Confidence is not a static state, it comes and goes, shrinks and grows as you develop and expand out of your comfort zone and take on new roles and responsibilities.
Confidence doesn’t just happen if you sit and wait for the perfect time or for when you feel ready enough to take a leap. Confidence must be nurtured, tested and developed over time just as any other skill is developed.
Waiting to be confident enough to speak up in a meeting is like waiting for everyone to realise the brilliance of your ideas without you saying a word. Waiting to confident in your decision is like waiting for a fish to jump out of the lake into your lap before you cast a line.
Confidence only comes from stepping up and doing what you know needs to be done and saying what you know needs to be said to the best of your ability.
The problem is your forever watchful brain is on the lookout for any threat to your safety and upon noticing your anxiety about speaking up will immediately start trying to convince you otherwise with internal thoughts like…
“Can I do this?” or “What if I stuff up?” or “What if I’m wrong?” and the big one…” What will they think of me?”
“Your discomfort is fertile ground for growing your confidence”.
These might be quite valid and logical questions so let’s fight them with logical and valid answers.
“Can I do this?” – Yes of course I can, I know enough, I have the experience, I wouldn’t be sitting at the table/ presenting at the meeting / in charge of this unit/ etc it I didn’t have ability. You have done the training. You have earned your stripes. You are good at what you do. Own your abilities and stop questioning them.
“What if I stuff up?” – Chances are that at some point you will stuff up or say the wrong thing. Will this be terminal? Well I guess if you are a surgeon the answer is possibly but I don’t tend to have a medical following so I am guessing you are in a non-life threatening job. Even for police manager, 99% of the time you are not making life or death decisions but rather as a manager most of your decisions are related to HR, strategy, administrative or financial decisions.
“What if I’m wrong?” – Stop trying to be perfect. Stop trying to get it right all the time. Speak up. Decide. If it is wrong, then make a better decision and fix it. Your people don’t expect you to get it right all the time. They do expect that you will make decisions and act. If that action isn’t right, then they expect you will take responsibility and adjust your decision accordingly.
“What will people think?” – People will think whatever they like and whatever you do there will be detractors, so you can be hamstrung by this or you can let it go. Our biggest fear is rejection, but as a leader you must be willing to experience some rejection. Seek value or feedback from the naysayers and use that to improve your skills. Then let go of that which is not helpful .
Then just as your confidence is maturing you will take that next promotion or move into a new division and the game will start all over again. What doesn’t change is your inner belief in your ability to learn and grow and bounce forward from setbacks. Foster that inner belief by acknowledging your achievements, reminding yourself of your purpose and fostering a supporting network.
Don’t wait to be confident to step up, speak out and take action.
As the great philosopher Nike says “Just do it”.
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