Dedicated, with thanks, to all our key workers
Dr Suzanne Doyle-Morris never imagined the stark contrast between competence and confidence would play out in such a disturbing way, when she started research for “The Con Job – Getting Ahead with Competence in a World Obsessed with Confidence”. The book exposes the inherent dangers which value Confidence over Competence.
As the world faces the biggest crisis in our lifetime, Suzanne highlights how, at last, we appear to be changing that thinking.
“With Coronavirus dominating the global news cycle, the performance and actions of leaders including Donald Trump and Boris Johnson have never been under closer scrutiny. In these unprecedented times, however, the world is looking to, and indeed is urgently relying on, those who are genuinely competent rather than those with misplaced confidence.
The fight against Covid-19 is being led by our doctors, nurses, transport workers, delivery drivers, teachers and carers. They are quite rightly among the list of key workers the Government is prioritising in these most challenging of times. These are the people we now trust in and whose competence we value above all else. Yet competent people like carers and nurses are routinely underpaid, mirroring the way competence has been undervalued to date.
With regards to our leaders, there is little doubt that the inherent confidence of both Boris Johnson and Donald Trump got them elected. Both men are typical of the "status quo" of leaders in most Western workplaces who are White, Heterosexual, Male, Native English Speakers, Able-bodied and often Extroverted. However, studies clearly show that as a person’s confidence grows, their attention to detail and therefore competence decreases. This is frightening in a time when we need expertise over bravado.
In the UK, we appear to be moving away from a confidence-first attitude to finally recognising, as never before, the competencies of our key workers and scientific community. It was only in acknowledging the significance and value of the competence-first approach that the UK Government has changed course in dealing with the pandemic. However, at time of writing, the US President has not yet displayed any genuine switch in attitude and this must be a huge concern as the world fights an invisible killer.”
“The Con Job – Getting Ahead with Competence in a World Obsessed with Confidence” comes out on 23 April 2020 and will be available from www.amazon.co.uk.
Clients are asking 'how to maintain training programmes?' when people will be working from home for the foreseeable future.
Remote/online or webinar training ticks a lot of boxes in the current climate.
As you know, being based in a remote corner of Scotland, I have a long history of running webinars and one-to-one coaching via videoconference, live streaming and even a YouTube channel. Embracing technology for delivery was an adaptation I began when I moved here over a decade ago.
Last week, I did a live training on 'Overcoming the Con Job' for a global FinTech client in central London, but with a difference.
While just under 30 people were in the room, we had 800 people live streaming from offices in Israel, the US, and beyond. Questions were managed by their live facilitator who laughed at how interactive it was saying ‘Okay, the questions are streaming in!’ which meant it was highly interactive. They didn’t consider cancelling the event, as they didn’t want their teams to miss the International Women’s Day event. Instead, we adapted to use the technology. I’m pleased to say the feedback was so strong, we’re already talking about how we can continue the momentum for their teams - but all remotely.
My Webinar Training is a solution which will maintain morale, aid virtual contact and comply with training standards while people are either self-isolating or working from home.
Watch the video, and get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if sounds like a good way forward for you.
Feeling low in confidence happens to us all. So I’m sharing one of my best tips that will get you excelling in all those meetings with senior people you have to attend as your career grows.
As someone who has done over 2500 hours of coaching, I’ve used this very simple technique with my clients, and it’s helped them see not just what they’re better at than perhaps they give themselves credit for, but where they could turn up the volume on how skilled they are, to others. It worked for a banking client, who was increasingly being invited to a number of senior meetings that intimidated her, and she credited MY TIP as the thing that helped her get the promotion.
So here it is. The SIMPLEST way to get confident again….
Focus on your COMPETENCE!
Stay with me as I know that may sound like a cop-out, but it’s where you need to focus because competence is EVIDENCE-BASED, which completely turns on data driven nerds like me!
So crack open that notebook or if you are like some of my ultra-organised clients, set up a new spreadsheet and list out all your upcoming meetings. This works particularly well for those who like to see the evidence as a reminder of how they are improving.
Make one column
‘How you Felt Before the Meeting’, then the second column 'How you Felt After’.
This is a great tool for self-reflection and gets you thinking about WHAT WENT WELL but what you’d DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME.
Years ago, when I first presented to a Board of a Law Firm, I resisted the naive urge to tell them ‘I’ve never done this before!’ Because I’d prepared so well, no one even noticed, I got compliments and they even adopted my recommendations about improving gender balance at Partnership level.
If you can record your self-reflective observations, it diminishes how much of a monster these meetings can feel. So for example, after my client started comparing these two columns after about a month of meetings, she saw her performance was ALWAYS better than she’d expected - she made no big mistakes, and even got some compliments.
It also made her better prepared for tweaks she did want to make (THAT WAS HER WORKING ON HER COMPETENCE) - all of which fed her confidence.
I hope this helped. To keep up to date with the activity around my third book The Con Job, follow #morecompetence on Twitter and Instagram.
