Everyone wants to feel or be seen as confident. We equate confidence with success. If you’re not confident, how can you be successful? Recent events may mean your confidence has taken a battering recently. Or maybe you thrive under pressure, and you’ve found your inner strength? Being confident isn’t as straightforward as we might think and many people who we perceive to be confident are often quite insecure. Are you confident? And are you confident about the right things?

The link between feedback and confidence  

Confidence can be a context issue. You might be confident in the pub with your friends, but what about when it comes to telling your manager that you don’t agree with them? Does your confidence evaporate into thin air?  

Lots of people struggle when it comes to challenging those in positions of seniority. I have recently experienced two different examples of gaps in confidence. I have been working with a team engaging in a culture change. They want to create more constructive conflict to encourage innovation and creative problem-solving. Feedback and challenge is part of this process. They are feeling more comfortable with the uncomfortable but are still reluctant and ‘lacking confidence’ when it comes to having these types of conversations with people in more senior positions.  

I have also been working with a client 121 who is struggling with confidence in their leadership. We identified that they are always seeking external validation. Their ‘lack of confidence’ was fuelled by some poorly delivered feedback. All of this is resulting in self-doubt, overthinking, holding back and a huge dose of imposter syndrome. They have got stuck and ‘frozen’. The impact is inaction. It’s the polar opposite of what is needed in the fallout of CV19 and a rapidly changing world. 

The question “so if you DID have the confidence, what would you be doing tomorrow that you are not doing today?” is simple and revealing. It starts to uncover your blocks. It also demonstrates how your self-talk interferes with what you want to act on.

How do you develop confidence? 

Confidence is like a muscle; the more you exercise it, the bigger and stronger it gets. Confidence rarely comes along like an Ocado delivery. You have to do the thing that you think you can’t do to develop your confidence. It’s not a case of working on your confidence and then trying that difficult thing. Confidence comes after bravery. Action makes you realise what you are actually capable of. Then you can address any gaps based on the outcome. It’s a win/learn situation. You have to acknowledge the mind talk and do it anyway. Otherwise, how will you ever know? Wait for the right time, and you’ll be waiting forever. 

Fake it till you make it? 

 Many leaders and coaches focus on the “fake it until you make it” approach. I am not saying that that isn’t a useful strategy in some situations. Examining the mindset and then focusing on authenticity is my preferred strategy.  

Take the person who is worried about giving feedback to the senior leader. Learn to signpost that the conversation feels difficult. It shows vulnerability.’ Hey I am out of my comfort zone here, cut me some slack as I am doing the right thing in line with our culture shift’  

We know that vulnerability creates connection “what makes something better is connection. And that connection often requires mutual vulnerability” Brene Brown, Daring Greatly.  We also know vulnerability-based trust is critical for high performing teams; you can read more about that here in a previous blog. Why fake confidence and risk blurting out some feedback or creating a challenge that runs the risk of coming across as arrogant or too bold because you are too focussed on ‘coming across as confident’. Traits such as compassion and connection could be the thing that helps the message land.  

David Brent – A Case Study 

Acknowledging and communicating your discomfort is likely to increase your credibility far more than launching yourself into a meeting bold as brass. People ‘feel’ when your energy is off, so if you are overcompensating, it’s counterproductive. Just because of the behaviours that we are conditioned to believe suggest confidence are expressed, it doesn’t mean it exists in the inner world.

If you need a lesson in this counterproductive “confidence” study David Brent in The Office. A perfect example of someone trying to exude levels of confidence that they don’t actually have. And coming off like ass in the process. Don’t be David Brent. 

3 tips for confidence 

Be authentic  Don’t become the square peg in the round hole and become the person your manager thinks you ‘should’ be to demonstrate leadership. Do access your authenticity instead. What does a leader look like and feel like to you? Leadership is most potent when you are authentic.

Responding to feedback There are still people that consciously or unconsciously think that being extrovert means confident means powerful. It doesn’t. And this is the kind of unhelpful feedback that still circulates in many organisations. Instead, try to understand where the feedback is coming. Co-create a development plan to evolve in a way that is authentic for you AND aligns with the company culture. 

Feel the fear and do it anywayIn the famous words of Susan Jeffers, accept that something feels scary and still make a decision to move forward. Personally, I prefer Davina’s “sometimes you just gotta do it a little bit scared” Feeling low-level anxiety is OK and normal. Decide what you want to do and create incremental steps that don’t overwhelm you. Then repeat. Work the muscle. 

When we force things, we often create the very thing that we are trying to avoid. Using authenticity as our strategy can create much more meaningful interactions and confidence can come with much more ease—self-fulfilling prophecy. I am not suggesting that you should go into a meeting and say “Good morning, I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing and I feel insecure” However, owning some of our imperfections and vulnerability can be very powerful. Owning all aspects of ourselves is the key to creating a foundation of inner confidence. Genuine confidence is not gained through fake behaviours which let’s face it, is not a sustainable strategy anyway. 

Have you identified gaps in your own confidence? Would you like me to come and help you or your team with developing a culture that supports communication and fosters constructive feedback?

Get in touch at hello@jocowlin.com, I’d love to talk about how I can help.  

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