Developing a healthy sense of confidence, whether it’s in your leadership, or whether it pertains to your career direction, is important.  We often report feeling like we lack it.  But how to build confidence?  It’s intangible and fuzzy – it’s nice to say we need it, but what do we do about it? 

There are three elements critical to building confidence in my experience as a coach.  As I describe these, think about for yourself which of the three you would rate as high, and which you would rate as low.

How to Build Confidence – The Three C’s of Confidence

Clarity – Direction is important, and to the extent we lack it, we can feel rudderless in our lives and in our leadership.  Do you have a vision for your career?  Do you know who you want to be as a leader and how you want others to experience you? 

I remember when I was making my career change from accounting to leadership development back in 2012, I knew what I wanted, I had a direction.  I might have had no idea how I was going to get there, but the passion I felt for the vision I was cultivating kept me going.  Clarity is inspiring.  Once we have it, we can take steps to materialize our vision.

I often have clients think about their values as a method of making a way out of the fog.  It can sometimes feel like an arbitrary exercise, but it’s not.  Our values guide the choices we make, and we all have values, whether we are conscious of them or not.  One of mine is autonomy.  It came into play recently when I was faced with a difficult business decision.  Tuning into my values helped to navigate this situation, knowing that I was tuning into my own True North. 

Competency – Building skills builds confidence.  Every job has competencies associated with it.  Some are technical, and some are what folks often refer to as the softer skills.  Things like communication, presentation skills, time management.  Leadership does as well.  Good leadership is about two main things – building relationships while getting tasks accomplished.  We often sacrifice one for the other.  Maybe I over-focus on delivery and ignore important opportunities to coach and mentor my team.  Or maybe I focus too much on relationships at the expense of deliverables.  Good leadership requires balance between these two elements.

How do you stack up on the competencies for the role you’re currently in?  Do you even know what they are?  What are you strong on?  What needs some work?  When we’re feeling less confident, we often try to hide our inadequacies.  We’re ashamed of them.  We may shy away from things that will challenge us because we’re afraid to fail.  The more willing we are to cultivate a growth mindset by leaning into our strengths and working to improve our weaknesses we better we will feel.  Movement in this direction generates energy and motivation. 

Compassion – Compassion for others, but most importantly, compassion for self.  Everyone has setbacks.  Everyone falls short some of the time.  How do you demonstrate compassion for yourself and others when it comes to your leadership?  Do you beat yourself up if you make a mistake?  Do you beat up others?  When we lack compassion for ourselves, we risk showing up with others as overly critical.  Or maybe it shows up as the opposite – an inability to give or receive feedback.  Earlier in my leadership journey it was almost impossible for me to give feedback.  I never asked for it either as I was paranoid of hearing something negative.  The more compassion I’ve generated for myself, the easier feedback has become, whether I’m giving it or receiving it. 

A lot of the work I do on the leadership front focuses on “Leader as Coach.”  To what extent can I as a leader listen with empathy?  Ask curious questions?  Celebrate the success of the team?  Holding a compassionate lens is paramount to cultivating a coach approach.  And it starts with self.

How do you speak to yourself?  Is your monkey mind filled with should’s and ought to’s?  Language is powerful.  Learn to tune in to the messages you’re sending to yourself so you can develop muscle at recognizing the pull of the inner critic.  I often have coaching clients who really struggle with compassion complete a daily “what worked” journal.  This could include accomplishments or very subtle behavioral differences.  “Wow, I didn’t react to that annoying comment Dave made in the meeting today.  A year ago I probably would have.”  We’re often so focused on the negative or what didn’t work that we fail to see the small successes day in and day out. 

Coaching Questions for Thought

  • Where are your confidence strengths?  Where are your edges?
  • What do you want to focus on the most? 
  • What’s one or two simple actions you could take to build confidence?

Shelley Pernot is a career and leadership coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their talents and step into their greatness.  Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!