Very few people succeed in business without at least a small dose of confidence. And if you aspire to the C-suite, it’s critical that you believe in yourself—because it’s almost impossible to make it to the top level in any multimillion dollar company if you don’t.
Don’t worry about being perfect. There are never right or wrong answers to complex business decisions. The best you can do as a leader is to gather all the information in a timely manner, do a cost-benefit analysis of potential options, use your best judgment, then go for it. And after you make the final decision—commit! Don’t continually second-guess yourself!
This is great advice for anyone. But what if your confidence issues prevent you from following it? What if you just can’t get out of your head—and therefore keep getting in your own way)? These five tips for building your confidence can help you move up to the next level.
Believe in yourself
If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.
—Henry Ford, American automobile industrialist
Right indeed. Which brings us to my first recommendation: you need to silence the negative, self-destructive voice in your head, because self-doubt can cripple your career (as well as your life). Understanding your limitations is okay, because it can help focus your efforts for improvement; however, if there is a constant negative stream in your head, it needs to stop.
Unfortunately, only you can reign in your mind when it starts spiraling out of control with negativity. Force yourself to think about puppies or sunshine or the afternoon cocktail hour—whatever makes you smile. Even if you have to do it twenty times a day, do it. Then get back to work on figuring out how to accomplish the new project on your plate.
Each night before you go to bed, note three things you did right during that day (even if one of them is just getting out of bed!). The goal is to end your day with positive thoughts about yourself and what you accomplished. And start each day reminding yourself of the positive things you did the day before.
Accept that you’ll never be caught up
“The secret of confidence is focusing on what you can control, not on what you can’t.”
—Mira Kirshenbaum, clinical director of the Chestnut Hill Institute
We’re all running around with to-do lists a mile long. Even if you stopped right now and worked on nothing but your to-do list, you’d never get caught up. It’s just not the way of the world anymore. So if you focus only on what you don’t get done, you’ll drive yourself crazy and fuel a sense of failure. You may not be able to control the number of items on your list, nor can you control the number of hours in the day. You can, though, prioritize the list—then work mercilessly to meet deadlines, using your time and resources wisely.
Q: How to do you get to Carnegie Hall?
A: Practice, practice, practice!
Nothing helps bolster confidence more than actually knowing what you’re talking about. If there is a skill set you don’t have but should, figure out how to acquire it. Take a class, read a book or a blog, talk to others—do whatever it takes to learn what you need as quickly as possible. Developing your skills and being prepared are two important tools to build the confidence you need to shape your success in the workplace (and in your head).
Don’t fear letting others show their skills
No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.
—Andrew Carnegie, American steel magnate
In my twenty-plus years in corporate America, I’ve met many managers who were afraid to let their team members shine because they felt it would make them look bad. Actually, the opposite is true. Confident leaders use the strengths of all their team members. And by letting your team showcase their talents to upper management, you foster a greater sense of loyalty, because they know you won’t claim credit for their work or stand in the way of their progress. You’ll also gain a reputation for being someone people want to work for because you don’t fear smart people in your organization. And as an added bonus, hiring smart people will allow you to get more accomplished on your work to-do list.
Let go of the past
Everybody’s got a past. The past does not equal the future unless you live there.
Your childhood experiences and the messages you received while growing up play a huge role in the development of your self-esteem. If you were constantly criticized, for example, that experience is likely to contribute to feelings of low self-confidence.
At some point, though, you must let go of the past and embrace what you can be. Is that statement an oversimplification? Perhaps. Is it truthful? Definitely.
See a professional counselor or therapist, exercise—do whatever it takes to exorcise the demons in your head and get on with being the confident person who kicks ass in everything he or she does!
Lastly, don’t allow past failures hold you back. Learn whatever lessons you can from your mistakes—then move on.
If you don’t think you are wonderful, why should anyone else?
—Mae West, American actress, playwright, screenwriter, and sex symbol
Bottom line: confidence is contagious. If you believe in yourself, others will begin to believe in you as well. Remember, being confident in your abilities (while not coming off as cocky or arrogant) can enable you and others to regard your career not merely as a job but as a joy.
Stay tuned for information on Leadership Development in my next blog.