How Changing Your Perspective on Doubt Will Change the Game


Here’s how to get perspective as a leader when you see doubt in your team

When someone in your company expresses doubt, what is the typical reaction? It’s likely one of two things: it either gets downplayed (“Don’t be silly. Just shake it off and power through it!”), or worse, it gets covered up (“Don’t repeat that. If anyone heard you say that…”).

Doubt is a big taboo, especially in the business world. But when doubt stays in the dark, it just becomes more powerful. If you recognize and embrace the doubts that hold back your team, you can break down the barriers to growth. The first step is understanding the types of doubt: cultural, tactical and self-doubt.

Any time you are facing doubt in someone on your team, suspend judgement and dial up curiosity. Listen for these types of doubt, as they each require a different approach from you as a leader.

Cultural/Societal doubt and understanding your environment

Cultural doubt stems from your community’s norms and attitudes toward success. What is your culture’s view toward failure? What does it mean to stand out, and how do people in your society react when you are “more” than normal? As a leader, it’s essential to understand your environment and how it influences the doubts of your team. While societal norms can’t be easily changed, you can create a culture within your organization that moves beyond the established  societal norm.

Tactical doubt and the 5Ws

Can we hire 100 people this year? Can we fix this system?
Tactical doubts like these arise when you are unsure of the steps it takes to accomplish a specific goal. As a manager and an operator, you deal with tactical doubt every day, especially if your company is growing rapidly. You can typically resolve these “literal” by employing the 5Ws: who, what, where, when, why.

Self-Doubt and the power of empathy

Whereas tactical doubt involves the head, self-doubt involves the heart. Self-doubt surfaces as discouraging, disempowering and disheartening internal chatter, such as Am I the right person to do this? and What will they think of me? These self-doubts are a cause for pause that prevent us from pursuing new ideas and taking bold steps forward. We all experience self-doubt, and the more we fight this internal chatter, the louder it gets.

Transforming self-doubt within your team requires patience and empathy. Showing empathy doesn’t mean assuming the role of a therapist; it means truly listening and seeing the situation from their perspective. I’ve found that sharing an experience in which you’ve felt self-doubt creates mutual vulnerability and a safe environment in which it’s okay to bring doubt into the light. Once you foster a safe culture that embraces doubt, you can have real conversations that address doubt and help your team shift their perspective. This is the key to unlocking the potential of those you lead.

When left in the dark, doubt is a roadblock that keeps you from reaching your full potential. But when you bring doubt into the light, it is a powerful tool for revisiting, refining and recommitting to your vision. As a leader, you can use empathy to build trust and foster a culture that embraces doubt. A culture that embraces doubt is a culture where innovation flows.