How to manage fear of failure successfully

Considering fear as a factor pays off when YOU are the one offering the kind of social safety people need. Managing the fear factor will boost your performance and that of those you work with.

Interestingly, we mostly hesitate to talk openly about fear as factor in the professional environment. However, as we all know, it is very much a factor of daily life. It can take the form of the fear of being passed over, fear of underperforming, the fear of giving a presentation, fear of losing a client, or fear of confrontation.

Fear of failure or fear of being not good enough is actually the skeleton in most professionals’ cupboard.

manage fear of failure

What if you could help others conquer their fear of failure?

What if you were the one who gave people the confidence they need to be able to perform without fear of failure? You’d be offering people something they really need and usually fear (!) to ask support for.

Managing fear of failure and anxiety will boost your performance and that of those you work with. Click To Tweet

Start with your own fears

To work with the fear factor the logical route is to start with first understanding your own fears, and then graduating to dealing with the fear of others. They are of course essentially the same as yours. They are just disguised in a particular personal shape, manner or mental model.

Beginning with yourself is the logical route because it will teach you something important about fear. Conquering fear is only possible when you know where your safety lies. 

Fears are inside the mind. That means that the safety you need to conquer your fears will be found there too.

It’s all in the mind

First, look at the particular shape your fear of failure takes. What exactly are you afraid will happen? The shape of this question is a clue to where your fear resides. What you are afraid of usually has not happened, yet. You are just expecting it to happen.

Remember this: you expect what you invited. You invited the idea of what will happen in your mind. This means you can change the invitation. This is even true when what you fear will happen already happened before. Historical precedent does not have to be a predictor of future performance.

Just look carefully at what you fear. Now look at what you would need to feel safe enough to act with confidence. True safety lies inside. It is not found by ignoring your fear, but by looking at what you do and exploring what you need to change and feel sufficiently secure.

(It is usually helpful to have someone do this with you who can help you distinguish between what is real and what is not, as we discussed in The only way to overcome fear of failure. A good coach is able to do this with you).

Give to others what they need

When you have diagnosed your own particular fear of failure and your anxieties, look at what you would appreciate other people doing for you. This will be a start in your quest to help others conquer their fear of failure and allay their anxiety.

People like you will probably appreciate the things you need from others.

Other people might need other things. While the underlying need for security is the same for everyone, the expression of it might be different.

Some people need reassurance. They need to be told they can do it, and why you think so. Others need knowledge and a roadmap. They need to know how things work and how they can follow the exact steps towards getting a predictable result. Other people need an overall strategy of how they can deal with the situation. Everybody needs a form of relationship with you.


The only way to deal with the fear factor is to bring it out in the open. Remember: fear of failure is in the mind. It’s usually enough to talk about the situation and think of ways of dealing with it, in the manner that people need. Bringing fear out into the open is only possible when there is sufficient trust between you. That’s why managing fear of failure with others is an essential soft skill.

By Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf

Knowing how to manage fear of failure in others is an essential soft skill. That’s why we offer coaching you along the lines that we sketch in this article. We help you discover the form of your own fears and what you need to perform excellently. Then we advise you on what you need to manage the fear of failure of others successfully. Please look at our coaching offer for more details.

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The only way to overcome your fear of failure

fear of failure: face your fearsWe all have experienced some fear of failure during our lives.

✔ The anxious feeling that creeps up sometimes of not being up to the task, but knowing we have to perform anyway.

✔ That irrational fear that now people will find out that you are not as good as they thought you were.

✔ The first time you had to give that important presentation, or that interview for a job you really wanted, or the conversation with a client you needed to close.

Giving in to this fear has a paralyzing effect. Instead of being at your best, the way you want to be, you usually perform very near your worst, damaging your chances of success. It seems really important to know what to do when fear of failure shows up in your mind.

The short answer is: there is only one way of dealing with your fear of failure, and that is to face your fear.

Of course, there’s a long answer to go with that, to explain why facing your fear is necessary, and how you do it.

We’ll start with a short story from our own experience, where facing the fear was literally the only answer that would lead to success.

Lean into the danger

Rather late in life we learned to ski. At the time we lived in the French Alps and we had some time for private lessons. Iris, one of the authors of this article, was afraid of the slopes, afraid of losing control and falling. For a long time, there was no progress towards skiing with freedom. Not for want of trying by both teacher and pupil…. But Iris persisted, because it seemed an important personal growth goal to achieve to overcome that fear.

As those of you who ski or walk in the mountains will know, to be safe in skiing or walking you have to do something counterintuitive. You have to lean into the valley, towards where you fear to fall. You have to let go of your idea of where you think you have control. You have to trust that control will follow when you do what you fear.

So, what makes it possible to do that? The answer is surprisingly simple.

One day, our friend the mountain guide said something that he had said many times before, but this time something clicked. “Face your fear’, he said. “Without looking and really seeing what is there, you don’t see where you go, and what is more: without looking and really seeing you cannot know what is real and what is not. When you face your fear, you will see what is there.”

Face your fear and see what is really there

Well, there you go: nothing like the physical reality of your life to be taught a lesson you cannot ignore. You cannot ignore it because the results are immediate and undeniably evident. When you face your fears, you will know what is real and what is imagined. And you will be able to act accordingly.

This sounds easy, and it is if you are able to do it. But the ways of fear are manifold and facing your fear requires (besides what we already told you in Failure teaches Success) the practices of inner peace and rational understanding of what your fear does to you. This will enable you to overcome your fear of failure and be able to act with freedom.

What is fear and what does it do?

So what is fear? Not the physical process, but what does ‘fear’ mean? The literal origin of the word fear gives it away; it evolved from the late English word faër. This means anxiety caused by the feeling of danger.

The consequence of this feeling of danger is that your mind focuses on seeing the danger. You look, but what you see is not alone what is there. What you see instead is all the ways you could possibly fail.

The expectation of failure is one of the modes of expression of fear. Failure literally means: cease to function. No wonder one feels fear. Yet, is it real? To determine the reality of the fear you have to face the fear.

✔ Is what you fear real?

✔ How do you know?

Especially posing that last question is really important in the process of facing your fear.

What do you need to face your fear of failure?

Just by looking, observing, and determining what it is you really see, a certain amount of calmness comes to life in your mind. This acts like a spark in the darkness. With a little bit of the right training you will start to trust the ‘spark’ and follow its light.

‘Right training’ in this case is not ignoring your fear of failure, but at the contrary learning to deal with the physical aspects of it. This is called relaxation in action. In order to be able to do this, you need to know the level of safety and control you require to take action in a relaxed manner. After all, it is your fear.

Ask yourself: what do you need to be able to look your fear of failure in the face, and see what is really there? What will give you enough safety and control to take the appropriate actions to achieve your goal? Facing your fear means finding your own answer to these questions. (A little help never goes amiss – a good coach can lead you to your answers).

Once you are able to face your fear, you will see what is really there, and what you need to successfully overcome your fear of failure and perform at your best. It’s not easy – but it’s the only way.

By Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf

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How to be heard and achieve your goals, part II

how to be heardIn the first part of “How to be Heard’ we argued that being heard follows from showing who you are with confidence.

In this second part we’ll give you some practical tips and tools on how to use your surroundings and your voice as aids in getting heard when you want to be heard.

1. Use your voice the way it should be used

Actually, training your voice to sound the way it sounds naturally, and carries sufficient volume to be heard, is not a bad way to start gaining confidence in using your voice in a way that makes it heard.

A good start is learning to use breathing in the proper way. Your voice is sound, and breathing out creates the sound. As Allison Shapira, a former opera singer turned public speaking coach says: breathing is the key to persuasive public speaking.

To speak and be heard requires some power in the airstream. Most male voices are louder, but don’t let it mislead you that the female voice or the voice of the soft-spoken male should match this volume. It is crucial to stay within your limits and being able to breathe normally. Stay within your comfort zone. That is the prime requirement to being heard.

To breathe out you have to breathe in. Being relaxed is critical to the breathing process, and to speaking naturally and persuasively. You can imagine that you are more relaxed when what you say matches your identity.

Next to training your speaking voice, there are some other things you could do to insure you are being heard.

2. There’s power in numbers

When you are consistently not being heard, or when you often hear your point being made by someone else without attribution to you, it’s time to look for support from other people in the room who are in the same situation.

A nice example of this is the way women in the Obama White House started working together to get their voices heard and their points taken seriously. Whenever women noticed that a point one of their female colleagues had made was not heard or taken up, they would repeat it, with an attribution to its source. It worked!

3. There’s power in repetition

There’s power in numbers, but also in repetition. If there are no other people present who can or want to support you, support yourself. Repeat your point when it has not been heard. Do not be afraid to interrupt when everybody else is doing just that. Just don’t do it in a way that makes people comment on your ‘pushiness’. Just persist in making your point. Be calm and collected, and make your point succinctly. Watch your voice. Don’t let it rise or become strident. Use your natural voice, just as you trained it. Persist and you will exist.

