I don’t know about you but it pains me to see so many people in organizations not contributing near to what they are capable of. Many of course, for any multitude of reasons, just don’t want to, thank you very much. They are satisfied with average, with just enough. That’s a topic for another time.
But many more would like to accomplish more, go higher, be more successful (however they might define that), but they don’t because they don’t believe they can! These people are locked into what the late motivational expert Lou Tice called the “self-talk cycle.”
They believe they are not capable. They accept this as reality, as much as is the chair they are sitting on. They have drunk the Kool Aid about their own limitations. And their self-talk–sometimes verbalized, more often spoken silently in their mind–mirrors this belief: “I’m not very good with people, you know.” “I could never do THAT.” “How could I be so stupid?” “I always screw up what I say when I get a chance in meetings.”
When they try to do better, their mental, obedient mind takes its instructions from their self-talk and ensures that they screw up in the meeting. It fulfills the prophecy. And what is their post-meeting self talk? “See, I told you I always screw up.” And the cycle goes on.
Chances are slim that they will change this pattern and start excelling in their job. Usually it calls for an outside force. That would be you, manager/coach. But what can you do? Here are a couple of strategies:
- Gently probe the basis for their assumptions.
- “Where did you learn that about yourself?”
- “Who taught you that you aren’t able to…?”
- “Is it not at least possible that you could, in fact,…?”
- Challenge them by framing it as the past, not necessarily the future.
- “Yes, you may have fallen short in meetings up to now but that doesn’t mean you always will.”
- “So, what have you learned from the last meeting? What could you do/try differently the next time?”
- “You may have acted in what you call a ‘timid’ manner before, but you are not timid.”
- Share your (genuine but more positive) perceptions of their ability.
- “I believe that, in fact, you are capable of doing ‘THAT.'”
- “You do many things well in your job, for example…”
- “From where I stand, you do have the potential to get better. I have seen you grow in your work. For example…”
If they respect you and believe that you have their best interest at heart (both of these must be in place), then you have a shot at getting them to accept the possibility of another version of the “truth” about themselves and their ability.
This is the first step in their dialing up their self confidence…and moving beyond that all-too-common level of performance called “just OK.”