According to a survey from Gartner®, 50 percent of business leaders lack confidence in their own ability to lead. Out of 2,800 people studied, only half said they were “well-equipped to lead their organization in the future.” In other words, self-limiting beliefs hinder entrepreneurs, executives, and managers from performing their jobs with complete conviction in their abilities.
What are self-limiting beliefs?
Essentially, this boils down to how having constricted beliefs produces negative effects in both professional and personal life. Limiting beliefs keep people from having an open mind about who they are, what they can accomplish, and how they can positively affect others. Any belief that hinders someone from growing and developing falls into this category.
Sounds easy enough, right? Here’s the issue, though: limiting beliefs aren’t always easily recognizable. They often show up in disguise. Several of their favorite forms include excuses, negativity, complacency, steadfast opinions, and unconstructive self-talk. While pinning them down isn’t always an easy feat, when analyzed, limiting beliefs do share a common, recognizable pattern.
Find out below some of the most common self-limiting examples and how to overcome them.
Playing It Safe
Not dealing with fear leads to complacency in business. Leaders who “play it safe” don’t operate with a growth mindset. Instead, they lock themselves in place. When pace isn’t set for innovation, team culture develops around being average. This is typically unexciting for most employees. Instead, people desire to be a part of purpose-filled companies aiming for novel achievements. This atmosphere excites, motivates, and encourages team members to push the boundaries of what they feel is possible.
For example, look at the team at SpaceX. The achievement of their goals leading toward the eventual colonization of Mars is treated like a sports event with employees wildly cheering the team on during rocket launches. The stakes are high, and the team feels mutually invested in achieving company objectives because meeting them means changing the world.
Keeping your company in a cage of safety limits growth and development from within. Innovation and adaptation require an open environment. Playing it safe often looks like justification for the answer “no” and a series of excuses as to why something cannot possibly be achieved. Destroying this limiting belief requires a flip of mindset. Instead of automatically believing “no,” shifting to a mindset of “yes” changes the perspective of possibility within an organization. Doing this tells employees you trust them and believe in their abilities. Additionally, it demonstrates and builds confidence and stronger bonds among team members.
Making Smart Risks
There’s a difference between making uninformed decisions and taking calculated risks. Limit losses by conducting research, having a strategy in place, and implementing protective measures. This helps business owners and executives grow their organization in new ways, while still determining and analyzing potential outcomes during the decision-making process.
This is one of the most important points on the limiting beliefs list. Many entrepreneurs start out playing every role within the organization, but as time goes on, teams get hired and the company expands. Nevertheless, the habit of being involved in every minute decision hinders leaders’ abilities to work on the business, not in it. The core limiting belief of, “I need to do it, or it won’t get done properly,” can create a deep rift between employees and employers.
Statistics show micromanagers normally aren’t aware of their behavior. There’s a huge disconnect between the perception of leadership styles of upper-level managers and those they employ. In My Way or the Highway, Harry Chambers published results from a survey conducted by Trinity Solutions. Researchers found “79% [of employees] have experienced micromanagement from their current or past managers.” Yet, “91% of managers are unaware of employees changing jobs because of their micromanagement style and behaviors.”
Letting go of control can be difficult, but again, fear is the source of this limiting belief. When a business owner or leader constantly interferes with team members’ work, it shows the manager doubts that employees can or will successfully complete their tasks at hand. Even worse, this indirectly tells people, “I don’t trust you.” This type of leadership is ineffective because building strong, highly productive teams requires trust.
Learning to Delegate
Delegation tactics help those in leadership roles provide direction on work while displaying trust by providing people the space they need for fulfilling their duties. Also, empower employees by letting them creatively problem solve company issues. While large-scale problems need acknowledgment, train the team on taking control of situations that don’t require direct assistance. “Learning to delegate is an ongoing journey. Half the battle is hiring people who you feel comfortable delegating to. The other half is creating infallible work processes,” writes Ray Silverstein for Entrepreneur.com.
