Believe You Should Be There

Posted 10.17.2012

Have you ever noticed what doing something for the first time does to your confidence level? If you’re like most folks, it gets a little shaky when you’re doing something new.  Especially if that something new has stakes that seem or actually are high. If you read this blog earlier this month, you might think this observation was inspired by President Obama’s performance in his first debate as an incumbent. That would be a good guess but not it.

The confidence factor came up last week in a Tools for Next Level Leaders workshop I was conducting for about a dozen leaders who had all just been promoted to their first executive level position.  We were talking about all the firsts that occur in a new executive position. The first senior leadership team meeting; the first all hands meeting; the first one on one with the big boss and on and on. It can all feel a little overwhelming and it can definitely affect your confidence and, therefore, your performance.

In talking about this with the group, I mentioned that one of the ways to shore up your confidence when you’re the new leader is to believe that you should be there.  I moved on to another point when, a few moments later, a woman in the group stopped me and said, “Thank you for saying that.” I wasn’t sure what she was thanking me for and she said, “Thank you for saying that we need to believe we should be there. You’re the first person that’s said that to us and it gives me a lot of comfort and confidence to think that.”

Of course, I was happy to hear that I had helped her. It was, though, not an original thought with me. Over the years I’ve interviewed scores of senior executives about the advice they’d give to new leaders.  Again and again, I’ve heard some version of “Believe you should be there.”  One or more experienced people believed in you in enough to give you the job.  They’ve seen others succeed and fail in similar roles and they picked you because they thought you could do it.

Prove them right. Do that by continuing to learn. Observe what’s going on and what others are doing. Listen. Ask open ended questions. Get to know your new peers. Ask for advice. Do all of that and more. But while you’re doing all of that, believe you should be there. Because, in all likelihood, you do.

What helps you sustain or restore your confidence when you’re facing a new challenge?