MURIEL WILKINS: I’m Muriel Wilkins and this is Coaching Real Leaders, part of the HBR Presents Network. I’m a long-time executive coach who works with highly successful leaders who’ve hit a bump in the road. My job is to help them get over that bump by clarifying their goals and figuring out a way to reach them, so that hopefully they can lead with a little more ease. I typically work with clients over the course of several months, but on this show, we have a one-time coaching meeting focusing on a specific leadership challenge they’re facing. Today’s guest is someone we’ll call Jay to protect his confidentiality. He’s been at the same large company for over two decades, working his way up from a temporary position to a technical role, to a leadership position. He eventually got an MBA and he’s been looking to expand, to not feel so stuck pigeonholed into this one job at one company.
JAY: Around about five years ago, I realized after going for an interview with another company, I got to the very, very last stage of the position. And I was told at the end that because I was very specific in my learnings, that I had not experienced enough in the world.
MURIEL WILKINS: Jay is feeling a bit of crisis of confidence as he thinks about the next phase of his career, which for him is the goal to become a CIO.
JAY: Am I good enough? That’s I think the big thing, because when I first started off in this particular company, it was actually out of necessity to support my family. So, I really worked hard to actually be able to do my job well, and that just allowed me to go, “Keep on moving forward. Now that I’m in a situation that it’s not a necessity to constantly support my family in the sense that I’m financially okay, my biggest thing is what I’ve experienced in the past, especially with previous managers, where my self-esteem is actually not the best, and then so on, I don’t believe that I’m good enough to be able to take up the role.
MURIEL WILKINS: It was time to dig a bit deeper to see where he lost some of his self-esteem, and how it plays out in his work. Let’s dive into the conversation now, as I asked Jay about what he experienced with his previous boss and how it shook his confidence?
JAY: It was pretty bad because it was actually on the borderline of bullying, and so on. So had many situations where I’ve had this really serious confrontation and feeling that I was inadequate, even though I felt that I was more than diligent in my role. So, it wasn’t great to actually have that feeling, just always constantly thinking that you weren’t good enough.
MURIEL WILKINS: And what is it that made you feel like you weren’t good enough?
JAY: I was questioning everything. I was questioning my ability, I was questioning what I was doing. Every day, it was just a constant question like, “Am I good enough in it? Is this correct? Is this the way that he wants it?” So it was just constantly questioning, questioning your ability.
MURIEL WILKINS: And as a result of constantly questioning your ability yourself, what did that afford you? What did that allow you to do?
JAY: Well, not sure about that. I know that I became extremely anxious, but in the sense that it drove me to saying, “Okay, do I need to learn more?”
MURIEL WILKINS: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
JAY: So, then there’s a point in time you just think, “Well, how much more do I need to learn?” And then so on.
MURIEL WILKINS: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
JAY: But you become consciously anxious all the time because you just don’t know, you’re going to get a phone call at 3:00 AM because he’s not satisfied with what you’ve done.
MURIEL WILKINS: Mm-hmm (affirmative) So your manager not being satisfied with what you’ve done led you to then believe that you weren’t good enough for the role?
MURIEL WILKINS: And so, how do you differentiate between somebody not being satisfied with the work, versus you at a personal level not being good enough?
JAY: I’m not sure how to answer that actually. I always thought I had the ability because I wouldn’t have initially got the role, but it was like, I felt that I wasn’t good enough to be able to get the next role. When opportunities came, I was never looked at as a potential person to take up that next role, where I thought other people who did have that opportunity and took it, were less technical and less able to be able to fill that role. And so, you start to feel, “Okay, you’re not worthy.” So, there was this whole issue between me and the manager. It’s like he’s really dominating. He would basically ensure that he was always thinking that he was better than myself. So that made me feel, “Okay. I’m not adequate.” But the thing was that I love the role. I love the job, and that’s why I’ve stayed for so many years. And it’s not just loving the role. I love the people that I manage. So those people, I stayed very specifically for of those people. And I felt that I’ve done the wrong thing because I sacrificed myself for them.
MURIEL WILKINS: So, you’ve given up a lot, you feel like?
JAY: Absolutely, absolutely. Opportunities that have come and gone, and I look at it in this particular role that a Director. I’ve been in this position for seven years now. I haven’t applied for anything else. I’ve seen many offers come in on my desk. I’ve never taken it because I just didn’t feel that I finished what I needed to finish.
