What is the #1 fear in women leaders? It is the fear of not being competent, not measuring up, looking like an idiot, stumbling over your words, failing or making a big mistake!
I hear it all the time from my clients: "I am afraid of looking like I am not competent"
So many of us worry that someone will find out we don’t know how, can’t do it, or are completely inept. It keeps us awake at night and wreaks havoc with our self-esteem. It also tends to get in the way of doing a good job and feeling good about the work you do. We wonder if some day they will expose us for the fraud we are.
The inaccurate use of the word competence
Competence, having the skill or ability to do something, though it is sometimes confused with having the courage to use that skill and feeling confident when you learn to use it well.
You have the skill; You are just afraid to use it
Women worry they aren’t competent. Yet, they likely are very competent in many areas. What they lack is the courage to apply the skills, knowledge or talents. They also wait for confidence to show up before they step out. But the truth is, they all work together. Let me explain.
My story - A simple example of this:
Last night I put on a session about work-life balance for a local agency. I show up, pull out my computer and my own projector and start hooking up the two. It took me less than 3 minutes, and I experienced no stress, feeling quite capable. I was able to multitask, chatting with the coordinator of the event while I attached the lines appropriately.
The back story
Rewind a few years when I first got the projector. I was panicked that I wouldn’t have it set up before the session started, worrying everyone would be sitting their rolling their eyes as they waited. Time-after-time I’d get it set up only to find it was projecting the wrong image. I’d get even more flustered when I went to play a video during the training. It never seemed to work. I felt inept, hesitant and fearful.
My growth of competence and confidence
Over the years by courageously working at it, I gained competent and confidence.
First, I did some research on Mac computers and mirror screens. I gained the knowledge of how to share a different screen on the projector, than the one on my computer as the one I want to see, but don’t want you to see, has “presenter notes.”
Next, I practiced. A lot. Over the years, I have set that projector up what feels like a zillion times. First I’d set it up at home, shining it on my dining room wall to get the hang of it. I brought it to Toastmasters trying it out on a safe crowd. I showed up early at events, courageously asked the Tech support at conferences for help and determinedly figured it out.
Finally, I felt the confidence increase. Now, even when something goes wrong, I don’t get thrown. I slow down, become more mindful and walk myself through the process.
It started with competence; learning how.
I then had to be courageous, even if I wasn’t an expert and was a bit scared.
The confidence followed the practice.
Take a look at where you feel confident
Break those steps down to things you now feel quite confident to do such as perhaps riding a bike, using a cell phone, cooking or managing money. You weren’t always able to do those things confidently. Knowledge, skills, practice and being brave all worked together to give you the feeling of competence (Tweet that) But, what you really have is a feeling of confidence. You had the competence early on, what you lacked was the belief in yourself. That faith in your abilities came with practice.
Take a look at where you are struggling with a feeling if incompetence in your current role. First, step back and look at the skills you think you would need to feel that level of competence increase. Then look at where you may already have some of those skills, where you could gain more. Then, identify how you can practice that. Finally, grab ahold of some courage and start practicing. You’ll find the competence and confidence both come in a short while after.
How it might look for you
You may feel incompetent in addressing difficult conversations feeling you lack conflict resolution skills.
Where do you communicate in all facets of your life? With your spouse, children, community board or with the last car dealer you purchased from are examples of potentially daily conflict situations.
Look for opportunities to practice your current skills and the new ones you learn.
This is where courage comes into play. You may want to take on a new role on your community board or attend the local Chamber of Commerce meetings. However, you may already have lots of places to practice, without taking on anything new. They key, is to put yourself out there and try it. Don’t sit back and “see what will happen.” Don’t avoid conversations hoping it will go away. Get in there and let it get a bit messy. You will never learn without trying.
Competence + Courage = Confidence
Competence is knowing how. Courage is doing it even when it feels scary. Confidence is experiencing it and realizing you lived through it. (Tweet that) The next time you find yourself worrying about feeling incompetent, take a deep breath and remind yourself, I’ll figure it out. Then …figure it out!
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Women leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead.