Many entrepreneurs share specific qualities that are vital for starting and growing a business. They are passionate, resilient, focused on opportunities and comfortable with risks. But the quality that might have the most influence over an entrepreneur’s success is confidence – the belief in one’s ability to succeed.
One may wonder why out of all the many soft skills, this attribute is of utmost relevance. “Confidence is the most important psychological contributor to performance in the business world because you may have all of the ability in the world to accomplish a goal, but if you don’t believe you have that ability, you won’t use that ability to its fullest extent in pursuit of success.” As business leaders and entrepreneurs, we are required to take risks, put ourselves in uncomfortable situations like approaching strangers and networking. Most of these activities require great levels of confidence.
The Latin origin of the word confidence also defines it as “the belief in something” or “to have full trust in something”. Self-confidence is defined as “the full trust or belief in yourself”. Does the clarity you have about your identity reflect in your level of confidence? Is the aura of confidence communicated through your body language, your outlook and your speech? What do you lose as a leader or a potential leader because of the lack of confidence? How can this concept be made more tangible in our lives?
Psychology today discusses the concept of confidence as a soft skill. Soft skills are as important as technical skills. And confidence happens to be one of those skills that requires nurturing. “A mistake many people make in their understanding of how confidence affects them is to believe that it is something that they either have or don’t have, and if they don’t have it, they will never be able to get it. To the contrary, confidence is a skill that develops with awareness and practice. Think of confidence as being like a sports skill. If you practice bad technique repeatedly, you will become very skilled at the bad technique and that is what will come out in competition. Additionally, that ingrained bad technique will make it more difficult to learn new good technique because it will be ingrained into your muscle memory. Conversely though, if you practice good technique, that is what you will ingrain and that is what will come out in competition. The same holds true for confidence. If you practice being negative, worried, and discouraging, then you will become skilled at the negativity and that pessimistic mindset will emerge when you are in an important business situation, such as a sales call or under deadline to finish a work project.”
Leaders who lack confidence have challenges with gathering and maintaining followership. Sometimes, leaders lack confidence even when they have a comprehensive level of competence. Other leaders do not have the competence but are confident in their ignorance. The most common challenge is the weak connection between confidence and competence which many leaders grapple with. Leaders who struggle with low confidence sometimes face the challenge of being ambitious with their goals for the team and the goals for their personal lives.
In quite a number of cases, the lack of confidence of a leader is communicated through arrogance, bragging or blustering in their attempt to make up for the lack or inadequacy of trust in themselves. There is always a cloud of self-doubt that forces them to assume people are always out to attack them. A display of these characters undermines the position of the leader and opens the gateway for disrespect from employees and colleagues. Instructions may always be received with insolence and conceit and productivity, more often than not, turns out to be very low. Decisions made by such leaders may also tend to lack clarity and may be the evidence of the challenge of the poor display of self-confidence. Not only does confidence allow you to make the sturdy decisions that people expect from a strong leader but it is reassuring to your employees. Lastly, the complication of an unconfident leader reflects in his style and process of communication. The portal for mistrust and mockery is widely open due to this difficulty.
The sources of confidence may vary from person to person. While others are aware of the ingenuity and uniqueness of the competencies they possess, others may have been coached to develop this trait. Confidence as it stands at every point in time can be a trait or a state.
An article by Till H. Grob in 2015 discloses that in psychology there is the saying “state over trait,” meaning that your momentary state is a lot more important than your underlying trait. What truly matters when it comes to confidence is not just the inherence and awareness that you are confident, but the momentary showcase of this value in a specific area.
In essence, confidence is of value as both a state and a trait. However, what you do with your confidence becomes the state of your confidence when the need arises.
One of the highest confidence measures stems from preparation and the belief thereof in the competence you have worked to gain. The successive output of good performances and the visualization of positive outcomes also contributes to the display of self-confidence. Of course, it is usually easier to display this trait when you have a solid track record of succeeding in a particular field. What hope is there for people who lack the innate advantage, self-awareness, competitive advantage or trust in themselves? How do you build the needed confidence at every stage in your life, love and labor as a leader?
The first key to understand confidence is the YOU factor. When you can show up for YOURSELF not others, you honor your own word to yourself, you realize that you begin to have a feeling of calm and composure when engaging others.
I would like to share 4 key tips to train yourself as a leader on the journey to confidence:
Raise the needed necessity to be aware of your current position. Be honest and truthful about your fears, especially your imaginations about how people perceive you. You may draw from past engagement with and
around people to find out how and what they think about you. Then you look at the positive sides and make a self-awareness profile. This level of insight will open the doors on how to kick start the journey.“Confidence equals security equals positive emotion equals better performance,” says Tony Schwartz, the president and CEO of The Energy Projectand the author of Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live. And yet he concedes that “insecurity plagues consciously or subconsciously every human being I’ve met.” Overcoming this self-doubt starts with honestly assessing your abilities (and your shortcomings) and then getting comfortable enough to capitalize on (and correct) them, adds Deborah H. Gruenfeld, the Moghadam Family Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior and Co-Director of the Executive Program for Women Leaders at Stanford Graduate School of Business.
SUBMIT & SURRENDER
This is a set aside period of vulnerability to seek feedback and listen to others tell you about you. During this period as you engage people spend time in getting to see yourself through their eyes. What do they see, feel and hear? What is their reaction or response to your level of leadership and confidence? Compile this information and assess every weak point, even the smallest things, and start thinking of how you can fix the issues.
CONNECT YOUR REPUTATION WITH YOU
Give yourself tasks and assignments beyond your comfort zone and for each event that you are committed to. Show up every single time, even if it is difficult.
DELIVER ON THE EXECUTION/PLAN
When you have been through awareness and surrender and you have been introduced, you then need to find your way. Body language is 55% of what we do and therefore we need to master our communication in that area. The frame of your face is very key. You must always have a smile and consciously make eye contact. Be aware of your posture at all times. Your posture must be a good one; do not slouch. Your back must be upright.
Helen Keller once said, “Life either is nothing at all or an adventure.” Some will approvingly nod their heads, while others are a lot more comfortable just doing what they have always done before. Some place in the middle is the knowledge that making progress requires being open to fresh technology, ideas, and, occasionally, fresh environments (Inc, 2015)
Whiles these are just key steps of the journey they are very critical if practiced to bring you to a place where you can make initial connections confidently. As leaders or aspiring leaders, we are already aware of how much of a role practice and consistency can play in our total transformation. The message is: Simply Start and Connect Consistently.