MURIEL WILKINS: So, this aspect of not feeling good enough for the role, which then chipped away at your confidence, what would have made you feel like you were good enough?
JAY: Acknowledgement that the things that I had done, my projects, the accomplishments, being acknowledged for those particular accomplishments. And not like rewarded with pay rises or whatever, that wasn’t really my concern. It’s actually acknowledgement, acknowledgement that at the point in time that I finished it, that was very successful, and being presented with opportunities that would’ve allowed me to go further. But I sit here and I think, if I had that acknowledgement, I may have actually been a VP by now.
MURIEL WILKINS: And did you ever ask for feedback on what was missing-
MURIEL WILKINS: Or what was at the source of the discontent?
JAY: Yeah, and try to work on those particular issues, and then so on, but still never got that opportunity.
MURIEL WILKINS: Mm-hmm (affirmative) Okay. Never got the opportunity from this one particular manager?
JAY: Sorry. I was just going to say, and it’s really interesting, that manager’s actually left.
MURIEL WILKINS: And so, with your new manager, how’s that going?
JAY: It’s actually much better. There’s a very different methodology in his management styles. It was actually quite interesting the way that he responded to certain things compared to the previous manager, and I was actually quite taken back. I was actually stunned. I was like, “Oh my God. I’ve never experienced this in my life.”
MURIEL WILKINS: Yeah. One of the things that you just said, which is critical here is this is different.
MURIEL WILKINS: And so, why are you holding onto the same story that was formed under your previous manager when this is different?
JAY: I don’t know. The one thing is that I came to through reflection is that my self-esteem was so badly beaten, that I don’t know if I’ve got enough energy to be able to move on.
MURIEL WILKINS: We all hold on to, at some point or another, experiences that we’ve had that potentially then define how we react in the present.
JAY: Yes, yes.
MURIEL WILKINS: Okay. Good or bad. It’s like, think about your favorite restaurant that you’ve been to, and you hold onto that experience. You’re like, “Oh my God, it was so good. It was so yummy. The service was exquisite.” And you go back to that restaurant because you expect it to be the exact same experience, right? And hopefully it is, right? But sometimes it’s not, and the same happens on the negative side. And so, when we hold onto that, when we hold onto an experience from the past to make assertions about what’s going to happen in the present, what do you think it gives us or gives you?
JAY: Yeah. I’m not sure actually. Yeah. I think it’s just that the fact is that we think that it’s always going to be the same, as you said.
MURIEL WILKINS: Right. And if it’s the same, then what does it do for you?
JAY: You think all of it is going to be the same, it’s always going to be the same.
MURIEL WILKINS: Yeah. And when things are the same, when things are predictable, when we think things are predictable, what do you… I don’t know about you, but when you think things are predictable, how do you respond? How does it make you feel?
JAY: Well in this situation, it’s very hard to get up in the morning. It’s the same… Yeah. It’s very, very difficult to actually go through it every single day. So it’s predictable, you… Monday mornings are okay. Tuesday mornings are terrible because you know that, that’s when you’re going to interact with your manager and so on.
MURIEL WILKINS: Right. But you know what’s going to happen, right? Whether it’s good or bad. And when we know what’s going to happen, when we know with certitude, and I’m saying no, let me actually [inaudible 00:10:10] We know what’s going to happen with certitude, what it gives us is a sense of control.
MURIEL WILKINS: But it’s a fake sense of control. And again, good or bad. I had a client once whose manager was really, really tough manager. It sounds similar to yours, but my client said, “But you know what? He’s like predictably bad. So therefore…” He goes, “He’s so predictably bad as a manager, I can prepare myself.” But that’s a sense of control. That’s a, “I know what to do in that situation, whether I’m going to fight back or I’m going to just cringe and have these emotions, or whatever it might be.” You’re in a different situation now though. You’re with a different manager. And so does the behavior or the reaction, the feelings that you’ve had in the past, in what way do they even help you in this current situation?
JAY: Well, yeah. In regards to predictability, no, they don’t because it’s totally different manager. So it’s actually creating those new type of experiences, which has actually been quite different. Well, for me it’s been unpredictable because I wasn’t used to it. I’m not used to it, especially after being with a manager in that particular circumstances, to come to a different type of manager, it’s the creation of a whole new experience. It’s actually creating those new relationships again, and I don’t know how I feel actually, honestly. I don’t know if I’ve got the confidence at the moment, or I’m just going through this new phase of just getting these new feelings about how things are different, or have I actually been able to create the confidence to say, “Okay…” I’ve actually been able to create the confidence to say, “Okay, I can do not only my job, but I can also move on and do something different.”
