As a driven leader in a blue-collar industry, I’m sure you’re no stranger to making mistakes. If you’re at all like me, you’ve made some big mistakes throughout your career. These are not just to be expected, but I’m here to help you remember that they are absolutely necessary for your continued growth and evolution as a driven leader.

You didn’t get in the game of leadership to be an observer. This means you take a lot of action, right? With a lot of action comes a lot of results. As it’s been said, “you win some, you lose some.” However, the more I’ve developed in my career and personal growth, I’ve come to realize that winning and losing is simply a perspective. Mistakes and failures are labels created to define a specific outcome. This is fine until it begins impacting our confidence.

I now subscribe to a philosophy and belief system that embraces this concept: You’re either winning or learning. My mentor Dan Sullivan taught me this thinking many years ago and it has served my life, leadership ability and overall happiness in countless positive ways ever since.

As a leader, one of our most critical jobs is protecting our confidence. If I feel like I’m “losing,” or even worse, I identify as a loser every time I get a result I wasn’t planning on (which is what the general public calls a mistake or failure), then how am I supposed to maintain enough confidence to keep driving forward and taking necessary risks to grow the business?

I can’t help my team grow at a level I desire if I’m in a constant state of fear, and it’s a proven fact that fear comes from the perspective that bad things are going to happen, or have already happened, and are certain to show up again in the future. Since we know fear is a real emotion that is primarily based on false reality, we must explore ways to continue building confidence regardless of your most recent results.

Anytime you’re struggling with confidence, there are a couple of areas you want to pay attention to regarding some feelings you may be experiencing. One of the most common feelings we have, when we’re not in tip-top shape regarding confidence, is feeling stuck. As a behavior and performance coach for driven leaders in the trades, I run across clients feeling stuck more often than you might imagine, regardless of the size of business or external perceived success by the market or their peers. Whether leading a very substantial and hyper profitable company, or a newer leader just getting started in a smaller operation, feeling stuck is all too common.

In our leadership roles, we are creating and managing change constantly. If we’re stagnant in any way, the business can quickly plateau and we are forced to act accordingly.

The second major confidence sucker is becoming overwhelmed. We’ve all experienced this terrible feeling when it seems like there’s too much to do, not enough time and/or resources, and all we want to do is curl up in a ball like our childhood dog and wish it all away. Obviously, that’s not a solution, but pretending that feeling doesn’t exist when you’re in that state is a lie you cannot afford to perpetuate if you want to continue to grow your effectiveness and influence.

What we want to remember is that feeling stuck and feeling overwhelmed go hand in hand, and one can quickly turn into the other. Please remember that both of these feelings are rooted in an old belief system we are carrying from previous conditioning that is simply no longer serving us in our driven leadership role. It’s not just the current challenge you may be facing causing the feelings, but it’s the emotional grip we have from all the times we’ve experienced these feelings in the past.

In our leadership roles, we are creating and managing change constantly. If we’re stagnant in any way, the business can quickly plateau and we are forced to act accordingly. Taking expedient action to improve results takes confidence. As we learn to better protect our confidence, there are states of mind we want to avoid at all costs.

Don’t get sucked into believing in certainty. When the pandemic hit, I did some formal training sessions for our clients about being confident rather than certain, and this focus and vision painted to their teams was instrumental in navigating those extremely challenging early days of uncertainty. The only thing you can be completely certain about is the guaranteed uncertainly you continue to face daily in business and dealing with people, both clients and team members.

Another confidence killer is seeking and expecting perfection. I’m a huge proponent of progress over perfection at all costs. Remember that both feeling stuck and overwhelmed are often byproducts of a perfection-based mindset. I understand this concept is hard for most leaders to embrace because I often get misunderstood here with a perception that I don’t care about quality. This is not the case at all. I see firsthand how much chaos and pain perfection-focused mindsets create in teams, individual leaders and eventually how it negatively impacts health through unbridled stress on the mind and body.

Effective and well-balanced leaders take action before they feel completely certain about things. True confidence comes from taking action, not just thinking and planning. You must get experience through action to build your confidence in any situation. Running a program in your mind’s eye over and over again about how something may or may not work will not give you the same confidence experience will.

Don’t get me wrong, thinking and planning are important, but they are only the keys to getting you started. Only once you’re in the game of action will you be able to get the experience needed to build proper skill. Building skill and positive change takes time and focus. Another of the biggest confidence killers which can lead to feeling overwhelmed is taking on too much at once. We are optimistic or we couldn’t be effective leaders. Because of this optimism, we tend to think we can do more and implement faster than is often a reality for us, or our team.

Remember a mantra the Navy Seals live by: “Slow is smooth — smooth is fast.” I work diligently to keep this at the forefront of my mind as well as in the minds of my leadership team. When we attempt to go too fast, we aren’t as effective as we can be. We confuse and frustrate our teams, and eventually fall prey to distraction, feeling stuck again or becoming completely overwhelmed.

You’re in the first quarter of a new year, isn’t it time to slow down, check in on your progress and re-evaluate how you’re operating? This activity alone will help you understand where you can personally adjust to improve your confidence levels. After all, your level of confidence is directly tied to your level of success.