I’ve got 3 brilliant tips to build your confidence… by focusing instead on your COMPETENCE.
Stick with me… I promise it’s a lot easier than ‘Faking it til you make it’. If you read to the end and I’m going to share with you a book that I love that I’d recommend to anyone looking to build their competence, stretch their boundaries and maybe even change the way they interact with the kids they love.
As a consultant and executive coach, I have talked with thousands of professional women in the last 15 years. I have crowdsourced the best tips on how to improve self confidence. My third book is all about the battle between confidence vs competence, and after interviewing nearly 40 senior leaders from Law and banking to STEM and FMCG fields ( I like my acronyms!), I can tell you… you MUST look at your competence in order to improve confidence. So, let’s get to it!
Here are my top THREE TIPS on how to build your confidence.
1.Focus on what you’re good at.
None of us are perfect, but there will be skills and competencies on which you’ve received compliments. Start there if you are at a total loss when thinking about what your skills actually are. Then identify what it will take to get even better.
One of my STEM clients, who was working in pharmaceuticals had initially been dismayed and pessimistic when given a big project where she had to manage the multi-million pound purchase and installation of a massive microscope so big the company had to build a different building to house it! Her boss, who was a natural optimist, knew he needed a skeptical pair of eyes on this potential project, so the feedback she’d routinely been given, about her eye for detail, her eyes wide open approach, even her skepticism was a real set of competencies valued by this boss who would have ploughed in, potentially without even kicking the tires of his latest ‘great idea’.
However, when we looked at why Renee had been given that role, she came to see that the big boss, someone actually more than a few rungs above her, often complimented her ‘doubting style’ as it had always kept her team safe, and led to well thought through decisions for the company.
In this case, it turns out Renee’s skills or competencies born out by her natural pessimism, her ability to ask the difficult questions and keep tricky projects on track, were all huge assets. This was a hugely costly project, and one with real risk, both for the company’s investors, but also reputationally as they’d be getting ahead of the market on an underused technology. Her boss had noticed all of these competencies in Renee in the years before, but chose to reward her in a way she thought she didn’t initially want - but remember, not all great gifts come all wrapped up with a pretty bow! The more she thought about this, and the great vote of confidence in her, that Renee’s boss had shown by tasking her with this multi-year project, the more her confidence actually grew. Then she was asked to more senior meetings, asked to work more with suppliers, plus scope out likely costs of buying this equipment and renting it to other early adaptors, and was given a promotion that year - something she’d been waiting for a long time.
2. Bulk up your growth mindset. Part of how Renee’s success in building up her confidence was from bulking up her growth mindset. Clearly, she had never managed such a large and very visible project before, but based on her skills she’d demonstrated for years, she knew she could manage it if she approached it as a learning journey, and something she would no doubt make a few mistakes with, but could manage, even if that meant a bit of trial and error at times. Her boss gave her groundcover, which was vital, but you too may have also already been in this position yourself.
Think about a skill of yours that was initially very difficult, but in which you improved over time through dedication and hardwork. That growth mindset will increase your competence, and in turn boost your confidence.
3. So my book recommendation is a shout out for Carol Dweck’s book ‘Growth Mindset’ because as Renee found, your competencies are completely malleable if you take this approach! Realising this is where confidence actually comes from. By comparison, if you think of your intelligence and even confidence as something you can’t do much about, you’ll be stuck where you are now. While my own books focus on getting ahead in your career, this book helped shape the way I think about all the children in my life. It’s a great reminder as to why telling a child you love, that they are a ‘hard worker’ is ultimately so much better for them than telling them they’re ‘so smart’.
If you are building your career my book was written for you. I’ve discovered many people are far more confident than we give them credit for. They are entirely competent, but haven’t had enough exposure to a particular challenge to give them the confidence they need in that challenge, BUT in a society where we rate CONFIDENCE so highly, these competent people are struggling to thrive, and are being overtaken by their over-confident, (but often less skilled colleagues).
Thanks for reading, I really hope this will help you build your confidence in your workplace.
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