Out the Doubt!
Hack 5. is for World Mental Health Day. Out the Doubt. Doubt plays with your mind. It paralyses people. Where curiosity sparks innovation, doubt sparks anxiety and inaction. From insignificant indecision to halting progress entirely. Doubt casts a long shadow. It chips away at confidence, capability, and consciousness – and our mental health.
There are many forms of doubt, but on World Mental Health Day I’m talking about the kind of doubt that is insidious to any organization. The kind created by people. The kind that can be prevented.
As a human, not just a manager, you know when you are playing with the politics of doubt. From talking about others, planting seeds of discontent. Those small comments you make in a meeting because you don’t like someone. To telling people nothing will change until everyone else is gone. That you’re the only one trying to fix everything.
This is your contribution to doubt, to toxic environments that swallow up confidence.
When we know we can trust the people around us, particularly managers and leaders. When we know we can trust the information we receive as useful and accurate. When we can trust people’s intentions. This is when we gain confidence in our circumstances.
The more confidence you gain, the more you engage. But if you doubt those around you, their motives, their agenda’s, it impacts everything from productivity to engagement, to mental health and wellbeing. And it's how you as a manager have a negative impact and contribute to poor cultures and toxic workplaces. By design or by default.
To thrive, we all need to feel secure and grounded – and that isn’t easy in the turbulent times. How people feel about their leaders, their peers and their team’s ability to perform is paramount to being successful, but it’s also vital to our mental health and confidence. A leader’s job is to out the doubt not reinforce it. It is to build people’s confidence in the total business not just in their own ability.
Margaret Heffernan said it best when she did one of the most insightful Ted Talks out there. It's on chickens and it has a striking resemblance to how some people operate at work. Here message - We don’t need super chickens.
Of all the engagement tools on your wagon, confidence building and doubt reduction are the easiest to do but the hardest to build on. It’s all in your words and actions. Simple yet hard.
But it’s also mostly in what you stop doing: Stop keeping people in the dark – information is not power, and lack of information is toxic. Stop talking about others to others, particularly if you are a manager talking about your peers. You are not the only person with answers and skills. Ever.
These are the things that create darkness for others, knowing you are constantly talking about someone. It erodes confidence by eroding trust.
It is the times we feel we are in the dark that we often feel at our most vulnerable, the most unsure of ourselves. As a leader your job is to prevent people finding themselves in these dark places. Your business is not a school yard. Each time you talk poorly about someone, feeling you are better than them, you throw the proverbial stone across the yard. It’s a reflection of you, not them.
Anxiety caused by managers actions, their word choice, their immaturity, their lack of leadership has a massive cost. Productivity losses. Results are impacted. And, imagine if you could put a cost on your personal impact on people’s anxiety? You can. A recent survey showed 41 percent of employees from a range of industries reported high levels of anxiety in the workplace. A recent study by University of Toronto Scarborough and Rotman School of Management professors Julie McCarthy and John Trougakos, along with Bonnie Cheng from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, found that high levels of emotional exhaustion that come from workplace anxiety can directly lead to lower job performance.
Leaving people to linger in self doubt (Is that guy still talking about me? Am I really in the right job?) and organizational doubt (Do these people really know what they are doing?) is the quickest way to kill confidence.
Approximately 30 percent of the adult population in North America have anxiety unwellness issues (anxiety disorder). You could be helping this number grow - whether intentionally or not.
What to do? Hack-it! Check-in with yourself. Ask if your actions are making a negative contribution or positive. Check your ego. Check your optimism levels. Check your flying monkeys. Check your negative talk.
Be sensitive to where mental health issues can start. Unwittingly through our own actions. The best word I can find to help with this is the word STOP. Stop and think about your actions, words, intentions.
On World Mental Health Day, take a moment to raise your own awareness around what you are doing. Are you playing the politics of doubt or are you turning the lights on and bringing in supportive sunshine? This isn’t about a Pollyanna approach to management. It’s about managing to engage the right way.
Find resources like these:
From the book Manage to Engage. How Great Managers Create Remarkable Results. The post-pandemic how-to guide for engaging in the new world of work.
This is another #HackingitwithHackett - the Q4 Challenge. Post-sized Hacks to help leaders better engage, enable and energize their teams, and improve their operational results - before year end.