Overcoming Self-Doubt


I have been reading a good book called “Unstoppable Teams” by Alden Mills. Mills is an ex-Navy Seal and an entrepreneur. Mills describes “Unstoppable teams as a tightly knit group of ordinary people doing extraordinary things”. This can apply to any industry.

We have spent quite a bit of time discussing relationship building, and I cannot stress enough how important this is in every aspect of your life. To be a great team leader you need to be a good relationship builder. It starts with you!

To be a good leader, to inspire and motivate others you need to know yourself and what matters to you. Meaning the first team you build is yourself. I am not talking about arrogance, but you must be confident in yourself, know your goals and not get yourself hung up with self-doubt. The ability to lead you is the beginning of leading a team. Team members respond best to leaders whose actions mirror their words.

I was in between jobs one time and feeling lost, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, I didn’t have a direction, much like a ship in the ocean without navigation coordinates. Someone suggested I apply to work at the Institute of Technology. I doubted and wondered what skills I had that would make qualified to work for higher education. Self-doubt hurts us not only personally but also professionally, it causes you to feel inadequate, overwhelmed and insecure.

Research shows that self-doubt can impair your performance at work. This causes you to lose motivation and afraid to try new things. The University of California Berkeley found that those who were more confident experience greater success, despite their talent.

I ended up walking into the HR Department at the Institute of technology and left my resume. Later I was called in for an interview and offered a position. On my first day during training, my supervisor observed that I knew more about the software program than she did.  Over time I worked my way up the corporate ladder at the college and ended up leading the team.

Each of us as human beings are remarkable. We all have skills and talents and we need to believe in ourselves. Believing in ourselves, having confidence changes our relationships and how we communicate. Our posture changes, we stand taller, our shoulders do not sag and we look people in the eye.

Richard Branson said: “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes -then learn how to do it later!”

Ways to overcome self-doubt include:

  • Educate yourself
    • Take a course, workshop or seminar
  • Set realistic goals
    • These goals do need to stretch you.
  • Handle your setbacks and criticism
    • Someone criticized me, pointing out a weakness. As I listened to the criticism, I will be honest it was hurtful, but I listened. I then set out to educate myself, I read books on how to improve that particular weakness. I also attend a Dale Carnegie training course to further gain skills and the confidence I needed.
  • Surround yourself by good people
    • Even an opponent who will candidly discuss your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Take a risk
    • Do not be afraid to learn new things.

To be a good leader we need to be willing to change ourselves and to become the best person we can become. We need to be able to be good listeners and learn from the thing’s other council, even if we don’t agree with them.

President Abraham Lincoln was a great example of a great leader of an unstoppable team. As the country was entering the civil war, Lincoln was intent on finding the best people, he invited his rivals to join his cabinet, the very people that opposed him, Lincoln recognized that their strengths complimented him and provided diversity of thought which lead to them as a team unified in the common goal of ending slavery. The better you are at building relationships, especially with those who disagree with you, the more unstoppable you’ll become as a team builder and leader.

Mills says that everyone has a superpower.  These are the skills we each have the compliment another. For example, if your weakness is with spreadsheets and numbers then you will seek a team member that has that superpower. I know that one of my superpowers is relationship building. Over the years I have learned to connect with people. Our self-doubt would have me believe that it is not a superpower but to introverts, it is a huge superpower. Another person might be super organized, another might be very creative. The key here is to remember that unstoppable teams are built with ordinary people who complement each other’s skills.

You are a remarkable human, you have superpowers and I challenge each of you to ask trusted co-works, friends and partners what your superpowers are. Listen to criticism and seek ways to strengthen those weaknesses. Remember the best team you have starts with you.

Cheryl Viola, MBA, Executive Director