Published: March 21, 2008
Jennifer Selby Long, Selby Group
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You’re Not a Loser…and Other Deep Insights You May Have Missed Along the Way

Lately, I’m noticing a certain drop in confidence among some outstanding people. Three clients in two days have shared the following:

  • “I’m so incompetent in this job.” (He isn’t.)
  • “My boss is so smart and so visionary, I feel like he’s way up there and I’m way down here. I don’t know why he picked me to join this team.” (Her boss is my client, too. I know why he picked her. It’s because she’s good, she’s trustworthy, and she can handle the big stretch.)
  • “I’m not an expert in that.” (She is. She’s just not a deep technical expert, which at her level, she shouldn’t be. That would mean doing her team members’ work instead of her own.)

And this is a pretty typical week for me lately.

I’ve worked directly with countless bosses at all levels and in every imaginable industry of every imaginable size. We’ve partnered together to do succession planning, organization design, and talent management, under good circumstances and during times of great organizational crisis.

This insider status helps me get something you may not be getting – direct insight into how your boss picked you and he or she really expects. I’ll let you in on few secrets:

  1. Odds are excellent that you were chosen for the role you’re in because you were the best choice out of several strong contenders. You were not, however, the perfect choice, because that’s a fairy tale. It does not exist. Stop imagining that there’s a perfect CIO, VP, Architect, Managing Attorney, or whatever you may be, that you need to hold yourself up to.
  2. Even if you were just best of several bad choices, or the only person they could find, who cares? It’s a chance to prove to yourself and to others that you are capable of a lot more that you or they think.
  3. The same applies if you were part of an acquisition.
  4. Your boss knows you’re not the expert in much of anything. He or she just doesn’t care. You’re there to be an excellent leader who delivers results and continuously strengthens the organization for the long term.

This is not to say you can get by with knowing nothing about the function you lead. If you feel a little unsteady without more education, ask your direct reports for a mini-tutorial, or attend a conference with them or invest a little time in some training, but dedicate most of your ongoing development to your leadership and management skills. That’s how you add value to the business.  You’re better than you think. Cut yourself some slack!

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