If Only I Had Seen This Situation Before!
Experience matters. There’s no getting around that fact.
Leaders who have seen a situation before feel more confident and better able to focus on the people and issues that count. Strategies and tactics employed in a previous episode give leaders a good idea of what will work in the current situation and what won’t.
Approaching a situation a leader has never before encountered can be a nerve-racking experience. Too often, leaders believe their lack of experience with a situation will undermine their ability to perform. If only they had seen this before!
Leaders who hold this belief to an extreme underplay the creativity and smarts they bring to the table. Such a self-limited belief soon becomes a false accusation. “I’ll never do well because I lack the experience I need to succeed.” It’s hard to perform when leaders tell themselves they can’t.
A self-limiting belief is a state of mind that constrains or restricts the ability to perform at the highest level. Such beliefs prevent leaders from taking risks, pursuing opportunities, and employing effective strategies in new situations. Perhaps the most pernicious of these beliefs for leaders is the idea of having too little experience.
The best leaders make a conscious decision not to fall prey to this self-fulfilling thought. They remind themselves that they possess the creativity, smarts, and industry to figure out how best to proceed in a new situation.
Rather than question what they don’t know regarding a situation, they rely on what they do know and engage accordingly. The knowledge we gain through experience is always in retrospect.
Sometimes, the best learning happens just by doing.
I see a lot of younger and early career people post about suffering from Imposter Syndrome. I hope they find this post and read it. It is the antidote to Imposter Syndrome and once you learn and accept it, you're kind of unstoppable (if you want to be).
This is a great reminder - thank you for writing. Having just stepped into the CEO role less than a year ago, I've faced several situations I had yet to navigate. So trust in oneself, especially at inflection points relative to the business, is critically important. Likewise, knowing that challenges produce learnings one way or another is also a source of confidence. The only note I'd add is that, as a new senior leader, I've found value in my support system to lean on when I need advice or counsel. They are often a source of courage to keep leaning in.