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September 2017

Cultivating Confidence

One of the most significant leadership skills you need to develop is your confidence. It’s an essential core leadership competency, allowing you to have impact far beyond your title or level within your organization. Building your confidence requires a disciplined focus on seeking and accepting bold opportunities to help you reach for higher rungs of influence and impact. You don’t need to make huge leaps or take big risks, but each small effort will build your confidence over time. As it compounds, you’ll find you can do vastly more than you ever dreamed was possible. There are three keys to build confidence: practice, preparation and presentation.

Confidence is a skill that requires practice. Just as with any skill, you have to practice over and over for it to become something you do with ease. The key is to identify what skill you need to master next. Opportunities to practice new skills are all around you.

For instance, find assignments you can take that get you in front of more people and augment your experience. If someone asks you to do an assignment or join a committee, agree to it. Tell people what you want to work on. Practice saying things before you need to say them in front of others. Put yourself forward for consideration, whether it’s a board appointment or your next job.

Getting the opportunity is one thing; what you do with it when you get it is even more important. It’s the consistency of your efforts on practicing new skills that builds your confidence. This consistency is necessary before you can ever rely on it. You want this new skill to become so natural you don’t even have to think about it—it just becomes part of you. When you consistently deliver your best, you’ll feel like you can handle anything that comes at you.

Don’t expect to be confident at first. Remember, skills build in small cascades. Often, we think we’re at a plateau because we’re not making larger moves. But you’re likely growing in a spiral too subtle for you to see. You’re deepening your abilities with your practice. Others will see your growing confidence, too.

Preparation is critical. Most people want to take shortcuts. The more detailed and thorough your preparation, the greater the likelihood you’ll have success. Preparation is especially essential to having confidence in yourself, particularly when you’re dealing with power players.

Don’t wing it when you have a big meeting. Take time to thoughtfully prepare ahead of time. That will let you practice and adjust. When you do that, you’ll know your material cold and be able to respond effectively to questions and challenges.

Take calculated risks and do things you don’t expect will give you a big win. What do you have to lose? Just keep trying because each attempt is building your skill and preparing you for the next opportunity. Leverage everything you have in your arsenal to build your confidence and give you a boost to try something bold. Bring all of your skills with you as you move through life.

When you have the chance to make your dream come true, grab it with both hands. Don’t let the golden handcuffs of thinking you should stay where you are hold you back from fully embracing your success. Don’t let your fears psych you out before you even see what you’re truly capable of. Tell yourself, “Yes, I can!”

But remember, not everything you try will work, but that doesn’t mean you should stop your efforts. Build your confidence and your future by laying down a solid foundation of preparation.

Let people see you. To be noticed, you need to step in front and allow people to see you. Identify, enhance and believe in your leadership abilities. If you don’t, why should anyone else? Don’t assume people will recognize and reward your talents. 

Your posture and facial expressions play an important role in becoming more confident. You need to look, act and speak with confidence and clarity. People who project confident body language are listened to more carefully. Standing tall or sitting up straight when you speak helps convey an air of confidence, too. 

Make sure you control your emotions rather than let them control you. Giving an over-the-top or hysterical comment is going to minimize the confidence people have in you. Be measured and mindful of how you present yourself to others.

The gap between our dreams and believing we can achieve them is confidence. We all get stuck at various times in our lives. We all have self-doubts, which are poison to confidence. Your confidence will fluctuate. Sometimes you’ll feel like you can conquer anything, and other times you’ll feel like you should have just stayed in bed.

Confidence is something you work on your whole life. So continue to try new things. Stay resilient, even when you think you can’t. Don’t waste time. Take control of your destiny. Think big and be bold.

Jill Johnson is the president and founder of Johnson Consulting Services.



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