In my coaching and consulting practice, I run into quite a few business owners. Each one suffering from one type of systemic issue or other.  Behind most of them lies a single core problem: Low Self Esteem.

As a rule, one’s self-esteem dictates the boundaries of one’s success. It works like this:

Boundless self-esteem = boundless potential.

Limited self esteem = limited potential.

When you see situations that defy these equations, they are temporary, or they are luck. The reason for this is simple: our behavior conforms to our self-esteem.

The most effective way to increase the performance of an individual is to increase their self esteem. This broadens the range of behaviors at their disposal. It also allows the individual with high self esteem to make decisions without impact to self esteem. In other words, they aren’t using self-esteem to make bad interpersonal decisions.

Here’s an example of the thought process of someone with low self esteem upon disagreeing about what movie to watch:

Pam: “Steve, let’s go see a movie.”

Steve’s thinking – wow- she’s interested in me – YAY! I’m so happy – now don’t blow it.
Steve: “Sounds good – what movie do you want to see?”
(Steve’s putting her above himself in the decision process – and he’s not asserting an opinion. Steve already gave up here – we are just waiting for the confirmation with an “Okay.”)

Pam:  “How about the one with the cute couple and the talking cat?”

Steve’s thinking – ugh – not that, anything but that. But if I say no, she might think I don’t like the movies she likes, and then she might not like me as much. Hrm….
Steve: “Okay.”

The quickest way to spot low self esteem is the word: Okay. Okay is the word of someone who is not confident enough to agree completely or disagree completely. Okay is the word of someone who settles for what is offered.

Here’s the same dialogue if Steve had a higher self-esteem. Notice how the change in questions grows the conversation and increases rapport.

Pam: Hey there Steve – let’s go see a movie.

Steve: Sounds good – what kind of movies do you like?

Pam: I’m a sucker for romantic comedy. How about you?

Steve: I’ll occasionally watch a romantic comedy but they seem so predictable, but they aren’t my favorite – I prefer action movies.

Pam: I’ve seen my share of action movies – let’s see if there’s anything playing that we both might like.

From here, Steve and Pam can decide together, based on the strength of each other’s preferences – rather than Steve folding before the decision even starts. Steve’s questioning behavior changed based on his self esteem. He was also comfortable asserting his preferences in a way that was non-derogatory to himself or his conversation partner.

It is important to recognize that investing in increasing your self esteem is a BUSINESS DECISION. Self-esteem influences social and intra-personal dialogue – it changes behaviors when we are by ourselves, but also the behavior we undertake when we are with others.

An immutable law of success is that the self-esteem of an individual dictates his or her potential. Using the examples above, you can see how Steve’s self esteem changed his behavior. When we increase our self-esteem, we are unlocking the potential for greatness we each inherently have. It is through investing in your self-image that you can give your gift to the world.