Soft Skills Series – Nurturing Confidence

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Confidence is being assured of one’s judgement and abilities. It’s critical to decision making and problem solving. People with the soft skill of confidence have an accurate view of what they can do. They aren’t held back by fear of failure, because they understand that making mistakes can be part of a process that leads to ultimate success. Because they believe in themselves, they’re empowered to accomplish much of what they set out to do. Sometimes capable employees struggle with confidence, but their insecurity doesn’t have to handicap them permanently.

Reasons Confidence is In Short Supply

There are a number of reasons employees struggle with developing the soft skill of confidence. Those who have trouble trusting their own judgment do so for reasons like these:

  • They don’t have the skills necessary for the task or decision
  • They’re trying to be someone they’re not
  • Past experiences made them question their abilities
  • They have a naturally reserved, cautious temperament
  • Their thinking has been influenced by uncooperative or critical colleagues

When employees lack confidence, they balk at making decisions because they fear the wrong choice will lead to failure. Worry over what might happen wears away at them. Their presentations or sales calls fall flat because their audience picks up on their own self-doubt. They might try to avoid tasks that involve problem solving and force other staff members to take up the slack.

A Harvard Business Review article points out, “insecure people are so concerned with how they look and how they are perceived that they either fail to solicit critical feedback or completely ignore it when it’s given. And this robs them of the opportunity to improve.” Their lack of confidence is bad for business, but the good news is, confidence is a soft skill that can be improved.

Give Timid Employees a Boost

So many managers say the same thing – they see their staff member’s potential and wish they could help that person get past their fears and doubts so they can be more productive and self-assured. Here are techniques leaders can use to nurture confidence one employee at a time.

Connect New Tasks to Existing Skills

Note your staff member’s skills and how those abilities have served them well in the past. Help them draw on the memories of previous successes to give them confidence when approaching new, similar tasks.

For example, if Gina’s research and suggestions were what made your last product launch a success, and you hope she’ll tackle the next project with less hand-holding, help her see what you see. You might say something like, “Gina, you did such a great job with ABC project, both with how you used focus groups and customer surveys and how you accurately summarized your findings. I’d like to use you in the same role again. Go ahead and use the same thorough exploration and groundwork, this time you choose the tools and approach.”

Explicitly Communicate Expectations

Sometimes insecurity happens because employees aren’t sure what you want, so they don’t know if they can deliver. Give them a clear picture of the end result you’re looking for, and tell them if there are tools or methods you expect them to use to get there. Start small, with well-defined tasks or projects and encourage more autonomy and independent decision making over time.

Help Them Reframe Mistakes

If they struggle with confidence, slip ups hit them hard, but time spent beating themselves up isn’t productive. Encourage them to see mistakes as opportunities instead of failures and recognize innovation almost always requires trial and error. When a mistake happens model how to own it, fix it and learn from it.

Give Clear Feedback

Don’t assume employees know how good they are. Help them see the same strengths you see. Instead of just saying, “Nice job,” detail what the staff member did right, and do it as soon as you notice. Spend as much time (or more) on tasks at which they’re gifted at as you do on what they still have to work toward.

Assign a Mentor

Pair employees who lack confidence or need to hone their skills with employees who exhibit the desired traits. A mentor can be extremely effective at sharing career experience and modeling decision-making because they’ve been there. Once they’ve had time to shadow or work with your more accomplished employee, encourage them to make the knowledge and skills they’ve gleaned their own.

Brelsford Personnel is a full service employment agency with the ability to serve you in fulfilling your professional, administrative and temporary staffing needs. When you need new hires with specific skills, we provide qualified, pre-screened candidates. Send us a message if you’d like to know more.

Related articles:

Why Problem-Solving is a Must-Have Soft Skill

Teaching Soft Skills to New Hires

Active Listening – What is it and Do You Have It?

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