A Data-Driven Approach To Building Your Self-Confidence

July 1, 2021

Data Driven Self Confidence

In society, we attach certain attributes to a behavior. Consider the problem of helping a person build their self-confidence. You could instruct the person to:

  •  Think positive thoughts.
  •  Visualize the way they want to be.
  •  Avoid self-critiques.
  •  Make time for self-care.
  •  Repeat affirming quotes.
  •  Improve grooming and dress.
  •  Reject any negative thoughts.
  •  Smile.
  •  Look people in the eyes when speaking.
  •  Stand up straight.

When trying to develop a certain behavior you are naturally inclined to focus on these attached attributes. These actions may help a little, but is there a better approach? To answer that question, I measured the confidence of 1,525 leaders and merged their confidence self-assessments with 360-degree ratings from direct reports. On average, each leader was rated by five direct reports. Then, I correlated the direct reports’ ratings on each of the behaviors with the confidence ratings. What I discovered were the specific behaviors that were most likely to predict high confidence. Engaging in these statistically-correlated behaviors is a more effective way of increasing self-confidence.

Here is a list of the top eight behaviors.

1.     Look for opportunities to promote or market projects, programs, or techniques that help you to be successful in your job. It takes some courage to promote something to others, but when they see the value of doing what you are promoting, you can be more confident. Think about a time when you have made a suggestion to another person and they responded by thanking you for the help. How did that make you feel?

2.     Find something you can change that will improve your organization or team. Fixing anything builds self-confidence, so find something easy to fix that can make things better. Too often, people attempt to make a vast change, and often, that fails. Look for something small, incremental, and doable.

3.     Display energy and enthusiasm at work. Many people approach work and avoid displaying energy and enthusiasm. They want to remain calm, cool, and collected. They prefer to sit on the sidelines rather than being an advocate. Experiment with the effect of being more enthusiastic and how it makes you feel. Start with one-on-one situations with a trusted peer.

4.     Encourage others to consider a new approach or embrace different ideas. It is easy to get stuck in our standard approaches and to maintain our standard ideas. The world is changing, and it’s time for you to consider new ideas and techniques; when you do this, your confidence will increase.

5.     Find a cause or an idea that you can champion. It is easy to let others lead, so start by finding something you care about enough to become the champion. A peer of mine cared a lot about the environment. She would give me documents to review that were printed on the backsides of pages of recycled reports. Doing that gave her the confidence to speak up when she saw other ways to protect the environment.

6.     Set a goal that is a real stretch to achieve. Achieving an easy goal does not do much to build confidence, but achieving a stretch goal makes you feel empowered and strong. You get to decide which goals are easy and challenging, so a stretch goal for you might be an easy goal for another person. Many people resist stretch goals, rationalizing that they don’t have the time or energy, but the value of achieving something difficult is that it builds confidence in what you can accomplish.

7.     Volunteer to represent your organization or group to others. Be the spokesperson for the group. Speaking for the group puts you in an essential position as viewed by others.

8.     The majority of people influence others to accomplish goals by pushing. Pushing is setting specific goals and then holding others accountable to accomplish those goals. People who push hard are often demanding. An alternative approach to pushing is pulling. Rather than demand others accomplish a goal, those who know how to pull others influence them to be excited to achieve the goal. They inspire rather than demand. People that are inspiring have more confidence.

The good news about these behaviors is that you do not need to do every one of them to increase your confidence. Improving any one of the behaviors will build your confidence. Doing two will help more. We analyzed each of the eight actions comparing those who were rated below average to those rated above average. On all of the eight behaviors, those who rated above average on their effectiveness by their direct reports had significantly higher confidence ratings.

As you look at the list of behaviors, many will say that they need more confidence to engage in that behavior. I don’t entirely agree. What people need is not confidence; it is courage. Even those who have high confidence need the courage to try. If you have the courage to try, your confidence will follow.

—Joe Folkman
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