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Leadership Matters: Confidence Compounds

September 2017: Vol 40 No 9
Jill Johnson
The impact of boldly seizing opportunities

Scissors cutting a card that says “I can’t do it” such that it reads “I can do it”One of the most significant leadership skills you need to develop is confidence, which allows you to have impact far beyond your title or level within your organization.

Building confidence requires a disciplined focus on seeking and accepting bold opportunities to help you reach for higher rungs of influence and impact. You don’t need to make huge leaps or take big risks, but each small effort or success will build your confidence over time. As your confidence compounds, you will find you can do vastly more than you ever dreamed was possible.

There are three keys to build your confidence: practice, preparation and your presentation. 

Confidence is a Skill You Need to Practice

Just as with any new skill, you have to practice it over and over again for it to become something you can do with ease. The key is to identify what skill you need to master next. Opportunities to practice new skills are all around you. Plan to practice both inside and outside of work. 

Find assignments that will get you in front of more people and augment your experience. If someone you respect asks you to do an assignment or join a committee, say “yes.” Tell people what you want to work on next. Practice saying things before you ever need to—or feel ready to—say them in front of others. Put yourself forward for consideration, whether it is a board appointment or your next job or to receive an award!

Getting the opportunity is one thing—what do you do with the opportunity when you find it is even more important. It is the consistency of your efforts to practice new skills that builds your confidence. You want this new skill to become so natural that you don’t even have to think about it; it just becomes a part of you. When you consistently deliver your best, you will feel like you can handle anything that comes at you.

Don’t expect to be confident in the beginning. Remember that skills build in small cascades. Often, we think we are at a plateau because we are not making larger strides. At that point, you are likely growing at a rate that is too subtle for you to see just how far you have really come. Trust that you are deepening your abilities with your practice. Others will see your growing confidence, too.

Preparation is Necessary—Do the Hard Work

Most people want to take shortcuts. But the more detailed and thorough your preparation, the greater the likelihood you will have success. Preparation is essential to having confidence in yourself, especially when you are dealing with power players. 

Don’t wing it when you have a big meeting. Take the time to thoughtfully prepare well ahead of time. When you do that, you will have your material down cold and be able to respond effectively to questions and challenges. 

Take calculated risks—do things even if you don’t expect a big win. What do you have to lose? Just keep trying, as each attempt is building your skills and preparing you for the next opportunity. 

When you have the chance to make your dream come true, grab it with both hands. Don’t let golden handcuffs convince you to stay where you are and hold you back from fully embracing your success. Don’t let your fears psych you out before you even see what you are truly capable of. Tell yourself, “Yes, I can! I will. I am. I’m gonna!”

Remember, not everything you try will work … but that does not mean you should stop your efforts. Build your confidence and your future by laying down a solid foundation of preparation. 

Presentation—Let People See You

To ever be noticed, you need to step out in front and allow people to see you. You need to identify, enhance and believe in your own leadership abilities. If you don’t, why should anyone else? Don’t assume that people will recognize and reward your talents. 

Your posture and facial expressions play an important role in becoming more confident. You need to look, act and speak with confidence and clarity. People who project confident body language are listened to more carefully. Standing tall or sitting up straight when you speak helps convey an air of confidence too. 

Make sure you control your emotions rather than let your emotions control you. Making an over-the-top statement or expression is going to minimize the confidence people have in you. Be measured and mindful of how you are appearing to others. 

The gap between our dreams and believing we can achieve them is confidence. We all get stuck at various times in our lives. We all have self-doubts. Your confidence will fluctuate. Sometimes you will feel like you can conquer anything and other times you will feel like you should have just stayed in bed. When this happens, take the time to step back and reflect, to reach out to confide in a trusted confidant or just allow yourself to embrace the stillness of a momentary plateau. 

Confidence is something you work on your whole life, so continue to try new things! Stay resilient, even when you think you cannot. Remember, the compounded impact of taking small bold actions can morph into amazing opportunities with the potential to transform your future. Don’t waste any more time. Take control of your destiny! Think big and be bold!

Jill Johnson is the president and founder of Minneapolis-based Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker and an award-winning management consultant. Johnson helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted nearly $4 billion worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results.

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