Confidence is foundational. If you do not believe in your own unique strengths and purpose, it will be difficult for others to buy into to you as a leader. It can truly be game changing when you express the appropriate level of confidence. I often hear from leaders that they wrestle with confidence themselves, and often have a team member or two that may need a little confidence boost. I believe this is an area we can continuously improve and evolve as leaders. When done right, it can be game changing.
There are three simple steps I have seen work for successful leaders. To express confidence, first, know who and what fuels your confidence, second, surround yourself with people and experiences that reinforce your confidence, and third, proactively seek out those people and experiences that challenge your confidence. The idea here is to leverage your self-awareness of your own confidence, then reinforce and challenge it through people and experiences. Confidence does not happen in a vacuum, it evolves over time. You can be on top of your game one minute, and then something or someone can rock it, if you let them. I challenge you to put yourself in situations that may be uncomfortable to maintain that confidence. Get out of the comfort zone. It’s time to embrace the challenge. It fuels your confidence once you break through barriers and succeed.
Know who and what fuels your confidence
Reflect a bit, and think about, who are the people that help you recognize your strengths and discover your passions and purpose? Knowing this is pivotal. Chances are you have a strong following of some sort. People you have worked with in the past, family members, childhood friends, networking contacts are possibilities. They can come from anywhere. They often are the people in your life that make you feel good when you have a bad day, or offer words of encouragement when you need it. These people are vital to your confidence.
Likewise, you are shaped by your experiences. Think about the experiences throughout your career, which ones fueled your confidence. For me, knowing my DiSC style and StrengthsFinder results, being high D and an achiever, results really matter for me. For better or worse, results drive me, they fuel and unfuel my confidence every day. A few years ago, I remember reflecting on this. I was growing impatient with my career. I was not advancing as fast as I wanted and really let it take a toll on my confidence. It was a vicious circle. The less results I achieved, the less confidence I had. It was self-perpetuating. I realized through my career coach that I need to diversify my sources of confidence beyond just results. For me, it’s now more about being a good mother, earning the respect of my husband and mentors. It far more than just results. I recommend you tap into your sources of confidence – the people and experiences that shape you – and really dig deep and explore at least three to five for each people and experiences.
Surround yourself with those people and experiences
Let’s take your confidence a little further, and add some more fuel to it. Think about these people and experiences, and brainstorm common interests with those people, plan times to connect with them more regularly, or create a networking group with others that will also drive confidence. I love the idea of accountability partners. Those people that fuel confidence are fantastic accountability partners. An accountability partner is there to share successes, ideas, and challenges with. My clients often use them for workout or weight loss motivation. It’s someone to check in with and hold you accountable. For experiences, I recommend really digging here for common themes. Perhaps it is being prepared. For me, it was results. Once you know the source, you can capitalize on it like crazy. It needs to be a part of the routine. It needs to be a part of everything you do if that truly drives confidence. For my results driver, I need to have goals to set expectations and metrics to measure the results to be more confident in everything I do. I have a vision board with weekly and monthly goals to do this. I cannot tell you how confident I feel when I check something off the list. The achiever in me beams. Live the sources of confidence. Make it the norm.
Positive affirmations are also an excellent tool to express more confidence. Some of my clients have mentioned gratitude journals, or a log of what they are grateful for. It can be a great habit to start the day, or a visual to display in your office or home. One of my favorite affirmations is to surround myself with positive people. I have it on my wall to remind me. The impact of positivity is game changing. Naysayers are not likely to be the types of people that fuel our confidence.
Proactively seek out those people and experiences that challenge your confidence
Speaking of naysayers, those that challenge you can have quite an effect on your confidence. Rather than give your power to them, harness it and regain control of it. My career coach often reminded me that only I have the control of my own confidence. I remember thinking about this, and realizing how silly it was that I would consciously let someone else derail my hard earned confidence. Some of my clients have shared stories about the bully that often railroaded the team with his or her ideas, others shared it was someone that they really respected and admired, but felt so inferior to. It can come from anyone or anything. With self-awareness, comes the realization of confidence awareness. When it gets shaky, take a timeout, and discovery why. Maybe it’s someone or something that is taking you off track.
Once you know who and what challenges your confidence, retake control of it. A client recently shared the superman pose with me, not to be confused with the yoga pose. She said that it really did fuel her confidence. To do it, place your hands on your hips with your elbows forming triangles. I recommend you try it for a day and do it as much as possible, and take an assessment of your confidence at the end of the day. It’s remarkable. As a facilitator of leadership development, I consciously do this at least 20 times in a given day. It not only boosts my confidence, but it prevents me from distracting the audience with my hands and keeps my posture tall and poised. One more tool, be vulnerable. This seems a bit counter-intuitive. Just like with the naysayers, turn a negative into a positive. People respond to vulnerable leaders. No one is perfect, and people like to feel needed. Sharing with others, I am good at X, but not so good at Y, is totally fair. I often share my vulnerabilities with my clients. I am not so good with details. So, I ask for help with this. I smile when I say it, and hold my head high. I acknowledge the weakness, but I do not focus on it for long. What’s powerful about this, is once people see you are willing to admit vulnerability, they feel safe and empowered to do the same. We build trust, and make others feel important. Those naysayers do not stand a chance against that.
