Confidence is a major contributing factor to accomplishing our goals and how we are perceived in the workplace. However, it's not a naturally occurring trait in all of us. Do you suffer from low confidence? This one’s for you, then.
Here’s another Ask Halelly episode of the TalentGrow Show, where I answer a question from a listener, a member of the audience at one of my conference speaking events, a learner in one of my corporate workshops, or a member of the media.
First, I explain the difference between earned and unmerited confidence. Then I break down how we can build our confidence in a way that is professional and empowering, demonstrate our confidence in a way that gets us noticed for new opportunities, and avoid being seen as pompous or boastful, or worse, full of air and empty of content. Take a listen, weigh in with your own opinion, and share with others!
Confidence is a major contributing factor to accomplishing our goals and how we are perceived in the workplace. However, it's not a naturally occurring trait in all of us. For those who already feel confident, how can we build it further? And for those of us who don't feel confident and sorely need to develop this muscle, what can we do to attain a comfortable level of professional confidence?
Let’s first define confidence before I share some suggestions for how professionals can build and demonstrate it.
What is confidence?
Specifically, we’re talking about self-confidence here.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, confidence is “a feeling or consciousness of one's powers or of reliance on one's circumstances.”
To me, it means believing in yourself and your capabilities.
Two kinds of confidence
There are two kinds of confidence you’ll experience in yourself or others: earned and unmerited.
Earned confidence comes from a combination of competence and comfort.
Unmerited confidence, is often a defense mechanism to mask either low self-esteem or an exaggerated self-regard or hubris. It’s not based on actual capabilities or success. It’s a front with nothing to back it.
So I want you to focus on the former, not the latter.
How to build confidence
Develop skills and knowledge proactively. When you continuously upgrade your own knowledge and skills, you can be sure of your competence which can boost your confidence.
Practice makes progress; progress makes confidence. When you lack confidence, practice helps you build new habits and muscle memory which can increase both your skill level and confidence in your ability.
Get external help and input. Getting coaching and mentoring can go a long way to help you both build skills and self-awareness, as well as get practice and feedback that help build your confidence.
Observe and savor external votes of confidence via positive feedback and accolades, compliments, and recognition.
And while it’s important to seek constructive feedback, be careful to not give too much power to external criticism. Take from it what you can learn but don’t allow it to sap or deplete your confidence in what you DO know or do well. (That’s a bit tricky but so important.)
Even if you have your act together, it’s important to demonstrate your confidence or else you might remain a ‘best-kept secret’ and get passed over for opportunities.
We’ve all experienced people who seem to lack confidence. It’s hard to take them seriously. Subconsciously, we pick up on their low confidence and reduces our ability to value their knowledge or skills highly. After all, if THEY aren’t convinced in their own worth, why should we….
So, demonstrating low self confidence can cause others to have lower confidence in us as well, even if subconsciously.
Other people take the whole confidence thing too far and seem boastful, cocky, or just too full of themselves – which makes them seem to de-value the audience or conversation partner. It makes the person unrelatable. This repels us from them. This is the hubris that my guest Bill Treasurer warned against on episode 118.
When people are concerned about being seen as credible and making a strong impression they can come across as aloof, cold, self-important, or detached.
So how can we straddle this need to seem confident without seeming pompous?
My suggestion: Exude ‘Confident Benevolence’.
That was a compliment I once got from Chip Joyce, which I’ve embraced.
Confidence is being sure of your self – your competence, the value you bring, and what you have to offer others such as your employees, peers, clients, friends, or family.
Benevolence means having others’ best interests in mind, approaching others with an assumption that they mean well. Expecting the best of others.
So confident benevolence means showing your confidence without it letting it trump your humility and other-focus. It means respecting your own worth WHILE respecting others’ worth.
Some people mistakenly think that being interested in others and being self-interested are mutually-exclusive.
It’s not an either/or – it’s a both/and.
When you evoke the Trader Principle, you seek to engage with others as equal traders of value. You create value for them and seek to be in relationships that also are valuable to you in the long-term – they’re win-win relationships.
(Don’t confuse this with transactional, tit-for-tat exchanges of momentary value. We must have a long-game mentality in building relationships.)
The combination of confidence and benevolence is a powerful one.
It’s confidence PLUS humility.
So make sure you know your own value and then bring humility and an intense focus on others’ welfare to your interactions with others to be seen as BOTH approachable AND worth approaching.
What does that look like?
Smile, make eye contact, relax, be fully present and engaged in your conversation. Listen actively and intently and then add your ideas to the mix.
Real confidence is earned. Unmerited confidence is empty and should be avoided.
Develop yourself, practice, and get external coaching and mentoring to build up your authentic, earned confidence.
Demonstrate your confidence by adapting an air of confident benevolence.
What’s your biggest A-ha or takeaway from this episode?
What other ideas do you have for building or demonstrating confidence?
Would you like to submit a question for a future “Ask Halelly” episode? You can use the voice messaging widget right here on the website and then I can even play your audio (with your permission, of course) on the episode! Or you can send me an email, or a ‘contact us’ form on this site, or a comment-based question, or a tweet…. You get the picture. Anyway you like it, I would love to hear your question!
About Halelly Azulay
Have we met? I'm Halelly Azulay. I'm an author, speaker, facilitator, and leadership development strategist and an expert in leadership, communication skills, and emotional intelligence. I am the author of two books, Employee Development on a Shoestring (ATD Press) and Strength to Strength: How Working from Your Strengths Can Help You Lead a More Fulfilling Life. My books, workshops and retreats build on my 20+ years of professional experience in communication and leadership development in corporate, government, nonprofit and academic organizations.
I am the president of TalentGrow LLC, a consulting company focused on developing leaders and teams, especially for enterprises experiencing explosive growth or expansion. TalentGrow specializes in people leadership skills, which include communication skills, teambuilding, coaching and emotional intelligence. TalentGrow works with all organizational levels, including C-level leaders, frontline managers, and individual contributors.
People hire me to speak at conferences and meetings and to facilitate leadership workshops, but what I love most is to help fast growing organizations create a leadership development strategy and approach.
I'm a contributing author to numerous books, articles and blogs. I was described as a “Leadership Development Guru” by TD Magazine. I blog, publish a leadership podcast (um, hello?!), and have a popular free weekly subscription newsletter – so you should definitely sign up at www.tinyurl.com/talentgrow.
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