Self-belief v self limitation

“I’ll bet you $100 I can’t do it”.

This is what I heard recently in the pool when we were given a particularly hard set to finish off the training session. It’s the first time I have heard someone bet against themselves. Perhaps we don’t all do it so overtly, but so many of us put limitations on ourselves in both our work and personal lives. Compare this to Frederick Van Lierde in his winner’s speech at the 2013 IRONMAN World Championships, he stated that he won because he had such a strong belief that he could do it. In sport there is very little physically that differentiates the athletes at the top level, it comes down to self-belief. As a manager, you have a responsibility to build self-belief of those in your team. Identify potential in people and develop them beyond current levels of performance. This is not always an easy task to undertake, but the following factors can support the development of a high performing environment.

• The failure is not in setting a high target and falling short, it is in not trying at all due to a fear of failure. The swim coach’s response to the athlete betting against himself was to say that he didn’t care if the times weren’t reached today, it is about pushing yourself beyond where you think you can go, becoming a better athlete. When it comes to setting team objectives it can be easy to set low objectives to ensure performance bonuses are reached, this is self-limiting and does nothing for developing high performance. Set objectives that make you feel uncomfortable, that if the team reaches it is truly an accomplishment to be proud of.

• Push beyond your limitations but realise that this takes patience. Van Lierde started triathlon in 1997 and did not win the World Championships until 2013. That is 16 years of dedication to a goal. It’s not to say that reaching your stretch objectives will take 16 years, however, commitment to the process and patience is required to ensure you achieve beyond your perceived limitations. Have milestones along the way that build confidence and keep you on track, share these visibly in the team and with key customers and stakeholders.

• Take the word ‘Can’t’ out of team vernacular and replace it with ‘Try’. With the athletes I coach, I call it ‘getting comfortable being uncomfortable’. Trying to achieve beyond your limitations is uncomfortable, but it is the only way to succeed and reach performances you never thought possible. When I raced professionally as an Ironman triathlete I read the following quote, from Theodore Roosevelt, before races: “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena … who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

So as you head back into work to start 2016, review your objectives and your team’s – are they making you uncomfortable? Or are you self-limiting your performance?


Anna Russell