Most importantly: be yourself

Be your self; that is the only effective course to get heard and eventually, listened to. Click To Tweet

Be your self; that is the only effective course to get heard and eventually, listened to. By paying attention to who you are and grow and show your confidence, your voice will sound the way it is supposed to. When your voice matches your identity and personality, you take away one of the main causes of not being heard. This will result in being given recognition for what you might add and actually have already added to the process at hand.

Bonus: Warming up for the performance

Warming up physically

As with all physical activity, when you have to perform, the warming up and your focus determine the outcome. This one is about the warming up, the next one is about the focus.

  • Warm up by breathing slowly in and out. Make sure you breathe in low to your belly, which has to expand out. Exhale completely, starting in your belly and moving upwards. The best way to do this is to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • If possible, also do the following routines with your voice. Make humming sounds, sing the vowels a,e,i,o,u. Repeat the exercise with m and n as in mmmmmm and nnnnnnn.
  • Make hissing sounds like a happy snake.
  • Sing the word: yummy up and down the scales.
  • Sing the word: NOW and raise and lower the volume.
  • Make a long-drawn out siren sound: oooeee and repeat this up and down the scales.
  • Cool down by 12 deep breaths.

Warming up by preparation

Besides the physical preparation, it is also wise to be prepared mentally and in subject matter. Focus is important in achieving any goal.

Mental preparation consists of: checking your confidence level, and adjusting your focus to insure you are being heard.

Preparation in subject matter involves jotting down the points you want to make. Perhaps it is also possible to prepare concerns and questions with a colleague beforehand.

Also make sure that you know who is attending, and prepare yourself to deal with the different styles of communication.

Some questions to make you think about your voice

  • In what situations do think you use your voice naturally?
  • What is distinctive in your own voice as regards to personality, identity, profession, origin, and status?
  • How do you sound when you are calm? What do you do with your body, mind, breathing, and throat?

Awareness of how you use your voice is crucial in being heard. At first you will feel self-conscious. Soon it will be natural to use your voice as one of the instruments you have to achieve your goals with people.

By Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf

How we can help you being heard and achieve your goals:

You need two things to be heard. People need to be able to literally hear you when you say something. That is what this blog is about. The second thing you need is more important. In fact, we think it is key to achieving your goals. You need to be able to make your point in a way that reflects who you are. To earn confidence from people, you need to have self-confidence first. That is the point we made in the first blog, and it is what we offer to achieve with you in coaching. Why not try if it works for you, too?

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How to be heard and achieve your goals, part I

Being heardOf course people should listen. Professionally there is a powerful reason to learn to listen and to learn how to show you listen to the other person. (see How to become really good at effective listening).

However, if you wish to be heard it really helps if people actually hear you. This is much more effective than waiting until the training kicks in and they start listening.

This is the first in a two-part series on how to be heard when you want to be heard, in a way that fits with who you are.

Being heard is possible!

Being heard is of critical importance to both men and women, although the experience of not being heard is still an overwhelmingly female experience.

Not being heard destroys your self-confidence. On the other hand, when you are able to turn around this condition, this has a huge positive impact on a negative self-image and its consequences for social effectiveness.

Here’s a boost for all of us, male and female, whose voices deserve to be heard – but aren’t. It is actually possible to be heard, even if your experience up until now shows you the contrary. There are just some things you need to pay attention to.

Are you being heard?

To be heard you have to use your voice and the words you choose in a way that serves you, your purpose, and the situation.

So why are you not being heard now, and how can you take care of being heard in the future?

What do you sound like to others?

People judge each other much more than they realize on the sound of the voice they hear. Probably you have the experience meeting someone you only knew from phone calls. Here the phenomenon of building an internal image based on the voice is readily apparent. Yet we do this all the time.

Your voice is a vehicle made of sound, timbres, intonations, inflections, pitch, and volume. All these things influence how you are heard, but also if you are heard. Is your voice ‘hear-worthy’ to others?  For instance, a high voice appears to people to be much less authoritative than a lower voice. Leadership skills are associated more with low male voices. Women with lower voices also score higher as potential leaders than women with higher voices. A soft speaking voice seems to suggest insecurity, fear, and introversion.

In both cases people tend to listen less to these voices. You are not being heard. You are not heard figuratively, in the case of high-pitched women voices, or literally, in the case of people with a lower voice volume.

So what do you do when you have a high female voice, or when your voice does not carry well? Do you lower your voice or up the volume? The answer is: NO!

Being heard follows from showing who you are with confidence

The more your voice matches your identity, your social and professional personality, and your role, the better you are listened to. Like your body, your voice cannot lie. We hear if people are reasonably integrated and self-confident, although we are usually not consciously aware of this. When your voice does not match your manner, people react by not trusting you or dismissing you.

