Does your inner ‘voice of leadership’ support you and cheer you on when you're presenting your ideas?
Or, do these two characters threaten to hold you back?
The two inner voices I’m referring to are the voices of ‘Perfectionism’ and ‘Criticism’. Let’s call them ‘Perfect Pat’ and ‘Critical Craig’.
Perfect Pat might say something like, ‘Your report is not quite detailed enough’ or ‘You really should have prepared more for this presentation’.
Critical Craig might say ‘You’re late again!’ or ‘Your hair is a mess!’ or ‘Why did you choose to say that?...You should have said...’
When Perfect Pat or Critical Craig start speaking in your head, it’s difficult to hear your own wisdom and to be present to the situation you're in or the people you’re with. So, how do you transform these voices to support you to be the most present, confident, and influential leader you can be? The answer lies in recognising that your perfectionist and your critic do want the best for you. They are well-meaning but their harsh methods are misguided. They are under the illusion that if you just try harder, you could be in control and perfect. They want you to do better, yet they actually can make you more afraid of failure and cause you to lose faith in yourself. They are needing some guidance and redirection from you to be more effective. Instead of 'whipping you into shape', you could promote them to the job of building your muscle of ‘Self-Compassion’. Let’s give them a new title - let's call them your ‘inner coach’ and your ‘inner champion’.
The role of your inner coach and inner champion is to recognise that no one is perfect, and that cracking the whip can backfire, leading to depression and hesitancy to act and put yourself 'out there'. Aim instead to give 'Perfect Pat' and 'Critical Craig' a promotion. If their intention is to help you to do better, ask them to talk to you more positively. For example, the old way of perfectionism and criticism is to say 'Why are you so afraid?..There's nothing to be afraid of! Can't you just get over it???' Instead, try the inner coach talk with a supportive tone by saying things like ‘I admire your courage’ or ‘I know you are sincerely wanting to be of service here.’ Or, if you do recognise a mistake you’ve made, your inner coach can reassure you. ‘Yes, there is an issue here, and I am here to support you to sort it.’ ‘I love you just as you are, and I am here to help you grow and learn.’
Kristin Neff, pioneering researcher in self-compassion and Associate Professor at the University of Texas, shows that self-compassion is a much more effective self-motivational strategy than self-criticism. Here’s a simple 3-step process to strengthen your self-compassion which was inspired by her research. I’ve used this successfully with myself and my coaching clients and recommend you test it out for yourself.
When you’re in a situation that is painful or uncomfortable, and you might be tempted to criticise yourself, remember the word ‘ACT‘ to remind yourself to act with self-compassion.
A - Acknowledge the pain or discomfort
C - Common human experience - realise you’re not alone and that many people feel this way
T - Treat yourself lovingly in some physical way...either by putting your hand on your heart or perhaps touch your hand in a gentle, supportive way.
You may find you can create a more peaceful presence, and this sense of calm will help you to have a more positive influence in whatever situation you are facing.
Here’s to you giving your ‘Perfect Pat’ and ‘Critic Craig’ a promotion to be the supportive inner coaches and inner champions they are wanting to be.
Here’s to you expressing your true ‘voice of leadership’ :-)
Sally Mabelle, ‘The Voice of Leadership’ Specialist. www.sallymabelle.com - Inspiring clear, confident, and connected communication for personal and cultural transformation.