MURIEL WILKINS: Taking it away from the situation, when you are confident about something, what is it that makes you feel like you’re confident?
JAY: That I have the knowledge to be able to do what I do, and I do it well. That creates the confidence that I… yeah.
MURIEL WILKINS: Having the knowledge to do something, and being able to do it well makes you confident, and when it’s something new and you don’t know if you are going to do it well or not, then how do you end up being confident about trying it?
JAY: Initially, it’s anxiety. A lot of it. But then it’s just basically learning it and learning it as quickly as possible and then mastering it, and that creates my confidence. When I’ve actually mastered it, that particular new technology or whatever, then the confidence is there. I know that I can do my job well.
MURIEL WILKINS: All right. So, you have confidence around being able to do that, to learn something and master it, right?
JAY: Yep. Correct.
MURIEL WILKINS: And not surprisingly, because you’ve done it over and over and over again, which is what has led you to where you are.
MURIEL WILKINS: And so what I want to highlight for you, Jay, is the difference between having confidence in your ability to learn and master something versus having confidence in that ephemeral, we don’t even know what it is yet, next role. One is about having confidence in the process and the other is about having confidence in the outcome, the actual destination. They’re closely linked, but there’s a difference between the two. And so when I say that to you, how are you interpreting it?
JAY: Well, I do agree that the fact is the confidence in the process. So from that perspective, I do agree because something that I’ve learned for a very long time. I realize that potentially for the last couple of years, I’ve actually lost that path, where I’m not actually going through the process that actually really worked well for me in the past. And so I haven’t actually built my confidence through the process. The other one is confidence in the outcome.
MURIEL WILKINS: Okay. Let me use an example for you. I have a kid who plays competitive sports and if you’ve ever played a competitive sport, of course you want to win. But in reality, the only thing you can control is how you play the game, not necessarily the outcome. We’ve seen some of the most amazing athletes get on a court, get on a field, wanting to win. That’s the desired outcome, but they can’t really control the outcome because the outcome is in the future. The only thing they can control is what’s happening in the here and now, which is how they play the game. In your case, how you play the game is this learning and mastering what is necessary to increase the probability of you getting that next role. But it doesn’t guarantee that you will get the next role. So why place your confidence on something that’s a variable that’s not guaranteed, that can be a moving target, that may not even be fully defined yet? Place your confidence, your belief in yourself in the things that you can control. And so what are the things that you can control?
JAY: It’s the process.
MURIEL WILKINS: It’s the process. You can’t control your manager. You can’t control other people. What they’re going to say, what they’re going to think. I mean, I don’t know if you can, let me know how you do it. We’ll be having a whole different conversation, right?
JAY: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
MURIEL WILKINS: But all you can do is control the things that are in your control.
JAY: Yeah, absolutely agree with that.
MURIEL WILKINS: Jay’s in a tough situation here. His experience working with his previous manager impacted his view of himself and what he thinks he can accomplish. We make an important distinction at this point between having confidence in the outcome versus confidence in the process and effort. And by focusing on the latter, it brings him back to what is actually in his control, his effort. Let’s dive back in as I ask him, why has he given up the process that he knew worked for him and that helped him feel confident in the past?
JAY: I think you’ve brought up a really interesting point. I think for some unknown reason, I’ve abandoned the process, which was very successful for me early on. So I had a very critical process of making sure that I learned and understood whatever we were doing, but for some unknown reason, for the last five years or so, I’ve abandoned that process. And it’s just my confidence has diminished significantly.
MURIEL WILKINS: What would it take for you to pick that process back up?
JAY: I don’t think it’s much to actually pick it up. The fact is just going back and looking at how I did it in the past, and actually asking myself, “What am I not doing at the present that I did very, very successfully 10 years ago? Even five years ago, and I did it very well? Why is it that I’ve abandoned that particular process?” And get rid of that, get that out of my mind, why I did it, and just go back to actually saying, “Okay, I just need to go through this process of actually mastering what I need to master.”
