Self Sourcing Confidence
Are you confident? If the answer is "no", then how can you become more confident? If the answer is "yes", does that extend to areas where you lack existing expertise and experience? Generally speaking, we are all confident while operating within our Comfort Zone. The tried and true activities are reinforced over and over. The only problem with this construct is we are limiting ourselves to what we already know and can do. The growth areas are always located outside our Comfort Zone, but venturing forth is a scary prospect. How do we either gain confidence in the first place or how do we extend the scope of our confidence?
The work environment has a huge impact on how we grow our confidence. If we work with or for people who are supportive, we can try, fail and grow. If our boss or teammates deride us for making mistakes, we learn to avoid doing anything new. If we offer up an idea or suggestion and are met with rebuke, derision, sarcasm or mock, we learn very quickly to never repeat that humiliation. Our world shrinks and we keep a low profile to avoid trouble. Look around, there are plenty of the walking wounded, who have determined to become spectators or passengers.
On the other hand, if we are supported when we make mistakes and they are treated as a vital part of our professional growth, then we expand our range further and further. Making mistakes is a part of learning what doesn’t work, but sometimes we forget it was part of our own growth process and deny this opportunity to those on the way up. If we feel encouraged, we are also more likely to come up with insights, ideas and proffer innovations. Let’s take a quick reality check: if we are not getting sufficient innovation in our organisation, it might not just be the lack of a good idea creation framework. It might be our toxic environment toward the new and different, that is overwhelming the creative process.
What does this look like in practice? The boss stands in front of the whiteboard, black marker pen at the ready and commands ideas from the team. Being incredibly efficient, any ideas which are not perfectly formed are critiqued right there and then. The idea aspirants are left in no doubt they are idiots for coming up with such useless suggestions and the next idea is called for. A few rounds of this "fillet the idiot" game and the same three people put up their thoughts. The rest of the team sink a bit more deeply into their chairs, silently disappearing into the background. Sadly, we are not tapping the full potential of the organisation.
Don’t think this is a rare event. Despite all the good information about how to embolden people and the numerous books written on "empowering" the team, the crunch often comes in this type of public occasion. The reasons are simple – usually plain ignorance or a selfish value system. What worked for the boss on the way up is assumed to be a universal truth, so everyone needs to just "harden up". A surprising discovery in managing people is that not everyone wants to be like us or wants to be the boss. Leading the most self-motivated 5% of any group is pretty easy, because they don’t need us in the first instance anyway. The tricky part is leading the people who are not like us. The key trigger for increasing levels of engagement has been found to be how much we feel valued by our boss. Making the 95% feel valued is the leader’s job, if we want progress and innovation.
If our whole organisation can become more confident than our competitors, we will do much better. How much does it cost to achieve that? How about nothing! Our leaders determine the work environment culture, ethos and vibe. If we understand how to grow people in confidence, then the organisation moves forward, because more people are able to come out of their Comfort Zones and grow.
When we look at how leaders are trained and developed, these basics are either overlooked or soon forgotten. The most proficient are promoted to positions of responsibility for others, but they are often confidence killers not builders. They were probably in that top 5% group, so they can’t understand the problem with their subordinates.
If we had "build confidence in our people" as a performance measure, we would start a virtuous circle, creating organisation wide progress. Is this measure operating in our organization? Take a cold hard look at the environment our organisation’s leaders are creating. Are we leaving money on the table because we are not getting as much from our team as we should? Are we focused enough on expanding confidence and Comfort Zones? If we aren’t, then it is probably time to reexamine the education of the leadership group and turn that around.
Expand your own Comfort Zone
Focus on building confidence levels across the whole team
Educate leaders on how to encourage innovative ideas and contributions
Don’t criticize, condemn or complain