CONFIDENCE:…the skill for women to #breakthebias

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Positive conflicts in the workplace
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert

Confidence has been one of the tools many women in the workplace have not been able to use to their advantage despite the impact they are making. Women have generally been socialised to be in the background although they are mostly the frontliners of the family in most parts of the world. There seems to be an unconscious notion that it is not proper for women to be confident because confident women are stereotyped as arrogant women. This is an untruth that has unfortunately kept women down for so long a time that most women even feel shy or uncomfortable when they are being commended for a good work done.

Confidence has been defined by the Cambridge dictionary as the quality of being certain of your abilities or of having trust in people, plans, or the future. I simply define confidence as knowing what is strong about you and projecting that strength. Having confidence in the workplace is key to your success. Confidence can make you more motivated, ambitious, less anxious, less stressed and more likely to drive performance, career growth and work relationships.

Confidence is an important skill that every leading woman should have. I always say that just like anything, confidence can be learned. I use myself as an example whenever I get the opportunity to engage people; I share my story on how I started my journey to let go of all my insecurities by being real and speaking the raw truth. That was how I started building the self-confidence that I lacked before. When you have self-confidence, it causes you to see yourself from a totally different perspective. You begin to appreciate yourself, have a positive perspective on everything and it prepares you for even the seemingly impossible things.

 

Did you know that a woman’s wiring makes her more influential? Research says that male brains have more connections within hemispheres to optimise motor skills, whereas female brains are more connected between hemispheres to combine analytical and intuitive thinking. On average women may have better verbal memory and social cognition, whereas men may have better motor and spatial skills. It is also a known fact that there are many women who are academically ahead and more competent than their male counterparts at work.

 

Yet, it is a common knowledge that women rate themselves lower than their male counterparts in the workplace even when in fact, women were rated as more effective than their male colleagues in critical areas such as taking initiative, driving for results, bold leadership and building relationships. So why does it look like most women in the workplace have something holding them back from accepting that truth?

 

A recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) study found that, many women are hesitant about promoting themselves. Why do women undersell what they do well?

 

Study one: In academia, research shows that women tend to get less recognition than men for the same accomplishments – and that is not just in toxic work environments.  HBR suggests self-promotion – or lack thereof – could be a contributing factor. In a study of 6.2 million articles over the past 15 years, HBR found that articles by female lead authors were 21% less likely to frame their research in positive terms like ‘unprecedented’ and ‘unique’, than comparable articles with a man as lead author. The self-promotion language used had a direct influence on citations, with articles with positive words being cited up to 13% more.

 

Study two: In another study, HBR found men rate their performance 33% higher than their female counterparts. 1500 employees were asked to complete a test and then predict their score to measure confidence. They were then asked how strongly they agreed with the statement ‘I performed well on the test’ from a scale of 0 to 100 to evaluate self-promotion.

 

The result? Men were significantly more self-promotional, despite women and men achieving equally on the test. The question is why? HBR ran different variations of study 2 to try and figure the answer out. In every version, the gender gap in self-promotion persisted. Self-confidence was ruled out as the main contributor. In fact, no definitive reason emerged. One idea is that women are traditionally ‘punished’ for self-promotion more than men. Many working women have experienced being penalised for assertiveness in the office. Perhaps the legacy of this continues to inhibit the ability to self-promote.

You must become self-aware before you can self-promote. You must make some time to study You! You have to learn about who you really are, what you are capable of, what inspires you and what undermines your confidence. This self-awareness will give you clarity about your personality. It will also help you identify your highlights and lowlights and how to work with both to self-promote.

 

“I didn’t learn to be quiet when I had an opinion. The reason why they knew who I was is because I told them.” This is a quote from Ursula Burns, Xerox Chairman and CEO, one of the confident women of our time. Communication is all about sending across your message in a way that makes you memorable and recognisable. It is one key every woman must learn to use very well. Your communication must be with clarity for your message to be understood and grasped by all who hear it. Most women normally find it difficult to make their voices heard for fear of rejection as they have been brought up to believe that it is “a man’s world” in which they live. Although there are now more women than before in the corporate world who have broken through and are impacting lives, there is still much more work to be done looking at the ratio of men to women globally.

 

So what can be done to increase our confidence as women? Here are 4 steps to consider on our confidence journey to #breakthebias:

 

  1. AWARENESS: ASK AND ANSWER QUESTIONS

 

Learn to ask and answer questions about yourself, your environment and those you engage.  Sounds simple right? However, too often we dilute what we ask for or we do not ask at all for fear of appearing needy or being rejected. Whenever you engage, it is key to present with a combination of Strength, Vulnerability, Emotion, Leadership, Thoughtfulness and Energy (SVELTE). Not knowing everything – whether it is because you are new on the job or have incomplete information can make you feel insecure and lead to a lack confidence. Nevertheless how can you expect to get what you want if you are not willing to ask for it? Remember that you are never going to have all the answers no matter the stage in which you find yourself, career-wise. As a result, there is no need to be shy about asking questions, especially when you are feeling uncertain or insecure. Show your initiative and your willingness to learn and work collaboratively with others; get the information you need to do the job right!

 

  1. ANTICIPATE REJECTION

 

You must come to the realisation that rejection is part of life and you are therefore bound to experience it at one point or the other in your life. One solution I have learnt and I share with my audience whenever given the platform to engage on the topic of rejection is to always anticipate it. Whenever you decide to engage, pre-prepare yourself for rejection so that it does not come to you as a surprise because, your guard may be let down and you may not know how to recover quickly and move on. As you prepare your message to engage, reflect on history that repeats itself, and create possible answers for them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. ACCOMPLISHMENTS

 

More often than not, we forget the great feats as we move from one task to the next. It is essential to find time and intentionally outline even the minutest accomplishment and make it your brand. This can be done daily or weekly in order not to miss any accomplishment. These accomplishments boosts your confidence when going for the next difficult conversation, presentation or performance review. Bringing all these successes together and celebrating it will bring relief, boost self-confidence and release more strength to keep moving with optimism.

 

  1. ASK FOR FEEDFORWARD

 

To be able to improve and keep growing positively, do not wait to be told about your performance along the way. Once you have anticipated rejection, go ahead and ask for feedforward regardless of whether it will be negative or positive. Asking for feedforward is a demonstration that you care about your work and the success that it will bring in terms of productivity to your organisation. This will also help you gain a better sense of your performance, strengths and areas of improvement whilst eliminating the unnecessary anxiety of wondering what you are doing wrong or right. Whenever it comes to feedforward, your part is to receive it with appreciation and openness, clarify and document to create more solutions. And make sure you get it right the next time!

 

To be able to #breakthebias, we need to continuously work on our confidence as leaders, and raise each other up as women. The tag “women are their own enemies” should be broken by choosing to be a pacesetter in positively changing that narrative as a leading woman. Happy International Women’s Day #breakthebias!!

 

Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?

Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach

Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Soft Skills Expert, Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specialising in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.

A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.

She is the Soft Skills Expert and Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.

Dzigbordi has been featured on CNN for her entrepreneurial expertise. She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having been named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017.

She can be reached on [email protected] and @dzigbordikwaku across all social media platforms.

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