MURIEL WILKINS: Yeah. I mean, look, I think part of when you have a crisis of confidence, part of what is very helpful is to look at your track record. What have I been able to do? And understand where that came from, where it led you to, and to what extent could whatever that is be helpful to you today. Why you didn’t do it, I mean, I don’t know. Why do I sometimes wake up and not work out, even though I do it pretty consistently and then it turns into a week or two weeks of not working out? I don’t know. Maybe I’m tired. Maybe I’ve lost my mojo. Maybe it’s like, “Where is this getting me?” I mean, there are a number of different reasons why we momentarily or permanently give up on something.
JAY: Yeah. I think from what you actually just said a moment ago, your mojo. And I actually believe I lost my mojo and I’ve lost it for some time, and I’ve just actually been tracking the last number of years as a zombie through my work, just going through it and so on, rather than really being living it. That’s not exactly the word that I was wanting, but the fact is that in my early part of my career, it was like living my role. I really enjoyed it. I did it without question. And the mojo was really high, but why did I lose my mojo the last couple years? I think it comes back to the vicious cycle of just self-esteem. Had actually been really badly hit. And so it was just going through every day saying, “Okay, I’m just going to do just enough to get through the role.”
MURIEL WILKINS: Yeah. Because if you did just enough, then there really wouldn’t be much more room for somebody to tell you you’re not good enough. So that was your response to that situation. Understandably so. I get it. We all respond to situations differently, but I will never take away what your response was. The question for me is just doing good enough; what you need right now. And only you can answer that. I’m asking you that without judgment.
JAY: No, I was just thinking to myself. Yeah, just why I was going through that process of doing just enough. That’s a big question for me. It’s why I was doing that. And it does come down to self-esteem and so on, and other problems within the last couple of years. But at that point in time, when I was just doing enough, why did I not just say to myself, “Move on?”
MURIEL WILKINS: I mean, you have to sit with that, right?
JAY: Yeah, absolutely.
MURIEL WILKINS: In terms of why you did that. It’s good to understand the why, but you should never let the why get in the way of you moving forward. Sometimes, what we bring to any given situation is how the situation’s going to meet us. So let me just explain that in your context. If that was happening in your case, and the situation that you were faced with was constant messages of, “You’re not good enough,” you can then show up as not good enough or just doing the bare minimum. There are times when we will reflect or react or meet the situation as a reflection of what it is giving to us. All right? If you’re acting in a reactionary mode, meaning you’re just reacting to what’s happening around you, the next step to not be reactive is to say, “Regardless of what’s happening around me, regardless of the messages I’m getting, regardless of a manager telling me that yet again, I didn’t do this report correctly,” it doesn’t necessarily change your sense of who you are. That to me is where confidence comes from, that regardless of the storm, regardless of what’s happening, regardless of the challenges, it does not affect the deepest core of your confidence, which is your self-worth. And so when I say that to you, how does that relate to you and your situation and the question you have around why was it okay for me to do the bare minimum? And why did I not just leave?
JAY: Good question. That was pretty deep, actually. That comment. You’re right. I did the bare minimum because the response that I was actually getting is exactly what you said, the fact is that it was a very negative response. So deep down in my heart, it was very much the situation I’m thinking I wasn’t worthy of anything worthy of myself. The fact is that when I looked at what I was doing, it was so overbearing and so on, but I just didn’t know how to get out of it. And so my situation was because I didn’t have that… Again, this comes down to belief. I didn’t have the technical education and so on. I didn’t believe that I was capable of going outside of where I was and getting another role. So for me, it was my family, my children… so for me, it was my family, my children, my wife, and ensuring that I was able to support them. So that’s why I stayed. And then so on. I would rather go through the pain than losing the position, and not being able to earn.
MURIEL WILKINS: Yeah. And look, I mean, what you’re saying there around why you stayed for your family and to be able to make a living, there’s no shame in that. That was your purpose for that moment in time. And so the fact that you found a purpose and anchor for that moment in time to get you through and the trade off was not moving on to a different role, is actually very empowering. You made a choice, you made a conscious choice to stay. I want you to hold that because as long as you can make a conscious choice of what you’re doing at every given moment, and there is a purpose associated with it, then you are standing up for yourself. That’s what we call agency, right? Your ability to see what’s in front of you and make a choice. Even if that choice is accompanied with some difficulty and some pain, it’s far different than you just staying and having no idea why you stayed. You just stay because it’s comfortable to stay. Because the difficulty and the pain is more comfortable than trying something new. You got to give yourself some credit around you being able to consciously make that decision. And the reason I’m highlighting this for you, Jay, is I’m holding the mirror up to you to recognize the very difficult things that you have been able to do. And when you can harness those things that starts creating that feeling of confidence, that belief of, “I can do hard things.”
