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Everything’s Riding On This. No It’s Not! (#128)

The Confident Leader

Several years ago, my son was preparing for a standardized test and shared, “I’m really nervous. The next four years are riding on this.” Leaders often feel the same way, as if it’s a make-it-or-break-it moment. My coaching, “no it’s not!” Here’s why.

The best preparation for tomorrow, is doing your best today.

— H. Jackson Brown (American author)

This Week’s Edition

To perform your best when it matters most, you’ve got to master the mind of a champion today – one who has a command of their thinking so their level of expertise can shine through and not be thwarted by “stinking” thinking.

Clarify Your Thinking

“Dad, this test is a really big deal. If I don’t do well, I won’t get in to a good school.” Perhaps he was being a little dramatic from a parent’s perspective, but that’s what he was thinking in that moment – everything was on the line.

Leaders experience the same thing. Sometimes it seems as if everything is riding on a certain decision or a particular leadership performance. 

This type of thinking produces additional mental pressure to perform, and these thoughts move leaders to one of two less than desirable mindsets:

  1. Monkey on Your Back – the inner voice that tells that you can’t do it

  2. Intimidated – the incessant comparison to others who seem to do it better

The thinking issues associated with these two mindsets cause leaders to become tentative and hesitant and ultimately failing to perform their best despite their expert skill and extensive preparation

Old Thinking: I can’t mess up. What if someone else does better than I do?

New Thinking: I’m trained for this. I’ve prepared. I’m going to do the best I can at this moment. I’ll see how I perform and and make adjustments accordingly. 

Thoughts Lead to Actions

Reality check: rarely, if ever, is “everything” riding on this one decision or this one performance. Every leader reading this newsletter has survived 100% of their poor decisions or near-fatal leadership performances. News flash: you are still here. 

I’ll grant you that high stakes situations are the norm for leaders in our dynamic fluid post-pandemic world, but needlessly increasing the stakes mentally does nothing to improve your performance. In fact, it often ensures you get the result you don’t want: failure. 

In that unsure mental state, the failure only compounds the leader’s thinking issues operating to sideline them from their own leadership game

To build new routines of thinking in high stakes situations, take these 3 steps to become a more confident leader:

Step One: Make a list of all your concerns about a particular decision or upcoming leadership performance.

Step Two: Put a check mark next to the items you control. Put an “X” next to the items you don’t control.

Step Three: Mentally disregard the items you don’t control. Focus on what you do control, i.e., skilling up, preparing more, getting more information, including more experts, etc… 

Focusing on things beyond your control always dilutes your attention from what you do control: your skill development and preparation. 

Leaders who are able to build strong routines of thinking allow their training to come through with shining colors. This does not guarantee they will win every time, but with every decision or performance it will produce valuable information that can be used to stay in the game, make adjustments and get another shot on goal. 

Boost Your Performance

The Dallas Cowboys’ kicker, Brett Maher, missed four extra points in their first playoff game this year. With every attempt the entire viewing public winced as he missed another. He did not suddenly forget how to kick or lose his years of skill and training. His performance was a result of his mental game. Learn how to master your mental game in this week’s video.

What’s Your Opinion?

What is something out of your control that you need to let go of mentally so you can perform your best when it matters most? Share it with me at

If you are going to be a leader, you might as well be a good one. Don’t let doubt count you out. Have a confident week!

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

We live to make bad leadership extinct so forward this newsletter to others who strive to be confident leaders. 

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What is “The Confident Leader”?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, I began a video series called “Panic or Plan?” It was designed to equip leaders to navigate the doubt they experienced and to rise in the confidence they needed to lead during turbulent times. It took off. I then started this newsletter to equip leaders in the same fashion each week for the doubt that crashes across the bow of their leaderSHIP.

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