Whenever something similar happens to me more than two times in a week, I take notice. These often become the themes for my blog posts. This week, I ran across this bumper sticker, and I thought to myself, that’s the third time I have seen something on purpose this week, there might be something there.
I just recently found my purpose. I am opening my own coaching business May 1 – Help Your Team Grow – to help managers with leadership development and personal strategy. While I am very excited about it, I am also quite terrified. Why you ask?
Focus is hard
Focus means prioritizing what you need to do, and choosing not to do the things you just want to do. You only have so much time in the day, and you can only do so much. It better be aligned with your purpose. Often, when I help organizations build their strategic intent, I advise, it’s just as much about choosing what you will do, as it is choosing what you will not do. Same goes for your purpose. It needs to be specific and focused. For me, it’s helping teams and businesses grow by coaching managers to be better leaders. I can say that in a short sentence. It doesn’t take long to explain. People get it when I tell them.
The path to identifying my purpose was not easy. As I pursue my purpose, I wanted to pause and think about how I got here. It’s been a journey. My first step was to take an inventory of my passions to identify and prioritize what I truly loved to do. Once I had narrowed my focus, I talked to people that did it well. Then, I made it happen.
Find your passion
Do you enjoy doing your job in your “free time”? Would you voluntarily show up at work without a paycheck? I imagine most of you shaking your head no to these questions. Based on my experience, I have found this to be a rare thing. It doesn’t have to be. I remember it all clicked for me when a client called me on a Saturday, and I gladly picked up the phone and helped talk him through a people problem he was facing on his team. I enjoyed it. The fact that I was going to have a real impact on this person and his team was very meaningful to me. I did not perceive it to be “work”. I was working for free. I challenge you to think of moments like that when you may have experienced something like this. Keep your mind open to lots of possibilities, asking yourself, “If I could do any line of work, what would I do?” Even if it’s not feasible, chances are something tangential to that exists.
Ask those you trust and know you well to describe your purpose to you. Sometimes others see things in ourselves that we have trouble seeing ourselves. This happened to me a year ago when I reached out to a trusted advisor of mine for advice, and she told me about a job opening on her team for a career coach. I had never considered that line of work, but she saw something in me I did not see myself. It just took me a year to discover it. Take time to reflect on similar experiences you may have had.
Once you have narrowed your focus, write it down. Make sure it’s just a sentence or two long. Concise and to the point. Test it with those you trust and know you well, and if they say “I get it”, chances are you did it right. If not, get the feedback, and fine-tune – it’s an iterative process.
Connect with purpose
Once you’ve got the purpose focused, find the people that have pursued a similar purpose. You want to surround yourself by those that have been there, done that. Chances are you are not the first person to think of a similar purpose, so lean on those to help you. You need to learn from people that have done it well. And, if their purpose is tried and true, these people are very likely to help you. All you have to do is ask.
I recently met with our CEO. Previously, she led a successful leadership development coaching business for many years. She’s exactly the type of person I should be connecting with. During our discussion, she challenged me to articulate the rationale for my purpose through “tell me more” probing. She got me to a much deeper purpose than I had ever even acknowledged to myself. To me, it’s about creating a legacy of better leaders for my daughter and step-daughter to live in a better world. That’s purpose. But, I needed a poke to get me there. Good mentors, advisors, coaches can help you get you there. Normally, I would have been hesitant to ask for more of her time. But, having this deeper recognition of my purpose, I had no issue asking for more of her time. Because she connected with my purpose, this incredibly busy woman said absolutely.
Make it happen
So, you have your purpose focused, you have connected with people that have done it well, now it’s go time. Time to pull the trigger. I have to admit, this took me a while. I found a million reasons to delay this. But, it’s never going to be the ideal time. You will always be able to find excuses to procrastinate what you know you need to. Don’t do it. Take the leap – your purpose is vital to your long term success and happiness as a person. It’s a primal, human need.
Knowing that this is the toughest part, here are a few things that I have seen work well. Do whatever you can to get an early win. I had this happen a few months ago when I was presenting to a large, skeptical audience of leaders. Through confidence and purpose, I was able to make a real impact on their trust and respect. That success was my tipping point. I realized that this line of work needed to be my full focus. Another tip, invest the time. The start of for any purpose takes some nurturing. Make a 30-60-90 day plan giving it the time it needs to work. Hold yourself accountable for the three things you can do weekly to pursue your purpose. Spread the word to others. In spreading the word of my purpose, I have had people volunteering to help me achieve it. It’s amazing how much support you get when people know you are serious. I used to say things like “I am toying with an idea” in a weak tone – now I say confidently and proudly – “I am starting my own coaching business to help managers be better leaders” – and people respond completely differently. They respond with intrigue and enthusiasm, and often refer clients to talk to me. I don’t have to sell it, purpose sells itself.
So, what’s stopping you from pursuing your purpose?
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