Essentially your voice should fit with the idea you have of your self. As with so many things related to career and life it comes down to the degree your social being is integrated and true to whom you are. This is not the result of some magical formula, but just the result of self-knowledge, self-acceptance, and the steady process of being able to take self-responsibility.

  • Self-knowledge in this case means you are aware of what your voice sounds like to other people. It also means you know when the voice you use does not match your ‘natural’ stress free voice.
  • Self-acceptance means a little more than being able to accept you sound the way you do. It also means you are able to feel confident about yourself, whatever the sound of your voice.
  • Self-responsibility means you take responsibility for finding ways to be heard. For example by using the practical tips we will give you in the next article in this two-part series. It also means you learn how to use your voice so you can be heard. This self-responsibility means you take matters into your own hand. You will be heard!

To be continued: Part II, with practical tips and tools on how to be heard. 

Being heard follows from showing who you are with confidence. Click To Tweet

By Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf

How we can help you to be heard and achieve your goals:

You need two things to be heard. People need to be able to literally hear you when you say something. That is what the next blog in this series is about. The second thing you need is more important. In fact, we think it is key to achieving your goals. You need to be able to make your point in a way that reflects who you are. To earn confidence from people, you need to have self-confidence first. That is the point we made in this blog, and it is what we offer to achieve with you in coaching. Why not try if it works for you, too?

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Failure teaches success

This is the second article in the series: Winning is for losers. In the first, we wrote about how ‘failing better’ every time can improve your performance – provided you keep trying!

In this second article, we’ll show you the harmful effects of fearing to lose – and how to turn this around to become a winner by losing.

The fear of losing prevents winning

The uncertainty and doubt that are generated by the fear of losing lead to a mental and emotional state that brings on personal stress. The meaning you give to what happens becomes focused only on the possibility of failure. Now what was certain and could become reality seems imagined and is uncertain.

For most of us, uncertainty and loss is something that we would rather avoid. This avoidance reflex has immediate limiting effects on our actions. It leads to the following ineffective process:

  1. Strained execution
  2. Flawed evaluation
  3. Premature adaptation

A recipe for ineffectiveness

You will easily see that this is not a recipe for winning. For that matter, it’s not even a recipe for genuinely losing. It will just keep you in a limbo of ineffectiveness that may even lead to apathy. Continuing to obey the reflex of avoiding loss will eventually lead to: “Why try? I’ve tried before, and then it failed, too!” You won’t attempt much anymore.

Failure teaches success Click To Tweet

However, you do possess the ability to perform. Or you would, if only you were able to lose.

A Japanese proverb illustrates why it is important to learn to lose in order to perform successfully. It says: Failure teaches success. In other words: in order to be successful you will have to lose your fear of failing.

Start performing in the face of the possibility of failure. See the failure when it comes (as it will) as an opportunity to learn. You will have learned how not to do it. Now do it again, but with what you have learned. That is ‘failing better’, as we saw in the first article in this series. So, how do you lose your fear of failing?

When are you best able to stand failure?

Think about this for a minute. What are the circumstances when you are willing to fail, stand up and try again?

Remember when you learned to walk? Most of us don’t – but you will have seen it with your own or other people’s small children. The sheer joy of learning to walk makes them tolerant of falling down all the time. They just stand up and try again.

You can recapture that tolerance for failure when you set a goal you truly want and start working towards it. However, there is one critical success factor to make this work. Failure has to be safe enough.

Failure has to be safe enough

When you were learning to walk, there was someone around to prevent you from falling dangerously. Failure was kept within the limits of safety.

It is important to design a system that keeps you as safe as possible when you are working towards a goal you truly want. It’s all right to fall down. It’s even all right to get slightly bruised in the process. But you must be able to get up and try again.

It’s possible to design safety. If this is done right, a fault might lead to some failure, but not to total breakdown.

Safety lies in how you do it

Safety can be found in how you do what you do. Climbing a mountain when you are untrained and unsecured is a dangerous business. Falling can get you killed. Climbing a mountain when you’re trained and secured is still dangerous. But when you keep within your capabilities, don’t take any steps you don’t trust, and listen to advice of the guide, you can reach the top.

Safety prevents fear of failure

The safety you experience while performing is of critical importance. The more safety you experience, the more you are able to act free from the awareness that failure is a possibility.

When you act free of the fear of failure, you are more likely to perform to your utmost. You are able to:

  • Fully function even when a fault occurs.
  • You will be able to compensate either in what you do or recover and immediately act again.

