A message for all you ‘I’m not good enough’ leaders – help is at hand

| 20 January 2023
A message for all you ‘I’m not good enough’ leaders – help is at hand

Are you anxious about making mistakes, or being ‘found out’ (we often refer to this as the impostor syndrome)?

Worried about not knowing enough or having enough experience as a leader?

Maybe you’re in your first leadership role or you’ve been newly promoted – or you’ve got a new boss?  

That ‘not good enough’ feeling can come up for us anytime – and in my experience it often appears when we’re stepping up and out of our comfort zones in some way – new role, new project, promotion.

Three (unhelpful) ways we deal with ‘I’m not good enough’.

Procrastination is sometimes linked to fear (‘if I put it off, I won’t get shown up for not knowing enough’ or ‘I don’t really know how to do this, but I feel like I ‘should’ and I’m too ashamed to ask’). Procrastinators are rarely lazy, in my experience.  They’re doing something to avoid something else.

Busyness – doing the inconsequential stuff that leads to overworking or burnout (ploughing through our mundane emails (‘because I know how to do that and it’s easy’) and not working on the important strategy document or having ‘that’ important or difficult conversation).

Perfectionism – terrified of making mistakes/overly focused on detail (yes, I know detail is important and even essential in many things but nobody cares much what colour your slide deck is or whether you use the word ‘help’ or ‘support’ or ‘assistance’ in your report).

Your brain thinks it’s helping you

In essence, our brain is keeping us safe from what it perceives as a threat (that was helpful in days gone by when our brain was always on high alert for dangerous predators – now?  Not so much).  But a threat to our egos or self-esteem feels the same to that most ancient part of our brains. Your brain is helping you to avoid that ‘not good enough’ feeling – at least in the short term.

If that doesn’t help us in the long run – what will?

Let me share a practical example with you based on a recent conversation with a new leadership coaching client of mine.

Her situation: A board presentation on projected cost savings for next year.

Her thoughts about this: They’ll pick it apart and will ask me questions I can’t answer (‘because I’m not good enough’),

How she feels:  Fear, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach:

What she does:  Avoid it – ‘I’ll check my emails instead’. (We often run away from feelings we want to avoid like fear, uncertainty, discomfort).

Result:  Rush job done at the last minute, under pressure. (And yes, as a result of that approach they did ask her questions she couldn’t answer because she’d prepared in a panic).

Self-fulfilling prophecy.

Moving beyond ‘not good enough’

You can probably see here that to interrupt our ‘not good enough’ feelings and behaviour patterns we need to re-evaluate how we are thinking about things.

Always notice your thoughts and remember that we need to separate our thoughts from the facts. (This takes practice but it’s well worth the time and energy).

In this situation, a better first thought might be ‘I will start by getting the exact figures from last year’.

Can you see how that might lead to a feeling of confidence and competence rather than fear? 

And the action she will take from a feeling of confidence is going to be much better than the action (or inaction) from a feeling of fear.

Give this a try

If your ‘not good enough’ gremlin kicks in, work through your own situation, thoughts, feelings and actions.

Or start with the results you want first if it’s easier and work back through your thoughts and feelings to make those results inevitable.

I guarantee this will move you from ‘not good enough’ into ‘more than good enough’.
One step, one thought and one day at a time.

P.S. If you want more simple but powerful leadership strategies that work, join my Facebook group. It’s your one stop shop for all things leadership. – a community of 1800+ like- minded leaders from around the world.

Interested in boundary setting? Read my previous blog ‘I’m a busy leader – how do I set better boundaries?