the team.
And they work just like push and pull forces. Push forces are oppositional. It is a force that acts in the opposite direction of what you are trying to do, creating friction. It is when you face resistance and the energy you are receiving is moving away from what you are trying to achieve. While pull forces are supportive. They are when forces are moving towards you and helping you in achieving your goals.
We send these forces out to people and they send them to us. So they are multidirectional you could say impacting us in six different ways.
- Intrapersonal ((Micro) – this is foundational and the only one we have any real control over. It’s about our level of self-awareness, trusting others, ourselves, our capabilities and even a higher power.
- Interpersonal (Meso) – this involves our ability to build trust with our team members. We stuff it up if we don’t have tough conversations, avoid difficult people or seem unfair.
- External (Macro) – these are outside of our control and deplete trust with our team members.
e.g. pandemics, bureaucracy, internal changes.
The critical one that impacts everything is the micro level. It’s foundational and it is the only one we have any real control over.
When I talk to leaders who have built successful careers and been phenomenal at leading people – they trusted themselves. They felt that people needed their guidance and that they were equipped to do that. They believed in themselves and their people.
Typically, our self-trust levels take a little fall when we start a new job or contract. It could be that we doubt whether we can lead a new team, or communicate well to senior executives or the CEO or even learn new skills. Or it could be we are criticised harshly in our job that makes us question ourselves. Sometimes personal issues interfere as well, such as issues with toxic partner, friend or relative. Other times its the macro level trust forces that impact us – external changes like a pandemic or restrictive bureaucracy.
It varies person to person, but you know you are dealing with self-trust issues when you feel anxious and avoid change. When your confidence takes a dive and you question yourself. And you start feeling negative about your prospects and abilities. I notice it when I avoid important things I need to do – preparing for a workshop or making a client call. Or when I find it hard to feel joyful in my day. Life becomes a bit of a drag.
The most important person we can trust is our self. When we make a mistake, receive harsh criticism, or miss a goal, it can be too easy to lose trust and confidence in ourselves. This is detrimental to our leadership capability as our decision-making abilities falter when we fear that we will make the wrong choice. We over-think, panic and freeze.
When we don’t trust ourselves to lead or we don’t think we are worthy of being a leader, other people feel that and automatically don’t trust us. They feel something is wrong with the energy we project. While they might feel our power or capabilities, they will be confused as to why we don’t own that.
Leaders that don’t trust themselves tend to not trust others and the situation. At a deeper level, how we trust others is a reflection of ourselves and our own fears and insecurities. If we don’t trust ourselves, it means we operate from fear rather than from a positive and expansive outlook. We self-protect, rather than work for the interests of our people or customers.
So it is really important to check in with ourselves regularly and see how we are feeling. Some questions you can ask are:
- Where in your life are you not trusting yourself right now? Is it with your finances, your skill level, your ability to form relationships, communicate clearly or be a loving parent?
- Where do you feel you need to trust yourself more?”
- What might you have to believe trust yourself?
- How would trusting yourself more improve your life?
In my experience, learning to trust ourselves is hard. Sometimes we need to surrender to a situation and allowing things to change organically. Pulling back from fighting oppositional forces or ceasing to support others (who give nothing back).
It is one of the biggest issue most leaders need to deal with when their career goes off track or when they feel burnt out or stuck.
Not only that, it’s a lifelong journey. You’re never done. Our levels of self-trust ebb and flow as life throws us challenges and celebrations. And what makes it really hard, is that so few of us check in with ourselves to see where we are at. Without realising it, we are on a downward spiral that is hard to stop. But the good news is we can get it back – it just takes the self-awareness that it’s time to get help and do something about it.
And when we do trust ourselves, life and opportunities open up and we can jump on a frictionless freeway to our dreams