Confidence is a funny thing: Not only is it highly personal and hard to measure, it fluctuates throughout time depending on the situation. Those are two big reasons why managers should spend time on confidence training for their employees.
Managers, for their part, may not understand why an employee’s confidence (or lack thereof) is their problem, or what they can do about it. After all, how someone views themself depends on their own internal self-talk, doesn’t it? Yes, it does...but even something as internal and intangible as confidence can benefit from confidence training, which can in turn benefit employees, teams, and the company as a whole.
Why Confidence Matters in the Workplace
A recent British survey revealed some surprising data about the lack of confidence in the workplace: It found that 32% of those surveyed were afraid to propose new ideas to their teams, 29% feared client meetings, 20% considered themselves “pushovers,” and fully half dreaded public speaking or presentations in front of large groups. When one-third of your employees are afraid to speak up with an idea, that’s a problem! And while Americans are known for being a little more outgoing, we suspect that a majority of U.S. employees would still have these confidence issues.
Confident people don’t just feel better about themselves. Self-esteem also plays an important role in how they get along with others and how they advance in their careers. Motivation, attitude, and even ethics are all tied up in confidence. Providing confidence training to employees and managers alike can improve performance, increase job satisfaction, and reveal hidden leadership potential.
Confidence Training Tips (and Courses That Will Help)
So, as a manager, HR professional, or team leader, how do you go about boosting their confidence while also keeping them from going overboard? Here are a few key pieces of advice, along with some of our own training courses that might help:
Start with an Assessment
Giving an employee insights into the ways in which they communicate and collaborate leads to better self-understanding, which is the first step to boosting confidence. Tools such as a DISC assessment can reveal how a person communicates needs, responds to conflict, and solves problems. It’s amazing how much knowing these things about yourself can make you more “comfortable in your own skin.”
Using a proven assessment tool helps managers, too. When they understand the communication dynamics happening on their teams, they can make a point of balancing individual team members. For example, a more action-oriented person might need to slow down and think things through; a person who likes to dominate the conversation might need to learn how to lead a discussion where everyone gives their input; a person who craves stability and reacts to “rocking the boat” might need encouragement to explore new ideas. And so on.
“Act Confident to Feel Confident”
Self-confidence is fluid. It comes and goes depending on the circumstance, and everyone has suffered from a lack of it at some point. Our course about building confidence encourages employees to leverage what they do feel confident about and banish negative self-talk.
Looking and acting confident can help. Try suggesting that they “fake it ’til they make it.” That doesn’t mean being dishonest or inauthentic, but simply that they act confident until they feel confident.
For some reason, this makes me think of Carrie Fisher in the first Star Wars movie. She was only 19 when she was cast as Princess Leia and her character was supposed to lead the resistance! When I was 19, the only resistance I could lead was to an early wake up call!
I imagine this role required her to dig deep to be able to act with a level of confidence that was convincing of a princess leading a revolution, building her team, and creating unity among a diverse cast of characters.
Recognizing Confident vs. Conceited
Employees who are good at what they do can prove it every day on the job—or they can brag about it to anyone who will listen. An overabundance of confidence can be just as destructive as none at all. We offer a course that explains the difference between confidence and conceit, and how employees can recognize when they’ve crossed the line.
Regina George from the movie “Mean Girls” is a perfect example of someone whose confidence has crossed the line to conceited. Of course, in her mind, it would be an honor to be invited to have lunch at her table. And don’t forget, “On Wednesdays we wear pink.”
Communicating with Confidence
An employee might have the best idea in the room, but if they can’t communicate with confidence, it won’t go far. It’s crucial to be clear in our own minds about our goal for a conversation or presentation. Being prepared and reining in emotions while communicating are also good pieces of advice for getting a point across in a clear and effective manner.
Confidence comes from engagement, too. Suggest that team members make a habit of asking for questions after communicating. This way they can clarify their message if it hasn’t been correctly received.
