Now more than ever we all need self-belief

Great work comes from talented teams fuelled with self-belief. But self-doubt is something many are experiencing right now. It’s understandable when we’re working from bedrooms, box rooms and are physically disconnected from the people and places that help keep us grounded and keep things in perspective. So how can we nurture self-belief when the world around us seems to be on a mission to destroy it?

Self-doubt can often be driven by fear of losing what we have or simply fearing failure. At the end of last year, I was chatting to one of our (many) lovely clients about the next wave of their marketing campaign. This particular campaign has been running in various guises for around two years now, and each time we tweak the creative and the campaign airs, the results get better. We are living the campaign dream.

But the planning of each new wave is also met with great trepidation and the self-doubt starts to creep in. What if we don’t get it right? What if this next wave is the one that doesn’t perform? Even with the most solid strategy and sharpest tactics, it can happen. The more successful we are, the more afraid we are of getting it wrong.

Create psychological safety

So, what’s the answer? Fostering the right environment is a good first step. In her brilliant book, The Fearless Organization, Amy Edmondson talks about the importance of driving out fear in the workplace. Just hiring smart people isn’t enough to guarantee brilliant work and innovative ideas. For this to flourish, you also need a workplace environment where people don’t feel afraid to stand out, share half-formed ideas or just give it a go. In other words, a workplace that has psychological safety.

Fear and consequence don’t disappear, but the judgement of what failure says about you and your place in the world does. And the onus is on us as leaders to make this happen, demonstrating a commitment to safety and openness. Not just for the success of our business, but for the mental health of our people too.

Learn from failure

If we don’t fail now and again, how will we ever know what is fundamentally right? In the right environment, failure becomes a really valuable source of data – not a stick to beat the team with.

If things don’t go how you planned, work through the data and then re-set your sail. You’ll very rarely get it right first time, so don’t focus on perfection from day one. Get your idea out there and you can course correct to get you to a far more brilliant outcome, faster.

If we don’t fail now and again, how will we ever know what is fundamentally right? In the right environment, failure becomes a really valuable source of data.

Let it go

Remember how it felt to do something when you didn’t care about how well it defined your success, or when you weren’t burdened with what you did or didn’t know? Chances are, it was probably when you were a child, it’s how they learn. But what if we took a child’s perspective a little more often? There are a few simple ways to do this – and working from home couldn’t be a better time to try them.

  1. Be bored. Stop filling each second with mindless phone scrolling or chores and just allow your mind to wander. Giving yourself even a small amount of time and space to daydream will let your imagination get to work – it’s something kids do really well.
  2. Make it up. Kids have a great capacity to be uninhibited, and just put it out there. The same thing can happen to musicians when they improvise – their brains turn off areas linked to self-censoring and turn on those that let self-expression flow. You probably improvise without even thinking about it in your daily life, so try apply it to your work and see what happens.
  3. Break the rules. We have all been bought up to believe, on the whole, that there is one correct answer to everything and that it’s wrong to make a mistake. Kids have no ideas about these ‘rules’ and are happy being chaotic and searching for lots of different answers. Challenge the rules you might have set yourself. Sit in a different location (if you can), do things in a different order. Give yourself permission to break free.

Above all, give it a go – what have you got to lose?