Inner peace enables outer reach Click To Tweet

The qualifying factor for how you meet the possibility of failure free of fear is: inner peace. Inner peace is the result of

  • trust in your ability, coupled with
  • the self-confidence that you will be able to bounce back from eventual failure and try again.

You are more flexible when you act from a position of inner peace. When it’s something you do with your body, you will even be literally longer, because your muscles won’t contract as a result of stress.

What is more, without the narrowing of your focus that is the result of the danger of failure, you will interpret what happens with a wide-angle lens of reality. You will see more and better. Your decisions will be better. You are more realistic, because you are more in contact with how it really is.

Take a small step in the direction of a goal you really want. Make sure that you are safe enough to really try. If you fail, take a look at why you failed. Try again. Fail better.

In the third article in this series, Winners are Beginners, we’ll tell you some more about this process of failing better. You will see why winners are always beginners.

© Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf

See our Coaching offer: The result of our coaching is the unconstrained achievement of your personal and career goals. The coaching is measurable, adaptable and suitable for you. Right from the start you’ll know you are on your way to make progress towards your goal.

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How to become more visible at work

Of course you know that you are literally visible.

Therefore, when you experience the need to become more visible at work, something must be missing. What would that be?

How to become vsble

To become visible, you have to add what was missing. You need to add two i’s to vsble to create something that is immediately visible.

  • Add an i to visible, that is: the i of impact. Impact matters. It’s what makes you visible. Visible means that what may be seen, in other words that which you make conspicuous. The point is: what kind of impact do you want to make? What do you want to be seen? That’s where the second i comes in.
  • Add another i to visible, that is: the I of you. The only one that can make an impact happen is you. The only kind of impact worth making is an impact that is connected with who you are.

The two i’s are closely related. Adding the i of impact to visble without the I of you will leave you with the kind of visibility that is wrong for you. You will be visble, but everybody will immediately see there is still something wrong, something missing. That’s why the following rule applies when you want to become more visible:

Choose the impact you can have above the impact you can’t have

The critical success factor for becoming visible is to choose the impact you can have above the impact you can’t have. Research among our clients shows that you can trace at least 70% of the feeling of lack of social visibility back to trying to do something that is not your forte.

Some examples of doing this:

Why literally try to be heard when your voice isn’t loud enough?

(Find other ways to get noticed in a professional manner. One is movement. Movement automatically captures attention).

Why act like an extrovert way when you are introvert?

(There’s nothing wrong with acting extrovertly when the occasion requires this. But when you do it all the time, it will exhaust you. And you will still be less visible, because less authentic, than someone who is naturally extrovert. Introverts have other ways to shine and be visible.)

Why accept the proposition in a meeting that you had made earlier, which was ignored, but is now picked up at the suggestion of someone else – without mentioning this?

Don’t be an alien to yourself

Why would you adopt behavior that will never work, because it doesn’t originate in who you are? Every person is endowed not only with inalienable rights, but also with inbred assets and ways of being that belong to that person. Don’t be an alien to yourself. Make an impact, certainly, because impact matters. But make an impact that will leave an impression of who you are authentically.

Impact matters – so what impact do you want to make?

Impact matters! Determine the effect or impression you want to achieve. Click To Tweet

‘Making an impact’ can be illustrated best by taking it literally for a moment. Interpret making an impact as if you are baking cookies or building a sand castle with your kids at the playground. Imagine you have this basic form of the dough or the sand. Next you push shape into it in order to create a form or accentuate something. If you do it right it will work out. It will be visible.

Right is what works for you. It won’t work at all, or even counterproductively, if you try to do something that you can’t really do easily or at least without straining yourself too much.

Like putting a form in dough or sand, it will only make a perfect impact when it is done gently. Doing it with force will ruin it. Gently and easily is the key here. Anything you can handle or manage easily is done in a way that will be worthy of attention. It will be visible to others.

If people happen to overlook what you want to be seen – there’s nothing wrong with calling their attention to it. Just make sure of these two things:

  1. Add the i of impact: determine what you want to be visible.
  2. Then add the I of you: make your impact in a way that suits you.

This is your choice in becoming more visible at work. Be who you are and learn to have an impact, or accept that others have an impact on who you are.
By  Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf

Do you want to know how you can make an impact and become more visible at work?

The ability to make an impact in a way that makes you visible in the right way is an essential soft skillCoaching helps you choose what impact you want to make and how to make it in a way that makes you visible in a manner that suits you.

Please feel free to ask us how we can help you to prepare for making an impact and becoming more visible.

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Build self-confidence the easy way

build self-confidence, the easy waySelf-confidence is the result of things that go right

Think of the things you feel self-confident about. They have one thing in common. You know you are able to do them. Easily.

