Having Confidence

Confidence is a tricky thing.  When a person has too little confidence, we despise their inability deal with fear and uncertainty and make decisions.  Conversely, if a person has too much confidence, we consider the person arrogant, obnoxious, or even foolhardy.  Moreover, the arrogant person due to excessive belief in his or her own chance of success fails to appreciate the chance of failure, which leads to less than desirable outcomes for all involved.  Most of us desire to be somewhere in the middle: confident, but not overly confident.

Last week, I spent some time with an organization that possesses an exceptional leadership team.  I have assisted them with various projects over the last 15 years and their comment and results always amaze me.  As part of our sessions together, one of the senior executives spoke at length about her vision for the future.  At the end of her comments, employees each discussed how the leader’s vision could be supported in their respective operational areas.  As I listened to the exchange, I noticed two important things: the executive responded happily to the challenging, yet insightful questions from the attendees and she possessed the confidence to see her vision improved on by those that would inevitably implement it.  At the end of the day, I shared with her how exceptionally well she did during the meetings.   As we moved away from the group, she paused and mentioned that she never could have done that well ten years ago.  When I asked why, she flatly responded, “I just did not have that kind of confidence early in my career.”

Her comment stayed with me a few days and led to me to ponder, “what makes up confidence?” Research shows that self-confidence encompasses two key elements: self-efficacy and self-esteem.  Self-efficacy comes from experience with mastering skills and putting them into practice successfully.  As a person achieves goals, he or she will take on new goals based increased confidence from successful experience.  Self-esteem pertains to belief in our ability to deal with the positive and negative events in our lives.  Esteem combines acceptance by our peers and feeling competent in what we do.

Although confidence comes from the inside of a person, its presence is observable.  Most of us could make a list of people that we consider confident.  What are some of the most common characteristics we would look for when considering inclusion?

  • willing to take calculated risks
  • doing what you believe is right
  • accepting that we all make mistakes and learning from them
  • recognizing praise comes from serving or meeting the needs of others
  • accepting praise with humility

Among those that possess less confidence, how can this important trait be developed?  Although each of us are unique, there are some basic practices that have been proven to produce more confidence in most people. It should not be too surprising that the best course of action for individuals resembles the process that organizations utilize to reach its own goals:

  • inventory what you have accomplished
  • assess your strengths
  • decide on what is important to you and you want to accomplish
  • develop a plan
  • celebrate your victories


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