The delegation process starts by keeping track of where time is being spent. Write down every task completed last week. Was this something someone on the team was supposed to be doing or could have been delegated? Every time a fire is put out, write it down. Every second spent doing someone else’s job, take note. Adding up all this time provides shocking results. It shows how many hours stack up when people use their time doing other people’s work or resolving issues that don’t require supervisory attention.
A team of people is a support network. Effective leaders are responsible for taking care of the people who take care of them. Create a work culture where people help each other out and contribute to the greater good of the company. During the delegation process, communicate gratitude and appreciation, and make sure employees know how their work makes an impact in the lives of those around them, including yours.
Lack of a positive mindset leads to many limiting beliefs within leaders. When negative thoughts are at the forefront of a person’s mind, it affects mood, confidence, performance, stress levels, interactions with others—the list goes on. In turn, these disrupting self-beliefs prevent business owners and executives from creating innovative, motivational, and happy work cultures.
Changing language is one way of focusing on eliminating negative self-talk and thinking. Stop using phrases like, “I can’t,” “I am not able,” “I don’t have enough . . . ” Modifying internal scripts helps leaders visualize positive outcomes and share these beliefs with the team. Doing this creates a boost of self-esteem and self-confidence. When business owners and upper-level management feel positive, this energy naturally benefits the organization and its people.
Preventing the Top 3 Negative Thinking Patterns
In an article for Psychology Today, Dr. Melanie Greenberg says there are three top negative thinking patterns:
This happens when people spiral into more and more negative thoughts.
Example — “I should’ve never released this new product. It won’t sell. Because of this, the company will go under. I won’t be able to pay the employees and I’ll have to let everyone go. They’ll be disappointed and angry with me.”
Solution: When participating in this behavior, break the pattern by getting up, going for a walk, exercising or doing another activity to stop negative thought cycles.
Overthinking is an anxiety-inducing behavior often associated with perfectionism. Those finding themselves experiencing this pattern of thinking often question their decisions and wander down the rabbit hole of possibilities for hours, days, or weeks.
Example — “Hiring a new assistant will free up my time. But, what if I can’t find the right person? Or they leave after six months? Then, I will have to go through this whole process again. But what if I don’t hire someone and then I’m unable to manage my schedule. Maybe I should just not hire anyone… but what will happen then?”
Solution: To avoid overthinking, create a deadline for making decisions. After doing this, change the course of focus. Meditate, work out or call a friend. Choose to step away from triggers of work anxiety.
Cynical hostility revolves around making negative assumptions about people without knowing them or their intentions. For example, this happens when people find themselves disliking a person they’ve never met. Those experiencing this type of negative thinking lack trust and feel people are constantly out to get them.
Example — “I don’t trust the new hire. She just looks like she’ll create drama. I could just see her collecting a bonus and then leaving the company as soon as possible.”
Solution: Leaders displaying judgmental behavior show a lack of emotional intelligence. Even if these are only thoughts, they still hurt team members. Unexplained, unfair treatment or dislike harms workplace cultures. In thriving organizations, leaders aren’t perceived as toxic, callous, or mean. Changing the habit of negative thought requires communication and giving people the benefit of the doubt. Actively acknowledging these thoughts also helps eliminate them when they occur.
Addressing Limiting Beliefs
The difference between a moderately successful business and a lucratively successful business is belief. Identifying self-limiting beliefs in leadership creates impactful, innovative companies. Employees feel more fulfilled working for those who push the boundaries and create trusting workplace cultures where their contributions make a difference. When positive beliefs flow through an organization, people are inspired to make a difference in their world.
“Taking time to unpick our limiting beliefs can free us up to live fuller, more fulfilling lives, full of confidence and purpose. Once you find your real purpose and knock your limiting beliefs on the head you can achieve more than you ever believed possible,” says leadership strategist and confidence expert Joy Burnford in an article for Forbes.
After reading this article, analyze your belief patterns. Spend some time strategizing and writing your answers these questions:
- What are your limiting beliefs?
- How can you address them?
- How can you instill more belief as a leader?