Lessons in Confidence starring Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks

Posted June 15, 2011 in Latest News & Insights

The person I most wouldn’t want to be today is Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo.  After 3 home-ice wins and 3 brutal out-of-town losses, the pressure on Luongo for tonight’s game is intense.  To add to it, the press and pundits have spent most of the week pointing out Luongo’s short-comings as a goalie and Canucks fans can only hope that Luongo isn’t psyching himself out by listening to the taunts.  Confidence in yourself and your abilities (not preoccupation with your weaknesses) is something that every NHL goaltender – and leader – needs in order to perform at their best.

Anyone who performs in the media spotlight has it tough… every move you make results in a performance review.  Unlike athletes, musicians or celebrities who are constantly critiqued, most leaders don’t suffer from having too much feedback… most of us don’t get enough.  However, for those who find themselves in organizations that provides you with a never-ending, ongoing feedback stream in the form of 360 reviews and personality assessments, I wonder:  is there a tipping point where too much self-insight starts to undermine your confidence? 

You would think that the more feedback you get on your “opportunities” for development, the more confident you’d become.  In fact, I see (and have felt for myself) the opposite effect… especially when the organization emphasizes performance discussions that focus on said “weaknesses”.

For achievement-oriented high performers who often tend to be “perfectionistic”, multiple assessments that repeat the same messages can actually start to erode confidence.  The wonderful “self-insight” that comes with an initial result identifying blind spots can quickly turn into second guessing and a weakening of your overall impact after you hear the same message for the 10th time… but only if you let it.

In 1999, I heard Marcus Buckingham talk about his (then) new book “First Break All the Rules”.  It fundamentally changed how I thought about management… and – probably more importantly – how I thought about managing my own career.  I realized that focusing exclusively on my “developmental opportunities” was NOT the way to build my confidence as a leader.   Countless studies have shown that if you’re a really lousy listener, you’ll probably always be pretty bad at it compared to other people who are exceptional listeners.  Sure, you can do things to adjust and manage or minimize the weakness… we all have to stretch to some degree to fulfill our responsibilities.  But, focusing you attention on what you don’t do well is not going to help you accelerate.

In my observation, watering down what makes you great is never a way to open the door to opportunity.  It just creates mediocrity.  And who wants to be mediocre?

If your organization is obsessed with assessments and new ways to help you identify and work on your “opportunities” (aka weaknesses), and it’s beginning to give you a bad case of “self-insight overload”, flip it.  Start to put your attention to the things that you’re doing really well and work hard to continue to cultivate those talents.  I guarantee that you’ll have much bigger impact and will lead with a confidence that comes from knowing what you bring to the table… rather than worrying about what you don’t.

Hopefully, Roberto Luongo has his team of coaches and sports psychologists helping him get centered for tonight’s game and that his focus will be on what he did well in the Vancouver arena and not on what went wrong in Boston.  Stay tuned and Go Canucks Go!

Happy leading!

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