How do you know? You know because you have done it before, and it worked. Self-confidence is the result of things that go right.

Self-confidence is built on the ability to fail

Paradoxically, it turns out that to build self-confidence, you need to have a certain tolerance for failure. You have to try out new things. They will be things that you have no experience with that they will go right. A lot of the stuff that you try is not going to work out. Only some of it is.

Those things that you do succeed in bolster your self-confidence. But what about the rest? How do we get our ‘courage’ up to try, and try again until we succeed?

A built-in handicap to building self-confidence

When it comes to trying out new things and feeling confident about it, most people have a built-in handicap. It turns out that most of us involuntarily focus on the downside of our personal histories when we undertake something new.

This ‘downside’ is made up of situations that didn’t work out well, on bad feedback, things that failed, unprocessed ‘pain’ we didn’t let go of, or unfinished business.

Although this focus is mainly unconscious, it does have a detrimental effect on what we feel confident about. Besides, this feeling also often translates itself into ‘rational’ objections to trying the new thing.

As a consequence you hardly ever encounter the real limit of your current capabilities. Let alone that you surpass that limit easily and successfully.

This leaves a certain margin where you might be successful and build your self-confidence easily. You just haven’t tried out this margin as yet.

How to  build your self-confidence the easy way

So the question remains: how do you overcome the built-in handicap and build self-confidence anyway?

We think the right way is the easy way. We do not believe in taking ‘massive action’ or pumping up your self-confidence artificially by telling yourself how awesome you are.

Building self-confidence works best when you take action without pressure and still achieve the result you set out to achieve.

The rule of thumb to build self-confidence is ‘easy’; you just have to feel easy about the whole affair. Make use of the margin where you haven’t yet tested the full range of your capabilities.

The proper way to structure a process to build self-confidence is to:

  1. First assess what it is you want or have to accomplish.
  2. Next ascertain what action is required and –
  3. Then assess your current level of capability to take this action.
  4. Lastly, consider the level of self-confidence you feel about the task.

The taking of the action should feel as a small matter, very comfortable, so that all your attention can be focused on facilitating the positive effect of your action, the actual learning, and the relation with those involved in the situation.

Evaluation is the name of the game

In order to actually learn you have to become really aware of the action itself.

  • What did you do?
  • What was the effect?
  • How did you feel?

Aim to get a feeling for how confident you felt, and about the actual degree of capability involved in taking the action. The goal here is that you get an insight in your personal margin where the action is still sufficiently easy to take and achieve the result, and the degree of self-confidence you experience is still high enough.

Once you have a realistic comprehension for this connection you will feel more confident about taking action to achieve a bigger result. Soon you’ll develop a more intuitive sense for what you can do easily and what needs a little bit of exploration and trying out.

A few Tricks of the Trade to build self-confidence

Sometimes it is little things that give you this feeling of easiness and just enough self-confidence to try out something new. A few examples:

Giving presentations

This is of course a fraught subject for many people. It is said that on a list of things that people are afraid of, this one always scores very high. What exactly saps your self-confidence in this matter is an individual matter. (We do advice you to be aware of what it is in your case that makes your self-confidence go down in this situation.)

It helps most people when they take a little time to come to themselves just before they launch into the presentation. This you can do naturally, by e.g. taking a sip of water (helps to clear your throat as well), or to arrange all the things you need. Any little thing that looks and feels natural, and that gives you a little breathing space. (This is, by the way, also very good advice: take a deep breath before you begin).

Meeting with an overbearing client

Here the issue is mostly one of being influenced by the manner of another person. This may lead to uncertainty about your own capability or even the dreaded ‘imposter syndrome’. Now it’s no use saying: don’t do that, because you probably will do that when your self-confidence is low.

However, you have the possibility to shift your focus from the client’s behavior to the business at hand. You are together for a purpose. Concentrate on that purpose, and on your preparation for the business you are about to conduct. When your preparation was good, this is the thing you will feel easy about.

Above all: don’t defend yourself. Just say what you have to say and make your point.

(* The advice we give here is very general. When you want advice that is entirely focused on your situation and your needs, coaching self-confidence (or whatever it is you need) might be the answer. Check out our offer.)

In conclusion:

Self-confidence is nothing else but faith in your own ability to do what is required. To build self-confidence you need to experiment a little on the edge of what you are sure of. Build on your experience of positive results. Learn from the results that didn’t quite come of as you hoped. Next time, you’ll at least know how not to do it. Remember above all: keep it easy.

By Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf

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Self-confidence is one of the soft skills we coach managers and professionals in. Coaching soft skills is not about training – it’s advice how you acquire and apply the necessary soft skills to achieve your goals. If you want to know more, please feel free to schedule a call with us.

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Don’t let perfectionism hold you back

don't let perfectionism hold you backPerfectionism, instead of making you more effective, actually makes you less effective. Where does the idea you have to be perfect come from? More importantly, how to get rid of its nasty effects?

Perfectionism is a bad idea

Most people have some idea about their own capability to do something. They have a reasonable idea whether there actions will sort the effect they expect.

There are some people however who assume that their actions have to be perfect before they can sort the right effect. This idea becomes active notably when risk is involved.

If you are one of those people, you know that the idea that you have to be perfect before you can act inhibits your effectiveness. Instead of making you more effective, the idea that you have to be perfect makes you less than perfect in action.

For one thing, being perfectionist will often prevent you from taking any action at all, for fear of doing ‘the wrong thing’. For another, it will mean you will be overly controlling, not only of your own actions, but often of those around you too.

You’re not perfect – does that mean you’re a failure?

Admittedly, the idea does keep you perfect right where you are. That is its primary function. The idea is supposed to protect you from possible failure. Perfectionism is supposed to keep you 100% secure. But does it?

Grasp the mechanics of the idea and its nasty effects as if an imaginary Chihuahua yaps somewhere in your mind. You can’t silence the yapping. It’s a disturbing question gnawing at your self-confidence. Would I fail when it turns out my actions are not perfect? You can’t ignore it, because there is some truth to it. You are indeed not perfect.

In fact you shouldn’t ignore it, but acknowledge it, and see what you can do with this information. What if you are not perfect right now? Does that mean you have failed?

Practice makes perfect

Many years ago when one of the authors, Rudi, practiced martial arts, he did an intensive training in a Japanese abbey. A ninety-something year old master gave him this idea about perfectness. The old man showed him what went right and how to improve one aspect ‘of the many there still are to improve on. Don’t you worry. Maybe you will be the first who will perform one move perfectly.’

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good

Regarding perfectionism, there are roughly two viewpoints that should complement each other:

  • Practice makes perfect.
  • Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

You can’t fail when you’ve practiced until you’re perfect, can you? The precondition is that you do practice, and that practicing would lead to analysis and improvement.

Instead the idea you can only act ‘for real’ when you’ve got it down perfectly often leads to paralysis. ‘Perfectionism’ can inhibit you to practice to perfection. You don’t practice with the idea that your ‘failure’ to perform perfectly is just information to make you better. This in turn means you don’t see where and what you can improve. You gave free rein to what you thought might happen. As a consequence you are tense. Your actions are not free. Actions that are not free are never perfect….

Practice does make perfect, but you need to embrace the other idea as well: Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.

Do what you can do right now – that’s usually good enough

The consequence of this practical wisdom is to do what is possible for you right where you are, as you are, at that moment.

Perfect is the enemy of practice. However, if you practice you don’t need to be perfect. Practice makes perfect. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.

How to take the first step?

We know how difficult it can be to take the first step while leaving the perfectionism that has kept you secure for so long by the wayside. It does take courage to take an action when you’re not sure you will be ‘good enough’. How to take that first step anyway?

First of all, make sure it is a step you are reasonably sure about – say, 80 to 90 %, you will be able to do it. Small incremental steps will bring you a long way as long as you keep practicing, evaluating and adapting.

Second, it would be a good idea to talk about the ideas that crop up in your ‘perfectionist moments’. An objective outside view can alter your perspective sufficiently to prevent your perfectionism holding you back any longer. We’d be glad to be your partner in this conversation.

By Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf

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Perfectionism inhibits your self-confidence. Building Self-confidence is one of the soft skills we offer coaching in for managers and professionals.

Dealing successfully with competition in your career

competitionDealing with competition is part of professional life. When it comes to dealing with competition, the world can be divided into roughly two kinds of people: those who thrive on it, and those who dislike it. How you deal with competition is dependent on which category you fall into.

Success for those who thrive on competition

You’d think people who thrive on competition have a competitive edge in a world where competition is the name of the game. However, as with all things good, there is a downside to this appetite. The urge to win and the thrill of the competition can carry you away and make you lose what you want to win.

Competition is a game with rules, and those rules differ from situation to situation. What will be prized in one situation, e.g. going after a deal until you’ve got it, can be deemed inappropriate behavior in a situation between colleagues. Your ability to be a team player may be  just as important as being the go-getter who gets things done.

When you thrive on competition and like the thrill of it, be aware of the situation and what it requires of you. Always have clear in your mind what it is you want to win, and what would be the best way to achieve it that is in line with your goal and with your values. Sometimes you can go all out. Sometimes you might have to tone down your competitive drive and show  your more collaborative side.

Success for those who dislike competition

Those who dislike competition are obviously somewhat at a disadvantage in a competitive environment. They might hesitate to showcase their achievements when they really should. They might not naturally take the lead in some situations where it is expected of them.

When you dislike competition, you should be aware of the importance of building credibility by showing others your unique strengths. Don’t take for granted that people will notice them. Work on your presentation skills. Not necessarily on those you need to present in front of people, although that never does any harm. Work on the presentation of yourself, who you are, and what your unique contribution is. Your unique contribution might be exactly that you don’t like competition. You can be the reflective voice when that people need, for example in a tense team situation where competition threatens to disrupt collaboration.

What do you want to come out of it?

Whether you thrive on competition or dislike it, the most important thing to remember in any situation is: what do you want to come out of it? What is your goal? How can I achieve that goal in a way that fits with who I am and is consistent with my values? Be competitive where this leads to the results you need. Choose collaboration when this brings you closer to the goal. Judging when to be competitive and when to be more of a team player is a skill you can  learn. A little bit of coaching might be a good idea to support you here. (See our offer below.)

By Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf

The Good Career and Life coaching for professionals: Do you want to know how you can deal successfully with competition in your career? One prepared coaching conversation can help you on your way.

We find that dealing with competition successfully is often a question of self-confidence. Having self-confidence when you need it is one of the soft skills we offer coaching in.

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You don’t need self-confidence!

Self-confidence seems to be a requirement for success in your career. Thinking you need it however is counterproductive – it actually lowers your self-confidence. To counter that, here’s some practical advice on how you can act without needing self-confidence and achieve results anyway.

self-confidenceSelf-confidence is often pictured as something you must have if you want to be successful. But what if you’re not naturally a self-confident person? Do you need advice like ‘don’t think negative thoughts about yourself’ or ‘think about all the things you have accomplished?’ We don’t think so.

We think some practical advice about how to act without needing self-confidence is more useful to you.

Self-confidence as an imperative for career success is a trap

To get ahead in life, action is necessary. That’s a truism. However, when you think you need self-confidence to be able to act, it will hamper your effectiveness in action.

That’s why self-confidence as an imperative to achieving anything is setting you up for failure. It’s a trap: you won’t be able to act freely, and your evaluation of your actions will be off as well.

The way out of the trap of needing self-confidence

Anything that gives you the impulse of needing self-confidence drains your energy, destroys the trust you have, and makes it harder for you the next time round. The only way to circumvent this trap is very simple: don’t do anything where you feel you need to have self-confidence.

The only absolute requirement before you take action is not that you should be self-confident, but that you are able to do it. Self-confidence can be found in keeping it small, that is to say: find something doable. That’s where you’re not thinking about needing confidence, because it is already there.

Take one doable step at a time

Look at the action you have to take. If it requires self-confidence, begin with a small part that you think you can do. Even if this small step is just to prepare to take action, that will already be enough. The important thing is to take an action that you are able to do now.

Evaluate the result of this action. See what needs to be adapted. What would have worked better? See if you can now find another doable action within the range of your self-confidence. Think of ways that will make it easier for you to take the action.
Take the action. Evaluate. Adapt. Repeat.

A rule of thumb while thinking about doing something is: do you feel at ease? Are you inwardly comfortable with yourself, the social setting, the people, the act itself, the likely outcome… Do you feel safe to fail and do it again?

Correct evaluation will make you more effective

This process of taking only doable steps will also influence your evaluation of yourself and your actions positively. When you act while you think you need self-confidence, experience learns evaluation of your actions will be prejudiced. However, to achieve results, you should be able to evaluate your actions correctly, and adapt where necessary.

It turns out that we are able to look at ourselves without prejudice and come to a correct evaluation of our actions only if the act was free of doubt. When you’ve done something that you think you can do, you’ve probably acted without doubt.

Correct evaluation will enable you to adapt what is necessary and be more effective when you take your next step.

Your self-confidence will grow with experience

When you’re able to act free of doubt, because you’ve taken on something that you can do, your self-confidence will inevitably grow. Instead of failing in your own eyes because you weren’t confident enough, you will grow in experience by taking doable steps that lead towards your goal.

By Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf

The Good Career and Life coaching for professionals: Practical advice about the small steps you can take without needing self-confidence. Tailor-made for you and your situation. Can be implemented immediately. One prepared coaching session.

Building self-confidence is one of the soft skills we offer coaching in.

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