I have lost count of how many times I wish I had a pill that if taken daily would magically transform the self-confidence of young women often paralyzed by this aspect of their self concept and belief. If only it was that simple!
Well I don’t have the magic pill but I do think that we complicate this conversation and too often ‘confidence’ is the generic label that leaders give to the development area or focus for growth of individuals.
As discussed in last weeks post, the most important place to start a conversation about confidence is with a clear definition or end point. What behaviors, feelings or outcomes are we trying to achieve when we talk about building confidence?
If you have been given this feedback in the past about improving confidence be proactive and ask good questions about the specific observable behavior that your leader or stakeholder is looking to see. In the absence of this you can invest a whole lot of time and work in doing both the internal and external work to improve your confidence and to others there may still not be any difference.
Compare this scenario to one where you gain clarity about the specific area or focus that a leader means when they talk about confidence eg I would like to see you speak up more when we are meetings with my colleagues & other team members. This then allows an individual a clear outcome or behaviour that can be achieved. Not only that, it also helps them work through the roadblocks that are currently blocking that behavior – the first step toward moving forward to sustainable behaviour change?
Understanding why this new behavior (i.e. speaking up in front of others) is important to your leader is crucial so don’t be afraid to ask these questions:
• When you talk about improving confidence, what specific behavior would you like to see that would be evidence for you that your confidence is growing?
• What will it mean or what impact will it have for you (others and the organisation)
• What are the outcomes or consequences of this for you and your organisation?
For example, I have applied the matter of speaking up at team meetings to the questions above, from the perspective of a team leader:
• Behaviour: I would like to see you speak up more when we are meetings with my colleagues and other team members.
• Meaning / Impact: Others will hear directly from you about your great ideas and the contribution that you make to the team
• Consequence: Others will start to get a better understanding about what you are capable of first hand rather than hearing about it from me (which may mean I can start to delegate more responsibilities to you with their blessing etc).
The above process is a starting point to help you move along the self-confidence spectrum professionally and to start to build the feedback loop for yourself and others that can be a platform to build upon.
What I personally know is that there is no pill or end point with regards to the confidence conversation (sorry to say). Even the most successful people who look to the world like they have all the confidence in the world will – behind closed doors – reveal vulnerabilities in this area.
Confidence is a conversation for many of us that starts as young children and when I reflect on my time in high school I recall the opinions of others as being a huge consideration in every decision I made. I had a fairly normal upbringing, a good childhood, parents that loved me, brothers that terrorized (but loved me) and a strong circle of friends who were a good influence. Despite this, and the perception of others, I realized in my late twenties I still had a lot of work to do in this area to move to a more empowered life experience.
After 10 years of intense personal development, I am (and think always will be) a work in progress and that is a beautiful thing about life.