In the movie “Legally Blonde,” we watch the darling Elle Woods evolve at law school. While her character was very confident from the beginning, she struggled to find her own voice and is teased by the other students. You have to love the courtroom scene when she interrogates Chutney Windham. She struggles at first and then there is that moment...the first cardinal rule of perm maintenance! Elle closes the scene by communicating with confidence and getting Chutney to admit her guilt.
Discovering Their Strengths
Everyone is good at something. The key to building confidence in the workplace is finding out what everyone's good at and making the most of those skills and dispositions.
Managers can help employees discover those areas where they excel and find ways to incorporate them into their current job description—or find a position where they’re a better fit. If you are doing any sort of formal assessment, that’s a step in the right direction; just be sure you are giving them feedback on their strengths along with their areas for improvement. Our course on identifying your strengths gives tips on recognizing and identifying your strengths, and how to accept praise for what you’re naturally good at (with confidence).
Remember the 1988 movie “Rain Main” when Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman are in the diner? Raymond is fiddling with the tabletop jukebox and Charlie discovers Raymond’s strength in his memory and counting ability. So, pay attention! You never know when you might discover someone’s strength!
Developing Their Strengths
When it comes to improving on the job, too many people focus on their weaknesses. While working on things that could use improvement is a good idea, it’s not always the best use of limited time and energy. Instead, encourage employees to work on their strengths, getting better and better at what they’re already good at. Have employees choose one skill and create a measurable goal for improvement. Then check in to see how they’ve progressed. As our course on developing strengths shows, “practice makes permanent,” and leveraging a strength can turn into true expertise in that area—nothing boosts a person’s confidence more than feeling like they are truly the expert in the room.
This was the lesson we saw in the movie “Akeelah and the Bee.” Akeelah was an eleven year-old from South Los Angeles. She is an underdog coming from a challenging family and neighborhood environment who finds herself the winner of the school spelling bee. Lawrence Fishburne’s character takes her under his wing to help her develop her newfound strength. I get chills when I think of her quote,“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
Giving Regular and Sincere Feedback
Feedback is not just a tool to praise or correct. Done correctly, it can reinforce and motivate as part of regular and natural communication with employees. Our video on giving feedback outlines four steps to giving good feedback without letting emotions complicate things or get in the way. Challenge yourself to offer feedback for their everyday work to each person you manage, aside from any formal review process.
If feedback is given regularly and with confidence, it is easier to have difficult conversations when they are necessary. Employees are much more open to constructive criticism if their supervisor does sincere check-ins with them on a regular basis.
In “Akeelah and the Bee” Lawrence Fishburne’s character, Dr. Larabee gave daily feedback! “If you want to get there, you can’t be a shrinking violet.”
Practicing Presentation Skills
As we mentioned at the start of this article, about half of all employees are terrified of public speaking, even when it’s among their coworkers. Employees can gain confidence in their presentation skills through an entire series of videos ej4 has created on the subject.
Even if giving presentations and public speaking isn’t a normal part of their job, mastering the skill can help employees gain self-esteem and confidence in other areas of their work and personal life. In the next staff meeting, have each person stand up and talk for a few minutes. It could be anything from a quick progress report to what their plans are for the weekend. With enough practice, some will even come to enjoy it!
The series includes “Presentation Skills Basics” such as how to structure a presentation, knowing your audience, and handling a question-and-answer session. There is also a “Train the Trainer” package with segments on knowing whether your role is as a trainer, presenter, or facilitator, creating engaging and interactive program materials, and becoming a subject matter expert.
It made me think of the movie "On the Basis of Sex" when Felicity Jones acting as young Ruth Bader Ginsburg is practicing her arguments in her living room in front of her colleagues and family. At that time she was a law professor, she was not a trial attorney. She was an expert on the subject of gender equality and wrote an amazing brief that proved her point but was struggling with the presentation of her argument in front of a live audience.
Does Your Team Need a Confidence Boost?
Yes, sometimes employees and teams need a confidence boost. Even though confidence itself is something very internal and intangible, it is still something that can be cultivated through teaching and training. In some cases, confidence training can be the answer to better working relationships, productivity, and job satisfaction.