Siobhán Cahalan | What if….you stopped doubting yourself?

“You know enough. You know what is right, and you know what is wrong.”

How can I as a leader, CEO, Board director, governance professional, risk management specialist, Compliance officer, Anti-Financial Crime (AFC) expert – how can I stop second guessing myself? How can I feel confident about my role? How can I stop looking over my shoulder?

The world of governance brings with it many facets. There is Compliance. There is Risk Management. There is AFC, Cyber Security. There is Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG). Finance. Operations.

Governing an organisation is challenging. There are a myriad of different aspects to consider. Its complexity is fierce. We try to ignore things, but our stomach knows and we lose sleep and we have that niggly feeling that the circle is incomplete. Sometime we know exactly what is not done. Other times, it is a feeling, intangible, not knowing what I don’t know.

In its simplest term, governance is how something is led and managed. If you are feeling the stress of the role, come back to this. How am I leading, how am I managing? Then, there is good and bad governance. Am I leading and managing well, leading to good governance or the opposite?

It may seem as though good governance is in place but the feeling permeating the organisation is one of fear and waiting for that day when the regulation police knock on the door and demand an opening of the cabinets. Or the day the newspaper arrives and the wrong-doings of your organisation, which you didn’t even know about, are all over the front page.

Living in this way is damaging. It causes stress, bad health, poor lifestyle habits. In the workplace, it causes defensiveness, lack of openness, power games, backstabbing. It causes an inability to move forward as the atmosphere is one of fear and trepidation and insecurity. Leaders don’t lead as well as they could as they don’t feel supported. Their leader feels the same way. The domino effect is palpable and obvious, grounded in doubts, fears, uncertainties, fuelled by lack of transparency, lack of support, lack of trust.

Wisdom Tool Number One: Know That You Know Nothing.

A desire to know every line in every law, act, regulation is admirable. How much stress is this desire causing you? How doable is this? Is this realistic for you? If, if and if. If I didn’t sleep, if I didn’t see my family, if I didn’t eat, then I would know every line of the guidance book.

This is something you have to let go of. You know enough. You know what is right, and you know what is wrong. All regulations are variations of this theme. What is the bottom line? What is the bottom line of regulation? It is: serve and protect the stakeholders. As you read this, imagine all the tasks, you do each day and how each of them leads to protecting and serving the stakeholders – with integrity. Everything you do is a link in the chain of good governance, of upholding best practice guidance. The documentation you smother under is a way to show your efforts at good governance: “look, we have done everything we can to protect and serve our stakeholders in an honest, transparent and innovative way.”

“how can we figure out if there is something we don’t know in order to serve and protect our stakeholders?”

Wisdom tool number one: Know that you know nothing. Let your shoulders down and accept this. You cannot know everything. You do not know everything. Know and accept that you don’t know everything. Know that after the next qualification, you will still feel insecure and missing information. As a starting point, accept the unknown unknowns. And breathe. Once you accept this, you set yourself free. You can stop hiding. You can exercise your depths of courage, and you can say, “I don’t know. How could I possibly know every line in every book?” And you start the conversation. You say, “how can we figure out if there is something we don’t know in order to serve and protect our stakeholders?” Then relief, teamwork and support steps in.

Wisdom Tool Number Two: Make Wise Decisions.

How do I know if I am making the right decisions? I don’t have all the information. What if I make a bad decision? What will the consequences be? I’d rather make no decision than make a bad decision. If I make a good decision, it will go unnoticed. It’s mostly the people who mess up and solve it after the problem that get recognition, so why would I even try to make good decisions as the less vocal and smoother running departments are not rewarded in the same way?

“knowing what I know, what is the best logical decision I can make?”

Wisdom tool number two: make wise decisions. You stand back. You close your eyes, and you look inside of yourself. You access your intuition. You ask yourself, “knowing what I know, what is the best logical decision I can make?” Experiment in your head. Write them down. Document a number of different decisions, based on what you know. Which one is your intuition leading you to – the one which supports good governance, of course. The one which is devoid of ego, the one which is brave, the one which is the ‘right’ one for all involved, a decision made based on integrity, whatever facts are available, and the intense intention to make a good decision taking into account the short, medium and long-term perspective – for the overall good.

Wisdom Tool Number Three: Be a Leader.

I am worried that I won’t get a promotion. I keep getting passed over. I don’t know why that is. There is always some reasoning which seems out of my control. Ask yourself the honest question of how I am behaving? How do I behave? Am I behaving professionally from ten minutes before I reach the office to ten minutes after I leave the office? How do I arrive at work? Am I calm? Do I get to work immediately? Do I spend the first half-hour at the watercooler or coffee machine? Speaking of watercooler – how many minutes a day do you spend there? Fill a couple of large glass bottles which will last you the day.

“how do I show cooperation and respect to all people I encounter each day?”

Wisdom tool number three: Be a leader. How do I lead? Regardless of my position or role, how do I show leadership? How do I show healthy ownership? How do I show congruence with team mates, managers, cleaning staff? How do I show cooperation and respect to all people I encounter each day? Remember, you don’t have to be a manager to lead. You can lead, and lead by example every minute of the day. Be a leader in your job. Good governance is also about showing up with good self-governance.

Wisdom Tool Number Four: Look in the Mirror.

The communication with my manager is not going well. I don’t seem to be able to communicate. Or she/he is not able to communicate with me. Whatever the case, I cannot see the reason for the miscommunication. Is it me? Is it him/her? Or both of us?

“do you know how she/he likes to receive information, what is his/her learning style?” 

Wisdom tool number four: Look in the mirror. What specific things are aggravating me about my boss? He/she micromanages. Where are you micromanaging? Are you seeing the big picture of what is happening, the big picture of your role, the big picture of where your role sits in the organisations success story?

He/she doesn’t hear my message. How are you communicating? Are you forcing your opinion? Do you know what his/her message is? Do you know how she/he likes to receive information, what is his/her learning style? Does he/she take in information via images, or long pages of text, or via numbers or video? Consider other ways to get your message across. It may be your message is getting lost because it seems he/she isn’t listening. Have you listened to her/him? Everyone wants to be heard. To feel heard. Intent active listening is how we do that, along with repeating back what the other person is saying to us, to show we listen, to show we understand and to show they are heard. This doesn’t mean you agree with them, but it paves the way for a chat of equals where each knows where the other is.

Good self-governance leads to good organisational governance.

Learn how to stop doubting yourself by understanding that you cannot know it all. Strive to make wise decisions, be a leader and take frequent looks in the mirror. Good self-governance leads to good organisational governance.

To further explore how you can access your innate wisdom to enhance your performance and peace of mind schedule a coaching conversation with Siobhán. Drop a note to to set something up.

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