As a leader you have doubts. The less you control, the more you doubt.

And it’s reasonable. You see, if you make the right decision, it is business as usual; nothing special takes place. But, if you make a mistake, you may ruin the company’s results, your people’s life and your own reputation.

The same applies to your direct reports, the leadership team. They all have doubts. Facing critical decisions, in the beginning of new relationships, evaluating ideas.

But how effectively do you doubt/question the doubt?

Throughout the years I’ve found 10 checkpoints that I follow when clients, coaching students or members of our team are facing doubts. Here are 3 of them address to non-experts so that you can easily understand and use them to get the most out of the situation:

A.     Distinguish what kind of reaction you are dealing with: Objection? Rejection? Indifference? Doubt? All kinds of resistance or hesitance do not imply doubts and in our training courses I have seen that leaders are somewhat confused about that when it comes to function as coaches.

B.     If you conclude that this is doubt, then moving as follows may work for you:

1. Is the expressed doubt relevant to the present or just to the past of the person? There are people who are more doubtful than others. They exhibit a doubt- friendly trait, no matter what the situation or the task assigned is. As long as the doubts are linked to personality traits, they are partly linked to our emotional conditioning over time, in other words, to our past.

  • How to react: Initially respect the different view and listen carefully to the person. Then try to enhance the links to the present reality (here and now). Ask for the opinion of the rest of the people around the table and try to distinguish between facts and facts interpretation and help them to see the difference and yourself to see what you didn’t.

2Is it relevant to the role or not? There are roles that serve as the gatekeepers (for example, the role of the CFO) and therefore, they must behave accordingly. People may express doubts not because they feel so but because they think they ought to.

  • How to react: Promote rotation, x-functional understanding and try to help people to increase their both market and organizational awareness. Cultivate the culture of co-leading for the board of directors and co-operating for the rest of your staff.

3. What is the underlying emotion and how real is the doubt expressed? A genuine doubt usually rests on fear. If, for instance, the emotion is anger, then you are most likely facing a challenge, not a doubt. If the emotion is enthusiasm the person is saying you “tell me more, I love it”.

  • How to react: Try to empathize and then act so that you substitute the emotion (relieve the fear). Check the kind and the degree of remaining qualities of doubt again. (e.g. in a sales context, provide client with data and evidence – neither arguments, nor better proposals).

In general, if you are aware of the different behavioral styles, including your own, if you can understand what motivate others and yourself and even more, if you have explored your own emotional conditioning overtime, you are certainly armed to react quickly and correctly.

Be careful and aware that when you ‘’doubt the doubt’’ itself, your own emotional state can make the difference: Therefore, be curious, open, positive and encouraging . Do not punish the person in doubt, do not appear annoyed or furious when dealing with outer or inner doubts, and do not jump to solutions too quickly.

Doubt can prove to be a good friend: It may increase your attention span levels and, when it is addressed and resolved, can make you feel secure.

Doubt, on the other hand, can prove to be a sneaky enemy: It has the power to destroy your reality, even when it has no link to reality.

Begin with the former in mind and follow through to ensure you avoid the latter!  



Yiannis Koutsoumaris

Master Leadership Coach and Trusted Adviser; twenty years of international corporate experience and more than 7000 hours in one-on-one c-level and political coaching sessions. Typically engages in medium-long term leadership advancement assignments with CEOs, to be promoted to CEOs, large scale business owners and political leaders.

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