Please share this blog with your friends and colleagues too - you won’t be the only one feeling this way.
Believe it or not, there’s a great way to both highlight your competence whilst also disagreeing with someone!
If you’ve been judged harshly when you’ve shown anything that tiptoes into anger, this blog is for you! Read to the end to find out how much more money you can earn if you recognise that disagreement but catch it before it spills into anger.
So the key way to show that you disagree with someone while also maintaining the relationship and them not judging you for it, is by EXPLAINING YOUR INTENT.
Anger isn’t an emotion we like in women. People see an angry woman as ‘out of control’ or blame her anger on her personal faults. By comparison, research shows we attribute male anger to external causes, like him having to suffer from unfair treatment. Plus, those researchers found observers are quicker to think a woman has lost her temper, giving men more leeway to express his discontent before eventually judging him harshly.
For my third book, I interviewed a former head honcho at Essity, a Swedish-based FMCG multinational. Georg Schmundt-Thomas recognised the disparity in how we judge women and men for exactly the same behaviours. He saw this as ironic and told me:
"Women who don’t conform fail. When they put up a fight, it’s often a fight the company actually needs. However, she’ll get written off for ‘stepping on people’s toes’ or ‘being difficult’. Guys who take the same approach, by comparison are a ‘force of nature’ or ‘admirably committed to the cause’. That’s praised because he’s being confident in standing his ground."
When I hear that, I think about how BROKEN our current definitions of confidence are, which is why I wrote the book. However, there IS a way around this. Interestingly these differences have financial implications. Researchers found when people saw anger in a speaker, they were more likely to assume the speaker, whether male or female, was incompetent - clearly not a good look. This judgement penalised the speakers both financially, though women lost out the most. The perceived competency of ‘forceful' or 'assertive' women’s perceived worth fell by $15,088. The less dramatic competency drop for men worth $6,547 for men.
Recognising this was a big problem for women, the researchers experimented with various 'hedges' that might reduce this judgement. What they found was that just explaining the intent of your comment decreased the negative impact by 16%. Before giving a disagreeable opinion, people were encouraged to say: ‘I see this as a matter of honesty and integrity, so it’s important for me to be clear about where I stand’.
This on its own made the listeners actually hear the comment better, and with far less judgement and because it worked for both men and women, this tactic can benefit everyone.
Understanding how you can get valued for your competence in a world obsessed with confidence is EXACTLY why I’ve written my third book - The Con Job! Because it’s a total con if the people who use a superficially confident demeanour make all the big decisions affecting the rest of us - when actually we’d all be better off with more competent heads on the big problems we face in the 20th century.
Keep up to date with the activity around my book The Con Job by following #morecompetence on Twitter and Instagram.
And it you enjoyed reading this, like it and share it with your friends and colleagues too - you won’t be the only one feeling this way.
How to be a Confident Woman when LEADING Meetings comes down to one key thing that you can use in EVERY meeting.
Read until the end I’ll tell you why this is definitely a time to get directive.
So, if you’re anything like me, you’ll notice that some people talk a lot at meetings - and we often credit them with being confident, even if the value of their ideas sometimes doesn’t hit the mark. Equally, we rarely hear from other people - even if you suspect their ideas are solid.
If you are leading a meeting where you want skill to shine more than bravado, one of my favourite tips is to:
Institute ‘turn-taking’ around the table. This may sound a bit basic but hear me out to see what that will do to your meetings.
So turn-taking. This isn’t so much about going around the circle as it is about calling out everyone’s opinions, not just assuming people will speak up. This is really important because if we assume introverts and extroverts have roughly the same number of good ideas, what are we missing if we disproportionately give time to the extroverts who are always willing to speak up?
So here is why you need to be directive.
Research shows only when groups are given explicit directions to take turns equitably in their feedback do women speak equally to men.
By comparison, in groups where students were asked to discuss a topic and told they could structure the feedback themselves, women made 17% fewer comments and took 25% fewer turns.
Turn-taking makes sense, not just for women, but for introverts or those who may not immediately share their thoughts in the free-for-all of many meetings. The researchers indicated; the guys in these groups were more likely to persist until they’d made their point...whereas the women usually backed off and gave up their attempts to speak if they were interrupted.’
This reminds me of how many women I know who lament the ‘game-playing’ and showmanship at meetings - things they don’t want to waste time on.
If you run meetings, asking everyone in the team for their thoughts is the best way forward, as it helps ensure you’re rewarding competence, not just confidence.
Getting recognition for your competence is exactly why I wrote The Con Job!
We’ll maintain the status quo if we keep thinking the outwardly confident are the ones who should be making all the decisions. My mission is to change this and to stand up for the non-status quo. Get involved in my competence mission by following #morecompetence on Twitter and Instagram. Help me spread the word to your competent non-status quo colleagues!
Share this with your friends and colleagues too - you won’t be the only one feeling this way.
Suzanne Doyle-Morris, Author, Speaker & Gender Balance Expert for 25+ years.
Hear what I told BBC Radio about what to do about the worsening gender pay gap data