Recognising and Transcending Self-Limiting Beliefs

Have you ever heard of the management death spiral? This is when a negative mindset traps us into a great big self-reinforcing down spiral. We end up in a deep, dark hole stuck under great big pile of self-limiting beliefs. In this hole we stop being the boss our employees need us to be. And in my experience of coaching people - before they can change anything, they first need to get out of the hole.

I am going to explain  how to recognise if you’re in a management death spiral and how to get out. Each personality type has a corresponding dark-side so find out if your own strengths are holding you back. Hold onto your hats because we are going to take a tour of a great big dark, ugly hole. But we’re only visiting so you know not to go there in the future.

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Managing your mindset is a good manager manager skill. Other important boss skills include:

The Critical Mindset and the Death Spiral

In the death spiral, fear of what could go wrong stops people from taking the actions they need to to fix the problem. What is cruel is that smart people who think a lot and careful people who don’t like making mistakes are particularly susceptible to falling into the death spiral:

  • We approach a solution anxious about everything that could go wrong,

  • We have a preconceived belief that the solution won’t work,

  • This negative mindset creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And people operating with a critical mindset are incredibly skilled at finding evidence that supports their beliefs. It’s called confirmation bias. Fear leads to failure. Failure reinforces fear. This is a downward spiral into a deep, dark hole. And these beliefs become self limiting beliefs.

The Death Spiral Applies to Life

This is what I call the death spiral and it applies to all sorts of life situations:

  • It means guys can totally lose confidence talking to girls and

  • It’s how people get depressed and stuck in a victim state.

Now I love chatting about life but I’m here to talk about how to get bosses out of the Management Death Spiral

What is the Management Death Spiral?

This is best explained with the example of delegating. In my experience of working with bosses to improve performance this is a common situation:

  • There’s an overworked manager,

  • Employee performance is poor and

  • The manager needs to delegate a bit more to manage their own workload.

  • But Bosses come up with a list of reasons why delegation won’t work.

Here are three but it could easily be ten:

  • I don’t have the time to delegate to my employees and train them,

  • It’s faster and easier to do it myself,

  • My employee won’t do a good job and I’ll probably have to redo it anyway,

And so they delegate half-heartedly. They operate from a place of fear

  • They don’t trust their staff

  • They micromanage their staff

  • They don’t give autonomy

  • They don’t accept risk

In short, They set themselves up for failure and suffer in self righteous indignation when their own shit comes back at them. And then they go back into old habits, they don’t delegate, they work harder trying to make up for lost ground. They’re just digging themselves deeper into the hole.

This is the Management Death Spiral because you end up with even more disengaged employees without skills or ownership. And you end up as the stressed overworked manager with super hero syndrome. Super hero syndrome is where you try to do everything yourself believing that you’re the most important player but instead you’re the obstruction.

Tip: A manager’s job is to get stuff done through people. The online course Delegation Essentials will show you have to leverage delegation as a powerful management tool to improve productivity.

Self Limiting Beliefs

Now this is an important concept to understand about self limiting beliefs: The beliefs don’t have to be factually wrong.

I bet that you agreed with the 3 delegation problems because these are perfectly valid risks. Now I could show you how the risks are smaller than the benefits. And I can show you how to eliminate most of the risks (which is exactly what I do in the “How to Delegate” section).

But there are two things that are far more important than that. The first is to realise that this is what is meant by self limiting beliefs. Because as long as you allow these beliefs to dictate your actions, as long as these fears stop you from doing what you need to, these beliefs are the obstacles that will stop you from becoming a better boss.

Recognizing what our Fears are Telling Us

The second thing to be aware of is what our fears are telling us. Fear is an ancient emotion designed to trigger a binary, flight or fight response. But running away from your employee or beating them over their head just isn’t an effective management technique even though I do understand the occasional urge to do so. The reason why we have fear is valid - managing employees is hard. Too many work delegations turn out badly but fear isn’t a sign that delegation is evil. Fear isn’t a sign that delegation must be avoided. Fear is a sign that you have doubts, maybe you’re out of your depth. And that means you might need help finding out how to delegate better so that your fears don’t materialize. And other times the way to deal with fear is acknowledge it and let go because you need to desensitize yourself. Start easy and build up.

Don’t be the Boss With Your Training Wheels Stuck On

Don’t be the boss with your training wheels stuck on

  • To ride a bicycle you have to take the training wheels off

  • To ride a bicycle you have to take your feet off the ground

  • To ride a bicycle you have to be prepared to fall off a few times while you are learning.

You need to know when to let go. By all means reduce risk by practicing in a safe environment. Start small, build up. Get expert training. But you cannot eliminate risk. And if you’re a manager who fears delegation then you’ll never be able to take your training wheels off.

Wrapping up

So to wrap up: some people are susceptible to falling into the Management Death Spiral because they are too good at seeing what’s wrong. Frankly these are just excuses. People create excuses to avoid blame. People create excuses to avoid taking action. Negative beliefs are self-limiting beliefs because they stop you from taking the actions you need to to become a better boss. A negative mindset results in wasted energy finding problems. If bosses applied the same amount of ingenuity to finding solutions as as they do to problems then they’d be very successful.

We’ve all heard this quote from Henry Ford.

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t you’re probably right.”

Experience fear but don’t allow it to dictate your actions. Instead learn from your fear if it’s telling you to seek expert help. Because people who get stuck in the Management Death Spiral are bad at asking for help. The way to transcend your fears is to acknowledge them and take off your training wheels. Don’t see problems in the solutions, see solutions in your problems.

Take the first step to a more positive mindset with the short, online course Managing Your Mindset

P.S Do you hold back from delegating or performance communication because you’ve had unpleasant experiences? The next article in this series is going to show you how to recognise if you’ve still got your boss training wheels stuck on.