JAY: Well interesting, because I didn’t look at it in that perspective, actually.
MURIEL WILKINS: In what way?
JAY: You put it in the factor that I was able to deal with hard things. I actually looked at it in a different way, in a more negative way and said, “Well, why are you so weak?” When you look at it in two different ways, the results are totally different. So saying to myself, “Well, I wasn’t able to deal with this and fix it,” showed weakness. When you start to think at it from that perspective, that negativity starts to reflect on your life in general. But if you look at it from the perspective of how you actually put it, just a moment of go, well, you were able to climb parts of Mount Everest, and you were able to succeed, even though you’re constantly being slapped in the face. It was you were able to stand there and keep moving forward. So there’s the positive part of it rather than negative. So from the positive perspective you’d say, “Well, you have been successful.” And so that success then relates back to a positive mindset, and a positive body and physical self, because then you’re saying, “Okay, I’ve been able to overcome a lot of adversity.”
And you have articulated so beautifully the challenge that we all have. The reality is that our mind is so powerful, right? If you believe or have a certain perspective, it’s going to lead to a certain action that might then lead to a particular outcome. Again, outcome is never guaranteed, we try to increase the probability. And if you choose… It’s like the movie, The Matrix, right? Like where, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, where it was like, “Neo choose which one do you want to take? Because it will lead you in two different paths. Which door are you going to open?” If you are used to always opening the same door, you end up not seeing the other doors. And for whatever reason you are used to seeing things in a particular way. Well, as long as you keep seeing things in that particular way, and by the way, seeing things in that particular way helped you at some point or another, or you learned it at some point or another. And it helped you. It doesn’t mean it helped you in a healthy way, but it still helped you survive. But if you want something different in a sustainable way, not just to fake it till you make it, you have to start with, “How do I need to think about this differently?” I mean, you’re in IT, right? So it’s like… I’m assuming, I’m not big on technology, but let me try to flex my muscles here; if you’re trying to troubleshoot something in technology and you keep trying the same way over and over and over and over again, because you’re thinking about up the problem that you’re trying to troubleshoot the same way, it’s not going to lead you to any different results. What do you end up doing? You end up saying, “Okay, let’s just wipe the slate clean, erase the whiteboard, start from the beginning, take a step back. How do we need to be thinking about this problem?” One thing coming up here is the idea of perspective. Oftentimes in work or in life, we put labels on things, good or bad. While Jay has described his outlook at work as positive or negative, I encourage him to not think that way. Instead of black and white thinking, I suggest he take a step back and just think of things as a number of different perspectives he can hold without judgment. Only then can he make a choice on which perspective is going to best help him. So, I ask Jay what beliefs or perspectives would allow him to get back to the place where he felt most confident and embrace the process of learning and mastering skills?
JAY: Yeah, I think from my perspective is to not to look at everything as it’s too difficult, as you said, this negative, positive response. At the moment, it’s very, very negative. So rather than actually looking at it, as you mention, from a negative perspective, don’t actually have that perspective at all. Don’t have that view that it is negative, or it’s going to be too hard for me to be able to do it, but rather actually just go through the process. If I go and master this or learn this, or whatever happens, either negative or positive, it’s actually going to benefit me. Just don’t think about it as even negative/positive, but just think about what is the benefit? How does it actually help me move forward?
MURIEL WILKINS: Amazing what you just said, because when you just name it as a benefit, it neutralizes, “Well, is it a positive benefit to me and a negative to somebody else or vice versa?” It just is, right? Same with the process. The minute you start saying, “Oh, the process is hard,” or, “The process is easy,” or, “The process is this, the process is that,” that’s just the seasoning that you’re adding on the process, you know?
MURIEL WILKINS: But in reality, is it’s just a process. And regardless of whether it’s harder or whether it’s easy, what you have to decide is, “Do I want to engage in the process?” Regardless of whether it’s hard or easy, that’s the first step.
MURIEL WILKINS: Then as you face it, you decide, “Oh, okay. So, hmm, yes, this part is challenging. So, I need to do X,” but you make those choices as you go. So, you’ve highlighted, you used the word mindset shift. And I think that that is really at the core of being able to feel confident is, are you aligning your mind, are you aligning your beliefs and your thoughts with a feeling of confidence? It’s very interesting because if you look at the word, “Confidence,” and you sort of look at the root of it, there is, I believe, well this is what I was told. So if that person told me the wrong thing don’t blame me. But at the root of it is, the origin confidelis, which fidelis in its Latin root means, do you know what it means?
