When I wrote the post “Confidence- An Often Overlooked Business Tool,” I received some great feedback. However, one theme that came up in conversations with Irish business owners as well as other business owners is the importance of having a realistic perspective. Business owners and executives must be truth-tellers first to themselves and then to the stakeholders.
Call it what it is…a turnaround
One of my clients is in the midst of a turnaround. His business is seriously struggling and there are a number of larger economic factors which are working against him plus some mis-steps made by himself and his staff. To his credit, he recognizes that staying focused on the here-and-now brings him one step closer to getting beyond this mess. He has moments when he feels doubt about getting through.
Turbulence and doubt
These are the roughest times for any business owner or high-level executive. It is not uncommon for a business owner to hide in his/her office and worry. Time seems to change by speeding up or slowing. You watch the business’ finances dwindle at an alarming rate and may have creditors or the bank calling to discuss how you’re going to pay them back. This is a scary and turbulent time.
Try a little tenderness
There is a surprising first step that must be taken. Apparently Otis Redding was onto something here. Treat yourself with compassion. Odds are, you didn’t try to get into this mess. In a 2012 study about self-compassion, researchers discovered that treating yourself with kindness and mercy produces four effects:
- see the possibilities for change and making amends
- increase the desire to make the changes
- take steps to correct the situation or follow through on planned action
- compare self with those doing better as if to use them as role models
Instead of berating yourself, acknowledge that there has been a failure. This allows you to treat yourself with compassion and open your mind up to find possibilities and cope with the consequences. Consistent with Carol Dweck’s work on the fixed mindset and the growth mindset, it is apparent that believing you can find a solution or learn a way to manage a problem is much more empowering. This is true even when you are faced with noxious choices.
This type of thinking is part of the growth mindset. Paradoxical thinking is the ability to hold contradictory concepts at the same time. You can tell yourself the truth that things are dire. However, for this to be truly paradoxical, the business owner (or executive) must also hold the concept that there may be a way out. Bear in mind that this is not arrogance or willful blindness. Confidence requires self-belief, humility and open mindedness if it is to be any use to you.
Taking action supports the feeling of “I can” and fosters confidence
Finding confidence when your business is struggling takes compassion, paradoxical thinking and an growth mindset. This is not necessarily an easy process but it is a necessary one. Anyone leading a business is used to taking action and producing results.
To rebuild your confidence, start with basic questions:
- What does the business do well?
- What does the business owner/ executive do well?
- What resources are available?
Taking the answers to these questions and developing a plan of action means
- re-establishing yourself as the leader of your organization
- communicating clearly to and with your staff
- identifying what needs to be addressed first
- re-connecting with customers
- following up with leads and prospects
- providing an optimistic, strong and thoughtful perspective
Possibly the greatest test of your career
Looking back isn’t productive. Regret eats away at your confidence. You are in this situation now and it needs to be rectified. There aren’t even guarantees that you will lead the company to an ideal result.
Even so, do:
- Treat yourself with compassion
- Acknowledge that this is a terrible situation and there is a solution or a way to manage the turbulence
- Identify what is still working, your leadership skills and available resources
- Develop a written plan and take action
Finding your confidence while your business struggles is a challenge. There are plenty of reminders of problems. But for your company to exit the situation with any degree of grace, you have to believe you can find a way out and get things moving in the right direction again.
Confidence enables finding the possible.
About the author: I’m Elli St.George Godfrey, executive coach and trainer who guides established small to mid-sized business owners and executives in the US, Ireland and Northern Ireland to be comfortable in their own skin. Change can be growing your business, expanding in the US or adapting to a new leadership roles. Visit my Services page to see how we can work together or schedule your complimentary coaching session here.