Thomas Carlyle, Scottish philosopher said, ‘Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.’ With all due respect to Mr. Carlyle, I believe his statement is incomplete. Accomplishment alone does not build self-esteem. It is the acknowledgement and integration of the accomplishment into one’s being that builds confidence and self-esteem. This integration frequently gets left behind in today’s ‘action world’ once the accomplishment is achieved. More and more jobs require individuals to play at the edge and make judgement calls – that requires high confidence and self-esteem. Without the integration step, good results can be seen as just a fluke, or due to circumstances and not necessarily repeatable or sustainable. Without the integration, individuals and teams are only positioned to repeat past results rather than being built up with increased confidence and ready for the next new challenge.
On an individual level, being disciplined about doing self-acknowledgement is part of being your own cheerleader. It develops and reinforces your ability to see where you did well and where you need to do better. Individuals in large organizations must develop this skill early. Too often organizations will try to convince you that your results are entirely due to them. The organization may, or may not, have assisted in delivering the result. However, without honest self-acknowledgement, individuals can get trapped into staying with an organization. After all, if all of your results are due to the organization, why leave as the next organization may not be as good. The truth is that if you produced good results at one organization, you can produce good results at another organization – because the results are due to you.
Being disciplined also means doing the self-acknowledgement on a regular frequency and doing it fully. I recommend at least monthly for the frequency. Quiet time, with my headphones on, while on an airplane is a great place for me to do it. Or, just 10 minutes in the morning at my desk to kick off my day on a positive note. Doing it fully means that the acknowledgement must sink in and the emotions felt about the result are fully expressed. This isn’t always comfortable as I find myself having to overcome my Western acculturation to be humble. I have to work hard to let go of hearing my inner voice call myself ‘too big for my britches’, and fully embrace my results – letting them soak in and integrate.
Teams also need acknowledgement and integration. This both builds the individuals’ and team’s capability and keeps them in the game. During a long project, the end result can be so far into the future that team members get fatigued and wonder if all of the work is worth it. Couple that with infrequent acknowledgement and it is easy for the team to lose its commitment. By acknowledging the progress made today, a path is built to the end result tomorrow. Team members stay engaged and committed because they know that what they are doing today is important and how it connects to the end result. The frequency for doing team acknowledgement could be each morning during check-in or during another regular meeting. Encourage everyone to share a result with the team and accept acknowledgement for that result. As the team practices sharing successes and giving/receiving acknowledgement, integration happens, and connection and community are built. The team builds their self-esteem, both as individuals and as a team, boosting their self-confidence, and supporting them in believing they can take on the next, new challenge.
Jack Canfield, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, said ‘Research has shown over and over again that the more you acknowledge your past successes, the more confident you become in taking on and successfully accomplishing new ones.’ Are you setting up yourself and your team for the next newer and bigger challenge? Start today by acknowledging and integrating your successes. It is a worthy investment for your future.
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