JAY: No, I don’t actually.
MURIEL WILKINS: It means faith.
JAY: Okay, yeah.
MURIEL WILKINS: So, if we think about confidence, it actually means operating with faith. And this is not religious in any way.
MURIEL WILKINS: Okay? But when you then look at, well, what does faith mean? What does it mean to operate with faith? Operating with faith basically means faith is belief in the unknown.
JAY: Very true. Yeah.
MURIEL WILKINS: And so, to have confidence is actually the complete opposite of operating in a way where you have full knowledge and control of what’s going to happen. Confidence is your ability to put your step forward without necessarily knowing what’s going to happen. And so the opposite of operating in that way, the opposite of operating with, “Faith,” if you will, is operating with fear.
JAY: Yes, correct. And I think I’ve done that quite a bit, actually
MURIEL WILKINS: Operated with fear?
JAY: Yes. Yeah, operated with fear rather than confidence. There is a fear factor that my peers getting in a lot more recognition than what I was. So the fear came into that. Why am I not getting that? So rather than actually looking at the confidence and what I actually possessed and using the process, I was looking at something else, something that I, as you said, cannot control.
MURIEL WILKINS: So, I think part of your practice, Jay, is becoming more aware of what that track is, what that script is, what those beliefs are that you so very well have on repeat. And when they come up for you ask yourself, “Is this belief in this moment helping me get to where I want to go, or is it hindering me?”
JAY: Based upon that statement, I see a lot of situations just recently where I’ve actually thought it’s hindering me, absolutely. I’m thinking why certain things are actually happening, when I rather, I should say, as you said very clearly, I should look at the way that that particular person is executing something and learn from that experience rather than looking at it in a jealous, envious way. So rather than looking at it and saying, “Well, I’m not getting any recognition, I’m doing all this work and they are,” have a look at the system that they’re using and try to adopt that exact same system and then see how it actually plays out with me.
MURIEL WILKINS: Yeah. So what you’re talking about here is just making a choice around how you want to think about [crosstalk 00:35:40]-
JAY: Exactly, exactly.
MURIEL WILKINS: … before you take action, right?
MURIEL WILKINS: Your power, which is what we gain when we become more confident, we gain power-
MURIEL WILKINS: … self-power. Your power is in your ability to make a choice. That’s where your power comes from. When we feel like we can’t make a choice, or because there is no choice, we feel powerless. You feel contained, you feel boxed in. And so that – [inaudible 00:36:01]. You feel contained. You feel boxed in. And so that’s why even the situation you were in where you were like, “I can stay and deal with this bully boss or I can leave,” … The fact that you made a choice … Still, I would suggest that you see the power in making that choice and not judge the choice you made.
JAY: Okay. Good point.
MURIEL WILKINS: You made the choice. And it’s similar to now as you decide, “What perspective is going to help or hinder me?” It’s not to say that one is better than the other. It’s just, “Which one is going to help or hinder me?” That’s it. No judgment.
JAY: Sorry, I’m just reflecting with your comments, actually, on various moments in my career where I’ve looked at the process and thought to myself, “Have I … What are my choices? What have I done?” And I’ve actually realized just a moment ago that were, actually, were choices that were quite positive but I potentially had seen them as a negative rather than … I understand what you’re saying is not to put a title on it but I look at it and say … that I’ve done things where I’ve said, “Well, okay. That was a choice that you made but you did it for a reason and don’t regret … ” Don’t look at it as a negative or regret that particular decision but look at it and say there was a choice that took a lot of guts to be able to say, “Okay, let’s go and do that,” and continue to go through whatever issues I’ve had in the past. I’ve realized that there were many times over the last 10 years or so that I could have quite easily have thought of as quite a negative situation. The choice was made. It didn’t hinder me in the sense that even though I didn’t get a promotion or whatever, I’ve still been somewhat successful.
MURIEL WILKINS: Yeah. And when you know why you make the choice or you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, that’s what gives it a sense of purpose and meaning.
MURIEL WILKINS: Right? And a sense of purpose and meaning is what energizes you and that’s what having your mojo is.
JAY: Yes. Yeah. Understood.
