If you've started a company, you're probably a naturally confident person. It takes a lot to make the leap of faith and start your own venture. You may have quit your day job, sunk your savings into your company, put other major life decisions on hold, or missed time with your loved ones to focus on something that you know is statistically likely to fail. To make these kind of sacrifices, you must be confident in what you're doing, or crazy... or maybe a little bit of both.
There's a subtlety to this confidence, however, that many entrepreneurs struggle with, including me. It's one thing to have confidence in your company but another thing altogether to have confidence in yourself as a leader. I've spoken with hundreds of CEOs and founders about this topic and the common refrain is that we tend to tie our own self-confidence to our confidence in our companies, and we often struggle to untangle the two.
This is a dangerous habit that can lead to eroding self-confidence when things go wrong. Of course, when something doesn't go wrong (which is inevitable) it's vital that you maintain your confidence as a leader. Here are four tips that have allowed me to maintain my self-confidence, no matter what's happening at my company, Triplemint.
Start with Why
One of the hardest scenarios that founders face is when we have to make decisions that aren't popular with our teams. These are also the times when our self-confidence is tested the most. Ultimately, these end up being the most important decisions. Having someone in the company who can make an unpopular decision is essential for long-term success.
A trick that I've found to be particularly helpful in maintaining my self-confidence through these difficult decisions is taking the time to explain the "why" behind the decision. You don't need your team to agree with the outcome of every decision you make, but it's critical that they understand why you made it. If your team is bought in on the "why" it'll give you the confidence needed to make these tough, but important, calls.
Know That It Doesn't Get Easier, It Just Gets Different
At every stage of our company, I have faced challenges. Solving one challenge doesn't make things easier, it just brings you to a new stage where you get to face new and different challenges. If you operate under the assumption that solving challenges will make things easier, you're setting yourself up for a blow to your confidence.
Instead, I try to drive toward harder and harder challenges, knowing that success will only lead to new and greater ones. By thinking about growth this way, I only get more confident as the challenges increase.
Own the Fact That You Are Constantly Learning
All leaders make mistakes and come up short on a regular basis, even the best ones. I do all the time and I've discovered one simple trick to maintain my confidence through these missteps. When I make a mistake, I own it in front of my team or relevant team members and openly discuss the learning opportunity the mistake presents.
It feels like every week I'm talking about something I can do to improve at our weekly leadership meetings. Shifting my mindset to see mistakes as opportunities to improve, instead of failures, has made a huge difference in my self-confidence, and discussing these lessons openly has helped our team learn from my mistakes as well.
Join or Start a Founder Peer Group
Being a founder can feel like living on a desert island sometimes. It can be lonely. Most founders are spending tremendous amounts of time and energy solving the same challenges. By attending (or starting) a founder peer group, you can tap into the experiences of other founders and entrepreneurs.
The ideal peer group should have people at earlier stages, the same stage, and later stages than you and your company. Sometimes just knowing that others are dealing with the same challenges gives you the confidence to solve your problem and move on.