Every leader struggles with confidence. Some of us do only in certain moments; others do on a more consistent basis. Self-confidence is the fundamental basis from which leadership grows. Your Keller Influence Indicator® inventory can provide you clear insight into you natural level of confidence. But even if you score extremely high in this trait, the most confident leader has situations in which they waiver. Reduced confidence leads to increased anxiety, procrastination and eventually paralysis. As a leader, this paralysis can stall the entire organization. Fear is contagious. A leader’s staff can often “smell fear,” and team members will begin to question their own decisions if they sense their leader is unsure of the way forward. Regaining confidence is not about hearing a motivational speech or developing a team of on-site cheerleaders. Rather, confidence is a result of increasing one thing…PREDICATABILITY.
Confidence decreases because we are faced with a situation or context that is unfamiliar; one in which we feel we have no experience in handling. This is true in all areas of life. Think about the last time you tried anything new—an experience, exotic food, or role (first-time parent, leader, or project manager). There was probably a sense of concern that ranged from mild nervousness to outright trepidation. Your reduced experience with the situation didn’t provide a framework from which to operate and make decisions. But you don’t have to stay bogged down in fear. Instead, grow your understanding of what is predictable on the road ahead.
You can grow predictability by:
Examining the unfamiliar situation to determine what about it relates to your previous experience.
Oftentimes a new experience has individual elements which are actually quite familiar. We can increase predictability by slowing down to analyze the situation at hand to find analogous elements in our previous experience. Being able to say, “This part of what I am facing is just like when I did such-in-such in the past,” builds our confidence by leaps and bounds. Breaking a problem, experience, or context into its smaller parts is the first step in this exercise. Examine each part piece by piece, looking for connections to similar situations in the past.
- Focusing on your primary strength
What do you best? Approach the situations at hand looking through your strength lens. Ask yourself, “What do experience do I bring to the table?” If you have a team around you, reflect on each member’s strength. How can their strengths and experience provide you, the leader, an increased perspective. Operate in your primary area of strength when you lack confidence. There is nothing that will grow confidence faster than working in your sweet spot. If you are naturally creative, have a brainstorming session; if you're a processor, build a system towards a solution; if relationally strong, assemble a team to find the way forward. You know how to work in your area of strength like the back of your hand. It is a familiar role, and thus, will build confidence.
- Determine a priority
A lack of confidence occurs because leaders are often fearful to determine a next step. By creating a priority, a measurable goal and series of steps towards that goal, the way forward becomes more predictable for everyone involved. Ask Steve Douglass’ question, “What are the three things I could do in the next ninety days that would make a fifty percent difference in where I’ll end the year”? Once your priorities are clear, you will have increased predictability and confidence.
- Create a clear way to measure progress
Confidence comes from predictability, and nothing builds predictability like the seeing past results. Measuring outcomes on goals and next-steps provide the assurance that the current direction is correct. Successful markers and metrics provide the confidence to say, “I don’t know everything about the situation at hand, but I DO know we are on the right track based on what we are seeing in terms of our results. The numbers are predicting a good outcome.” If the numbers aren’t matching expectations, this is a clear signal tell us, “Change direction.” The next step is self-evident--change direction.
- Keep a Confidence Catalog
Keep a record of your past fears, uncertain circumstances, obstacles and problems and how they were overcome. Note how each challenge was attacked and what was the result. Seeing past obstacles overcome builds within you the confidence that future challenges can be conquered, as well. This exercise will also help you with step one (above). It will allow you to see similarities between your current context and your previous experience. You might discover the methods you used in a previous situation help to create a roadmap towards a way forward.
- Frame the challenge in a larger context
Oftentimes, a leader gets so near-sighted on a problem that he or she feels the whole universe is caving in. Rest assured, it probably isn’t. To combat this confidence breaker, create a list of things that are currently going well, and granted an unforeseen change, will most likely continue that way into the future. Even something as simple as realizing, “I woke up alive today, and I most likely will tomorrow.” This is one of the important roles of any faith system, helping people to have a positive prediction regarding the future, regardless of their current situation. Noting life happenings that are currently successful, and can be predictably forecasted to continue as such, can serve to anchor our confidence. With this larger perspective, leaders are able to see problems and challenges in their proper scope--not all encompassing.
As with every influence trait on the Keller Influence Indicator®, confidence is not static. You CAN grow your confidence. Fear, uncertainty, and anxiety do not have to be your masters. You can gain the peace and the resulting confidence that comes from increased predictability. Our Keller Influence Indicator and resources provide additional tools to help you grow your confidence.