How to Use Doubt and Belief as Motivation

Doubt inspires fear and insecurity, usually.

Belief inspires boldness.

believing in someone

Doubt as motivation:

“I’m not sure you can do it,” motivates those driven to prove you wrong.

Doubt fuels performance when seven things are true.

  1. You are respected.
  2. Goals are tough but achievable.
  3. Outcomes are meaningful.
  4. They seek approval.
  5. They enjoy being challenged.
  6. You willingly say, “I didn’t think you could, but you did it,” when they succeed.
  7. Doubt is used sparingly.

Don’t expect doubt to motivate if nothing is ever good enough.

Belief as motivation and transformation:

I had breakfast with an executive who floundered after being promoted. He was ready to throw in the towel. But his COO believed in him. She invested in a coach that helped him find his bearings and rise to new challenges.

It might have been easier and safer to manage him out. But, she stood with him. Two years later, how do you think he feels about his leader?

“I believe you can,” motivates those facing new challenges and uncertain results. They need a leg up, not a kick in the pants.

Belief is not coddling:

Coddling gives believing a bad name.

Some might think if you believe in someone you pat them on the back for doing nothing. You mouth the words, “You’re awesome,” regardless of what they do.

Believing in someone isn’t patting them on the back for doing nothing.

Believing in someone includes:

  1. A track record of improvement. Doubt those who haven’t performed.
  2. Holding people to their potential.
  3. Expecting improved performance.
  4. Trusting them to rise up after failure.
  5. Confronting self-limiting beliefs.
  6. Taking action to mitigate weaknesses.
  7. Honoring success when it’s different from yours.

Belief ennobles both the giver and receiver.

How might leaders use doubt to motivate?

Has someone believed in you? What was that like? What happened?