In my experience entrepreneurs fall into one of two types. Either they are excellent (perhaps too good) at building their own self belief and confidence – or they are weak in this area – full of self doubts and expectations of disaster. Some communities are full of people with generally good levels of self belief and confidence. In others the opposite is the norm. In these communities the ability to build relationships with clients that enable them to improve their confidence and self belief is key.
Many enterprise professionals act as if confidence and self belief are the same thing – interchangeable words and concepts – but to me there are important differences. Confidence is a temporary thing, transient, malleable in the short term.
Self belief is a more fixed (but still developable) underlying trait or characteristic that may have been grooved for many years. It is our levels of self belief that dicate whether setbacks are seen as part of a consistent pattern of failure (low self belief; generally low confidence) or as just a temporary setback.
Most entrepreneurs will experience a loss of confidence, but their generally high levels of self belief allow them to see this as just a temporary setback, a blip, a one off. Not something to dwell on or let define their expectations of the future or their own self image.
Generally it is not too hard to identify people with low self belief. Their language is full of self doubt and negativity. “I doubt that this will work”, “I have got this idea – but I don’t think it is very good”.
It is much harder to know what to do about it. There are no quick fixes.
My first observation would be that most enterprise professionals have very little opportunity to do much work in this area because they do not have the time to build really powerful helping relationships with clients. The support that they offer is more transactional (think ‘inform, diagnose and broker’) than transformational (think ‘insight, develop and coach’). Their focus is on developing the business plan not the entrepreneur.
For those that do form more transformational relationships then working with both self belief (in the long term) and confidence (in the short term) are central to their effectiveness. So what sorts of things do they do?
- They help clients to recognise their patterns of thinking and self talk and categorise them simply as ‘helpful’ or ‘hindering’
- teach clients how to replace hindering thoughts and beliefs with helpful ones
- help the client to develop and use affirmations to improve self belief and confidence ( a good example of an affirmation for would be entrepreneurs is ‘all setbacks are only temporary’)
- help clients to recognise and take note of times when they succeed, when things go to plan and make sure that these are fully reflected in their self image
- teach clients to visualise success, to see, taste and feel success in their imaginations before they start to pursue it in the real world
- teach clients to focus on lots of small wins – what can we achieve in the next 30 minutes? 24 hours? This helps to build a climate and expectation of progress – which makes it difficult to maintain low self belief.
I know many enterprise professionals choose to ignore this part of their role. They see it as being counselling or psychology rather than enterprise development. They prefer to focus on the ‘hard’ issues of business planning and finance. In doing so many of them compound issues of self belief and confidence as they have little or no belief in the clients ability to succeed or little conception of their role in helping to develop an enterprising psychology in their clients.