Self Confidence: How To Improve It For Yourself As A Leader & Your Team

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There are lots of definitions out there, but essentially self-confidence it’s about your belief in your skills and abilities.

Key Points:

  • If you are self-confident you accept and trust yourself, and feel that you have a good level of autonomy and control over your life.
  • It doesn’t mean that you know everything or complete every task perfectly. But it does mean that you know how to play to your strengths, understand your weaknesses, can communicate effectively and are willing and able to take feedback, even when it isn’t positive.
  • Self-confidence requires that you have a good level of self-awareness, self-acceptance and, importantly for leaders and managers, that you encourage others to have the same.

Why is it important that managers are confident?

Confidence inspires confidence. One of the most important aspects of being a good manager is inspiring those that you support. A confident team isn’t just happier but they are more productive, more creative and more successful. And that can be a recipe for success for you, for them and for the business,

But what happens if you’re not naturally confident?

A lot of people think that confidence is something you’re born with and goes hand in hand with extroversion. However, they are not mutually exclusive – confidence is a skill that can be learned and honed over time.

Many successful managers consider themselves introverts, and certainly didn’t start their managerial careers full of confidence.

There are also many extroverts that can lose their confidence when they are new to a role or task, such as managing a team. It’s quite normal to question your skills and abilities when you’re just starting out.

In fact, to some extent it is healthy. It will help you identify where you have skills gaps and where you may need support.

How can leaders and managers improve their self-confidence?

Every person is unique so you need to find what works for you, but some of the most effective techniques are:

#1. Play to your strengths

Identify what your superpowers are.

  • What have you excelled in or really enjoyed doing in the past?
  • How can you do more of these things in your day to day life?
  • How can you share these skills with others?

If you can’t do this inside your current role, are there projects or teams that you could add value to in other parts of the organisation or perhaps on a voluntary basis? Doing things we are good at and/or enjoy gives us a natural confidence boost and shows our brains that we are capable of doing more of the same.

#2. Let go of perfectionism

It’s OK to have weaknesses as a leader or manager. Being honest and open about them will not only build trust with your team but will also help you grow into a better manager for them. Identify the areas where you feel least at ease (or perhaps try to avoid altogether) and work on getting tools, training or support to plug these gaps. This will inspire your team to do the same. It’s a win-win.

#3. Reflect on achievements

When self doubt kicks in or you feel out of your depth, stop and look at everything you have achieved so far rather than the list of tasks in front of you. If you are questioning your ability to get a job done, look for evidence where you have achieved something that felt out of reach before.

Keep a note of this evidence in a folder (physical or digital) that you can add to and refer back to whenever fear or self-doubt kicks in.

#4. Get support

The more senior you get the more isolated the workplace can sometimes feel. It’s very important that you find people that can lend an ear, give you advice and help you navigate everything that being a good manager entails.

Looking for a mentor or coach can be a great way to do this. Be vulnerable with them, let them know that you sometimes struggle with confidence and explain that is in part why you are looking for their support.

#5. Improve your communication skills

Communication is key to confidence and something all managers can receive training with. It’s important to understand how to communicate to a range of people, in a way that’s appropriate for their knowledge and experience. It’s not just about the words you say, but your body language and how well you listen, too.

It’s also important that they know how to communicate with you. These things combined will make your communication more effective, your job easier and help your confidence grow.

#6. Track progress

It’s easy to forget how far you have come when there is a constant stream of to-dos and deadlines. Pay attention when you tick things off your list – it will give you a little dopamine hit that will spike your confidence. Regularly acknowledge and reward your successes, no matter how small. This will help to train your brain to appreciate your efforts, letting it know that it’s progressing and helping you feel secure in your abilities.

How can you use confidence to build respect within a team?

#1. Be vulnerable

When people see you as a whole, complete person, faults included, it shows that you are confident and comfortable in your position. Letting them know the things you find difficult, that you are conscious of your weaknesses and working on those areas of yourself that will encourage them to do the same.

Leading by example or ‘walking the talk’ puts you on a level playing with your team and will help you connect. They will see you operate with integrity which will not only help establish greater respect with your team but also your peers.

#2. Listen

People want to feel heard and seen in the workplace, in fact, they expect it. Making time to sit, listen and engage with their thoughts is a great way to deepen your relationships with them.

You may not get on with them all or you may have a different opinion, but that’s where your self-confidence kicks in. You don’t have to agree, you don’t have to solve their problems, you just need to listen, ask good questions and take action once they have shared them (or explain thoughtfully why you can’t).

#3. Seek feedback regularly

Listen to feedback about you, personally. You need to carve out time for regular and varied feedback from your team. It can be:

  • Formal perhaps part of a 360 process
  • Informal – during team meetings or 1:1s
  • Anonymous – there are lots of survey tools like SurveyMonkey that can help you do this
  • Fun – a quick vote on a variety of current topics/challenges

Not everyone will be comfortable giving feedback to their manager, after all their appraisals and therefore jobs depend on this person. So it’s very important to take these actions from a place of curiosity and growth and assure them that their views are welcome and it’s safe to give them.

How can you help your team to increase, and recover, their self-confidence in work, in order to improve productivity and performance?

#1. Get to know them

They have lives outside of work, get to know what they like, what they do for fun, how things are for them in the ‘real world’. You don’t have to be best friends or pry for information if they aren’t forthcoming with it, but do try and see them as more than their job title. This can help to increase their self-worth and therefore their confidence.

#2. Be clear and constructive

If things didn’t go as planned, don’t sugarcoat it or abdicate what has happened. Avoid phrases like “let’s look on the bright side,” or “a mistake was made.” Instead, be clear: “We missed the deadline because of XYZ.” Invite their ideas on how to ensure this doesn’t happen again so they feel part of a solution rather than the cause of a problem. Doing this will also help you and your team build resilience.

#3. Acknowledge effort

During the epidemic, one of the biggest complaints from teams across a variety of organisations was the lack of recognition they got for continuing to work through the chaos. When an organisation is in maintenance or survival mode there may not be much tangible ‘progress’. But when your team is dealing with difficult situations it’s important to acknowledge the efforts as well as the outcome if you want them to feel willing and able to keep showing up.

#4. Recognise progress

Working on a big project or perhaps BAU tasks that never quite end? Break it down into weekly or monthly segments. And have a space where you can see what progress has been made. Make time to recognise milestones that have been reached in meetings. This doesn’t mean you gloss over mistakes or ignore everything that still has to be done, but it does mean that people focus on the positive so they will be encouraged to keep going.

#5. Celebrate success

You’ll notice the advice isn’t dissimilar to the recommendations for managers themselves, we are all human after all. We all need to be told we have done a great job. We need to stop and enjoy achievements before we run off to the next. Otherwise, we soon feel like it’s an uphill battle against deadlines and can get burned out.

This doesn’t need to be an expensive celebration, it could be some nice biscuits in the team meeting or letting them leave a couple of hours early to mark the occasion.

Picture of Sue Hampson
Sue Hampson
Sue is TSW Training's Business Services Training Advisor for ILM Leadership and Management. Sue regularly writes about leadership and management techniques.
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