Having the Competence to drive a business forward is one thing. As discussed in Parts II and III of this series, a business leader can develop both the Emotional and Technical Competence needed to grow a successful larger business.
Having the Confidence to make the necessary decisions to drive that growth, and then execute on the actions that follow, is quite another.
In my opinion, the second reason for a company’s ultimate size, or the second “C” is the owner’s Confidence in the business decisions he makes. A lack of certainty usually involves words like fear, risk, and change.
At first blush, it might seem odd to think that an entrepreneur would be hampered by avoiding risk. After all, he accepted a pretty big risk when he started the company. But, sometimes starting a business has little to do with evaluating risk. Instead, it has to do with being overcome with emotion, excitement, or pain; what author Michael Gerber refers to as an “Entrepreneurial Seizure.” Many of us didn’t evaluate the risks involved in starting a business; we just acted! While this might work with a company when it is smaller and there’s little to lose on a bad bet, it can become a different story as the company grows and there’s more on the line.
It’s quite common that the longer a company is in business, the stronger the pull becomes on the owner to avoid risk, as there’s more to lose. If the company’s been financially successful, there’s the obvious financial risk. But, it can go beyond the financial loss and include the loss of social prestige, our reputation within the community, and even the perception of diminished intellectual competence, also known as Imposter Syndrome.
Another area where a lack of confidence plays into the business decisions we make is when we avoid making decisions altogether because we don’t want to be embarrassed if they don’t work out. How will we look? What will people think if we fail?
Risk-avoidance doesn’t only have to do with big decisions. It can also be displayed in much smaller ways, such as when we insist on perfection at the expense of practicality, so we delay or avoid making even basic decisions. Or when we obsess over minute details or data overload at the expense of at least having something that’s usable.
Not only can our decisions be crippled by fear of failure, but they can also be disabled by our fear of success. We might avoid activities that we know will lead to success because of the fear of the unknown or the uncomfortable situations we might be placed in when our actions are successful.
Sometimes, the thought of having to undertake a big change can paralyze us into inaction. One way to avoid this is by agreeing to make small, incremental changes instead of one large one. Start by having the Confidence to go beyond the lines that have defined you in your business until now. Whether it’s the way you communicate with people; the manner and speed with which you make decisions; or just the way you define your role within the company. You can start this by changing how you are where you are.