Know your worth as a leader
By JUSTIN OOI
Have you ever shared some advice with a fellow colleague who was working on a project? It probably took you just a few minutes, but it could turn out to be a key ingredient in the project’s success. Even something simple like a warm smile can add much needed cheer to another person’s day.
So, why do we give ourselves a tough time that we’re never quite good enough?
To begin with, it’s usually more urgent for us to evaluate our shortfalls and fix our weaknesses. Mistakes need to be fixed, otherwise we can’t meet the deadline, or fulfill the budget, or complete the project.
In this fast-paced, time-poor society, we often neglect to celebrate our accomplishments. However, it is important to evaluate our success factors so that we can replicate future victories.
We need to hear “Job well done!” frequently enough from others – and from ourselves – in order to stay motivated.
Please please me
From childhood to adulthood, we’ve been programmed to please others – family, friends, teachers, partners, bosses, and so on. That’s fine, up to the point where we try to please everyone but ourselves.
In many challenging jobs today, we’re constantly playing catch-up. For example, “Our shortfall in revenue versus target is currently RM500,000” or “We’re two weeks behind the targeted completion date for this project.”
With that in mind, it’s quite common for bosses or colleagues to remind us to buck up and how we should please them.
They might say things like, “What’s your action plan to reduce the revenue deficit?” or “You’re not aggressive enough in driving projects.”
If you’re like me at times, you’ll replay such comments in your head when you’re stressed. Before you know it, your self-talk may sound a lot like a drill sergeant.
If that’s the case, you need to learn to forgive yourself. Sure, intelligent people should learn from their mistakes.
Better still, a wise person once gave this advice about painful failures, “Remember the lesson but forget the details.”
Some people point out that local culture does not place heavy emphasis on giving each other compliments.
Personally, I think it’s nonsense to say that Asians are stingy with praise. We always have plenty of good things to say about a person:
- who has left the organisation.
- at his/her funeral.
I’ve been guilty of this, too. However, for their benefit, I’ve started to compliment people while they are still around to hear it.
Ditch the negative self-talk
A healthy dose of humility is excellent, but being a self-beating doormat isn’t. If you’re already a supremely confident person, read no further.
For those who feel “I’m not good enough” at times, here are some suggestions to acknowledge your own value.
1. Evaluate your weakness objectively
It may be time to dump certain baggage; inaccurate self-perceptions or ways you’ve been defined.
- Self-perception: “You’re always slow.”
- Fact: You take time to process data and write reports. You’ve missed some deadlines recently.
- Additional fact: You’re analytical, work carefully and produce quality reports. You’re not always slow.
- Action: Moderate your weaknesses and turn them into strengths. Be less ‘fussy’ with details that don’t matter much to bosses and colleagues, so that you still produce above-average reports within deadlines.
2. Recognise your strengths
- What are your traits that consistently earn you compliments?
- What are the types of tasks regularly assigned to you?
- What areas of your work do you enjoy doing?
- Tap on your unique talents.
“He’s really reliable in calibrating machines so that our production line works smoothly.”
This shows people have confidence in you in those areas.
Be it writing computer codes, crunching numbers or designing creative graphics – we each have unique skills. Find ways to improve those skills so you get even better at what you like doing.
Fact: You are a marketer who’s not comfortable with public speaking, but you are a good listener and a steady negotiator in a one-to-one or small group setting.
Action: Look for roles where you close deals with key personnel or small groups rather than make presentations to large audiences.
3. Celebrate your uniqueness
“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are,” said Malcolm S. Forbes, the late publisher of Forbes magazine.
Ms Vaan, a sales coordinator at a pharmaceutical company I once worked for, was a very loud and lively extrovert. This broke the mold as most coordinators – whose job is to process sales orders and other administrative tasks – are usually less boisterous.
She was just being herself. Most of the sales personnel enjoyed her jokes as an antidote to the serious discussions they have with customers throughout the week.
Plus, they recognised that she was very effective at her job too. When we appreciate and accept ourselves, others will too.
Few of us will have the worldwide influence of someone like the president of the United States of America. This doesn’t mean we don’t make a difference.
For example, have you heard of Nancy Matthews Elliott? She was a housewife with seven children. Her youngest child who had a wandering mind dropped out of primary school after just three months.
She persevered and educated him at home anyway. Her son, Thomas Edison, grew up to be the inventor of over 1,000 inventions patented in his name.
Even if we inspire only one person, we have no idea how far-reaching our influence may be.
William James, the “father of American psychology”, highlighted that:
“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”
I agree wholeheartedly with his assessment.
In my previous role as a marketing manager, I was friendly towards my team but kept a professional distance. I was (and still am) quite fastidious with details. This style of management gave my staff more work to do at times.
Hence when I left the team, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an awesome farewell gift. They gave me a beautiful pen with my name engraved on it. What really touched me also was the greeting card with personalised messages written by each member of staff.
They respectively thanked me for how I’ve guided and encouraged them along the way. One said she considered me a friend rather than just a manager.
It made me realise: If people can appreciate me despite my quirks, why can’t I appreciate myself a bit more?
Perhaps you too are touching the life of others without being aware of it, just like my former chief executive officer who visited me while I was in hospital – on her birthday – with a slice of tiramisu cake to cheer me up.
I read an amusing quote in the Reader’s Digest years ago:
“God has wisely designed our bodies so that it’s hard to pat our own back and kick our own butt.”
There will be enough people willing to do the latter, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember to appreciate yourself and acknowledge your own value regularly. It will then become clearer how you can touch more lives in a greater way.
Justin Ooi T. Y. is communications practitioner with over 13 years of experience in corporate communications and marketing. His professional experience provides him with rich insights on building brands and reputation through strategic engagement with critical stakeholders such as the government, media, industry partners and members of the community. To connect with him, email email@example.com. For more Be A Leader article, click here.
Lay Hsuan is the content curator for Leaderonomics.com. She writes occasionally and is the caretaker for Leaderonomics social media channels. She is happiest when you leave comments on the website, or subscribe to Leader’s Digest, or share Leaderonomics content on social media.