We are each ultimately responsible for our level of confidence and support on any given task in our lives. Be it at home, work, or anywhere else.
Too often we take our feelings for granted and accept them without challenging them. This can be a mistake depending on how swayed you are by outside influences. If you are empirically and demonstrably good at a particular task, yet you regularly receive negative feedback from others, it eventually grates on you, and your confidence takes a hit. Being susceptible to negative feedback is an insidious curse, because even when it is unfounded and baseless, which it often is, the demoralizing result is the same.
You may have a large circle of yes-men who support everything you do. Their motivations are irrelevant. It may be political, they could be intimidated by you, or they might have clouded judgment. Regardless, eventually you will believe them, even if you are empirically and demonstrably incompetent at a particular task.
That is why reflection is so important to your growth and development.
- Do you have a high or low level of confidence in your abilities?
- Do you have a high or low level of support for your initiatives?
Your answers will, of course, be subjective unless you are thinking task-specific. Nonetheless, we are talking about feelings, which can be knee-jerk and ephemeral, yet they provide a terrific temperature check.
What if your answers are low or variable?
How do you increase your confidence? Confidence is the result of feeling competent at something, meaning you’ve done it, or something similar to it before and have been successful. Most people, even those who seem to have natural talents, do not start something off at expert status. It takes practice, repetition, and learning.
How do you increase your support? Generally, support comes through other people. However, it begins with you. How supportive of yourself are you? Do you have positive thoughts running through your head or do you routinely diminish your accomplishments? How many times have you called yourself a ‘stupid idiot’ when you forgot to pick up milk at the grocery store? That is a little harsh, isn’t it?
Where you find support varies. Perhaps you feel well-supported by nature, God, or your family. I like the maxim that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Are you well-supported and encouraged by these people? Support is not platitudes. Sometimes it is people who love you telling you; you’ve been acting like a jerk. That is far more supportive than quietly putting up with you.
As a leader, all of this applies to you AND those you lead. One of your roles is to ensure that the people who depend on you for direction and inspiration also receive your support and that you build their levels of confidence.
A direct report which has low confidence and low support is going to feel ignored. How much does an ignored person contribute to the team?
A direct report with low confidence and high support is going to feel encouraged. That keeps them engaged, and your efforts should turn toward greater skill building for them.
A direct report with high confidence and low support is going to feel frustrated. Many workers are highly skilled but are not able to use those skills properly either because they are in the wrong job, or more often than not, their manager is ignoring them. These inferior managers have either abdicated their responsibility, or they are threatened. Good leaders recognize this immediately and make it a priority to ensure they hear the direct report and bring them to the table. They support the person, if not the person’s ideas.
A direct report with high confidence and high support is the foundation of a high performing team. As a leader, there is great joy in surrounding yourself with competent people and celebrating their regular accomplishments. It’s not always a cake walk to get there, but these are the people you want.
As a leader, it is your role to get people in that zone where they feel valued, and keep them there. If you are not accomplishing that endeavor, the rest of your leadership accomplishments are moot.
What ways can you lift the confidence of those around you and be supportive of them?