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How To Effectively Grow Your Confidence At Workby Zenger Folkman September 23, 2017

Someone struggling with their confidence often receives the advice, “Just be more confident!”  The question then becomes, “How?”  I was determined to discover if there were some skills that have more influence over a person’s confidence than others. For those who lack confidence, or those trying to build the confidence of others, what behaviors create a high probability of building their confidence while also making them a better leader?

To understand this question, my colleague, Jack Zenger, and I created two datasets. In the first we compiled the results from a self-assessment of confidence. We collected data on 7,800 individuals from which we created a valid measure of confidence.

The second was an assessment from managers on 49 key behaviors that enable leaders to perform exceptionally well. On this assessment, we collected data from more than 75,000 managers that accurately predicts a variety of organizational outcomes, such as turnover, customer satisfaction, engagement of direct reports, and profit. We matched the two datasets and found 330 cases where the confidence assessment aligned with manager competence ratings on the 49 behaviors.

We then identified 15 behaviors with highly significant correlations, concluding that these behaviors may do more to build a person’s confidence than other behaviors. However, because these finding come from correlations, it is also possible that highly confident individuals simply tend to perform these behaviors more effectively than individuals whose confidence is low. It is impossible in this scenario to sort out cause and effect. What we do know is that improvement on these behaviors will help a person to be a better leader, which should help a person’s confidence rise.

Behaviors that Build Confidence

By factor analyzing the 15 behaviors we identified 10 clusters of items. The clusters are listed by the strength of their correlations.

1. Skilled Communicator. Communication is the most malleable skill, and research shows it is the easiest trait to develop. Many people who have gone through a public speaking class have struggled through their first presentation, but after instruction and practice see significant improvement. Communicating clearly and providing others with a clear direction builds confidence quickly.

2. Clear Priorities. Imagine yourself overwhelmed with a variety of important priorities without clear insight into which was most critical. For most people, this would cause them to be confused, frustrated, and much less confident. Having clear priorities boosts confidence because it provides clear guidelines on how to succeed.

3. Accomplishing Stretch Goals. What happens to a person’s confidence when they accomplish something that seemed impossible? It increases substantially! Many have also experienced failures in which the impossible was, in fact, “impossible.” We believe confidence is built by attempting stretch goals and experiencing both the success and failures from these out-of-the-park efforts.

4. Demonstrate Energy and Enthusiasm. There is an interesting experiment which begins with measuring a person’s happiness. The person was then asked to put a pencil across their mouth and bite down for a short time, which caused them to approximate a smile. After doing this for a short time, people reported being happier. High confidence is strongly associated with the act of showing energy and enthusiasm. If a person can fake it until they make it, their demonstration of energy and enthusiasm builds confidence.

5. Represent the Group. Asking a team member to represent the team in a presentation or meeting can be challenging for some people, but it also sends a message that they are trusted and respected. This is a great way to help people build confidence.

6. Technical Expertise. Do you remember how you felt in school when you knew the answer? A great way to increase confidence in others is to allow them the time and support to become an expert. Many high potential programs use the approach of moving young employees to different functions every few months. This is counterproductive to confidence. While it helps young employees gain a broad perspective in the company, it often sets them up with only general knowledge and no deep expertise.

7. Deliver Results. Give people a piece of work that they can be responsible for and control. When a person delivers the expected results, they become more confident.

8. Coaching Others. Set people up as coaches to others who are still learning. Helping others to learn new skills reinforces the importance of your own knowledge and skills.

9. Become a Champion. Give people the opportunity to be in charge. This implies they are trusted and respected and can boost their confidence.

10. Solves Problems. Most people have had that eureka moment when they were able to solve a difficult problem. Too often managers who know the solution don’t provide direct reports with the opportunity to solve difficult problems themselves. When we allow others to solve problems, they often find unique solutions and innovative approaches, thereby building their confidence.

No matter the age or the experience of a person, there are times in everyone’s life when confidence suffers. Look through the above list and pick at least one behavior that you can improve, then watch your confidence increase.

This article was originally published on Forbes.

 


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