MURIEL WILKINS: I just want to highlight for you, again, this notion of find meaning in everything you’re doing and be intentional and mindful about how you’re thinking about something so that then you can be intentional and purposeful and mindful around how you feel about it and the action you’re going to take. Okay. Let’s take all that and bring it back to where you are today. If you think about what your aspiration is in terms of potentially becoming a CIO, what do you think … Based on what we talked about, what do you think you will need to change or shift to or expand on in order to better align yourself or increase the probability that you can assume a CIO role one day?
JAY: If I was talking about a technical perspective … If I put it in particular buckets, okay? If I talked about the technical aspects of it, yeah there is a little bit more I need to learn. From a personal perspective, I don’t need to be so critical of myself. And rather than thinking that, what is it that you want to understand and learn and how do you actually change your personality accordingly?
MURIEL WILKINS: There it is. You just outlined, right? It’s the moving from, “I can’t do this,” or, “I’m not good enough,” to, “I need to learn and there’s still room to grow and there are areas in the way that I behave or some of the expertise that I have that I need to better align with the outcome that I’d like to have.” I don’t even like to use the word change because we’re not changing who you are; we’re expanding who you are. There are muscles that I have not yet built that I need to build. That’s the shift. And you give yourself permission to make that mindset shift when you take on exactly what you just said, which is, “Gosh, I’m very critical of myself.” Right? But guess what, Jay? That’s what your former manager was doing, it sounds like. He was being super critical so why are you now replacing him when he’s gone?
JAY: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah.
MURIEL WILKINS: Right?
JAY: Exactly. I think it came down to the fact that it just became a habit. You’re expecting it so your mind’s saying, “Well, you’re expecting it.”
MURIEL WILKINS: That’s right. And if you do want a break that habit, which it very much sounds like that’s what you want to do, that’s why you’re here today, the only way to break that habit is to then take on a different role towards yourself. You know who the critical Jay is. He’s there. And by the way, he’s not going to go away. You just need to know … You need to recognize when he’s showing up and tell him, “Shh. Shut up, critical Jay.”
MURIEL WILKINS: Right?
MURIEL WILKINS: And so, I’m going to go with cheerleader Jay.
JAY: Okay. Okay.
MURIEL WILKINS: Because cheerleader Jay says, “Brother, you still have … Yeah, you got stuff to learn. Yeah, there’s a tough road ahead but we’ve done this before. Let’s go.”
JAY: Yes. You’re 100% correct on that. Understanding that or returning back to that old process that was so faithful to me for such a long period of time, which actually created a massive amount of mojo … I would be so excited about what I was doing. Yeah, you’re right. Actually, going back to that older me or, potentially, much younger me and actually doing that … going through that process I can definitely agree that my mojo would come back.
MURIEL WILKINS: Yeah. And in doing that, what you’re reclaiming, Jay, is that part of yourself that you feel you lost …
MURIEL WILKINS: … Under those different conditions.
JAY: Correct. Thank you very much.
MURIEL WILKINS: Okay?
JAY: I truly understand that now.
MURIEL WILKINS: You’re welcome. I typically ask at the end what your takeaways are but I feel like you already went there. But I will ask, what’s the one thing that you feel you can do differently today as you face your work day as a result of this discussion?
JAY: I think the one thing that I definitely will do first thing is not being so critical of myself and everything else. And the word that I always use is that mindset shift, actually saying that looking at situations which you very articulately spoke about before is when I say things, I saw it as a negative. But actually seeing it and reflecting upon it and saying, “It’s not really a negative . It’s just a decision that you’ve made. Or it’s a decision you can make that has potentially a more powerful and positive response.” I think that’s the big thing here.
MURIEL WILKINS: A loss of confidence can be really hard to deal with. We’ve all been there. The question is how quickly we can find our mojo again. And, like Jay, it requires looking at what got you through those moments in the past and making a choice on what you need to think and do to move forward. That’s it for this episode of Coaching Real Leaders. Thanks to my producer, Mary Due, music composer Brian Campbell, and the entire team at HBR. Much gratitude to the leaders who join me in these coaching conversations and to you, our listeners, who share in their journeys. If you’re dealing with a leadership challenge, I’d love to hear from you and possibly have you on the show. Apply at CoachingRealLeaders.com and you can find me on LinkedIn, on Twitter, @MurialMWilkins or on Instagram at @CoachMurialWilkins. If you loved the show and learned from it, pay it forward. Share it with your friends, subscribe, leave a review. From HBR Presents, this is Muriel Wilkins.