Developing a Positive Self Image

Having a positive opinion of your own ability is not an ego problem if it’s a realistic assessment. People can get awfully mixed up in dealing with this self image thing. There are always people who want you to feel guilty if you have a healthy opinion of yourself. But as the old saying goes, “love your neighbor as yourself.” This implies that your capacity to love your neighbor is determined by your capacity to love yourself. This principle applies to management, too.

Many excellent books have been written on the subject of self image, and they have important concepts in them for the manager. Here are a few basics that will help you in your managerial career.

The fact is, we fall or rise by our self image. If we have a low opinion of ourselves and believe we’re going to fail, our subconscious will try to deliver that result to us. Conversely, if we have a high opinion of ourselves and think we’re going to succeed, our chances for success are greatly increased.

That is an oversimplification on building a self image, but it conveys the thought. If you think success, if you look successful, if you’re confident of being successful, you greatly increase your chances of being successful. It’s primarily a matter of attitude. If you believe you are a failure, that is what you’re likely to be.

Closely related to this is the concept of the self fulfilling prophecy. Basically, the prophecy states that we treat people the way we are told they behave or the way we think they will behave. Much research has been done with managers and the self fulfilling prophecy.

Here is an example of one research study:

Two managers, both considered to be excellent, were told that they each would lead a new project team. One manager (X) was told he had the best employees in the company. The other manager (Y) was told he had “average” employees. In reality, they both had average employees.

Separately, they were given all the details of their project. Unknown to them, both managers had the exact same instructions and were working on the same project.

After two weeks, which manager do you think had better results at the completion of the project? Right. It was manager X, who believed he had the best employees. Thus he pushed them more, delegated more to them, and expected much more from them. Be careful that you do not fall prey to the self-fulfilling prophecy either about others or yourself.

To reinforce a successful attitude, you need some success along the way. Now that you’ve moved into your first managerial position, every success you have will serve as a building block to further achievements and improve your self image. It should be obvious that you can’t substitute feelings of success for actual accomplishments. You can’t have the appearance without any substance. That would be a sham. You’ll soon be found out, and to your own disadvantage.

A Self Image That  States Arrogance

One of the most serious problems observed in newly appointed young managers is the impression they can give of arrogance. Be careful that you don’t mishandle your feelings of success so that you are creating a self image as being arrogant. A manager can feel pride in having been elevated into the managerial ranks without appearing cocky. Rather, the impression conveyed should be one of quiet confidence.

Do you suspect there are people in your organization who don’t believe you were the right selection and who’d delight in your failure? That is not only possible; it’s likely. An attitude that can be construed as arrogant is going to make these people more likely to conclude that they’re correct in their assessment of you.

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