One Simple Question Anyone Can Ask That Produces a Moment of Clarity
Confusion is about fear and doubt, not intelligence.
Self-doubt makes smart people dumb.
Doubt and fear are the parents of delay and confusion.
Self-doubt rejects options and makes decisions like a snail, if at all.
Confidence is the mother of clarity. In other words, you must eliminate doubt to find a moment of clarity. This works even if confidence is contrived.
A singular moment of contrived confidence enables people to find real clarity.
During a coaching conversation I asked, “If you didn’t have self-doubt, what would you do?” Without hesitation a five step plan and a one year timeline emerged.
Artificial confidence – just for a moment – enables people to quickly find clarity and easily create plans.
Plans aren’t decisions.
After generating a plan, you must still choose a next step. That’s when you ask the second question. “What’s the bravest thing you could do today?”
Delay brings doubt to life. Darkness and confusion follow hard on doubt’s heels.
Make a decision that’s small enough to be actionable today. Courage emerges as you move forward, not before.
You might not adopt the entire plan that emerges during a moment of contrived confidence, but do the next bravest thing, even if that brave thing is small.
How might leaders help others find enough confidence generate options and move forward?
Yes to this! This has challenged us historically. We had an intelligent team yet we lacked forward progress due to staff fear and doubt. Coaching sessions were held that gave staff permission to try things and make decisions and occasionally FAIL. Supervisors had to talk about our own failures to help ease some of the fear that was so prevalent and we also assigned each staff member several tiny decisions to make before each weekly meeting. After a few months, we had broken out of our snail pace!
Thanks Abby. I’m so thankful you shared your experience. Congratulations for taking the bull by the horns. Perhaps the smallness of progress at the beginning is one thing that prevents people from moving forward. We’ve fallen in love with big dramatic decisions and the illusion that if we think long enough we’ll find the magic answer that instantly solves everything.
Dan a great and complex subject.
Confidence, I believe, is something you are taught from a young age. I have worked with very smart, insightful people who knew what they should have said or done afterwards but were unable to deal with it in the moment due to a lack of confidence.
Preparation and practice can help. Before one of my staff were to make a presentation to senior management or the Board I would rehearse with them and ask difficult questions.
When I work with a recent graduate looking for a job, I ask them a very hard question and then go over their verbal and, more importantly, their body language response.
I think this is the moment of clarity you speak of in the post. If the person understands a better way to address or answer something this may lead to clarity which can help build confidence.
Thanks Brad. Preparation produces confidence.
You make me think about different kinds of confidence. The confidence to explore a challenging topic. The confidence to generate options and choose one. The confidence to execute. It seems like preparation is a source of confidence to execute.
Preparation seems to be a way to do the deed without actually doing the deed. We can do the deed without negative consequences. We can do the deed and be evaluated for improvement, rather than performance.
Hi Brad and Dan
I like the idea of being taught confidence from a young age, and recognise the scenario of smart, insightful people not being able to think on their feet due to lack of confidence. Two things occur to me here. One is that this ‘teaching process’ relies on someone (even at a young age) being genuinely accorded the space to make decisions – without other people shooting them down or being otherwise chastised/ridiculed. When intelligent people have ‘learned’ that their decisions mean nothing and may even lead to adverse consequences for no better reason than someone else arbitrarily disagrees and overrules them, subliminally they may in later life prevaricate because they are trying to make the ‘right’ decision to suit some other (possibly non-existent!) person.
In addition, such a ‘learner’ may never gain the confidence to be brave in shouldering responsibility – because the final decision (despite all the rhetoric) was never in their hands anyway. This is a double whammy – and someone being intelligent and smart can often merely disguise this reality.
And yes, Dan, there are different kinds of confidence. Each of these needs to be appreciated and valued for itself, rather than being devalued because it isn’t a different type of confidence. Which sometimes means understanding and selecting people based on what is their ‘gift’ – and then allowing to get on with it whilst developing (via the preparation you talk about) the other types of confidence along the way…
Great to speak again, and thanks for the useful post! Have a great day… Alison
For me the most pragmatic answer for this is for a leader to practice this him/herself. Courage is contagious; however so is doubt. I feel that it is a lot easier to lead someone to a place that you frequently visit. If everything rises and falls on leadership, and we set the tone for our team, we can not afford to let self-doubt fester within ourselves.
Thanks Josh. If we expect our teams to act boldly, we must act boldly. The leader’s first job it to model the way. Everything else follows. I think we’ve all known leaders who showed the way, but didn’t model it. We despise their hypocrisy.
another simple and brilliant post. Thanks Dan!
I’m so very thankful for you and this question. I’m a pastor. People often come to me looking for answers. The reality: I have very few if any answers. What I have in abundance are questions … lot’s of questions! Here are a few that help me better take the pulse of those I meet with:
1. What are you celebrating right now?
2. Is there someone who would say you’re making a difference in their life?
3. What drives you to wake up and leave the house every morning?
4. How are you growing (spiritually and emotionally)?
5. What have you been learning lately?
Thanks Brian. Love your questions!! Leaders may think that giving direction and solving people’s problems is easier. In reality, it creates dependence. Neediness in team members makes the leader’s job more difficult.
In the short-term giving direction and solving problems seems faster. In the long-term it creates a self-limiting burden that limits leadership’s potential and the potential of everyone around them.
I don’t know where your inspiration comes from, but please keep feeding at that source. Your words today are so powerful. In multiple dimensions. Thank you!!
Thanks Alan. You are very kind. I learn more than from my coaching clients than they learn from me! 🙂
Another brilliant and salient post. Preparation does help shore up one’s courage. Sometimes, even small steps can lead you to your goal. My supervisor always says, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Thank you, Brian for your excellent questions. I shall practice those. Dan, I probably shall quote you!
All too often the emphasis on training falls on those who are already knowledgeable and really do not need the training. The training should fall on those who do not meet the goals of their particular departments. This is particularly true of voluntary groups.
This is another spot on post. I think so many of us is looking for some clarity but what makes it a challenge is on how to do. With your post, you give the right stuff- just what we all need in today’s time.
Good insights for my confidence and fear course.