Leadership is a lot like parenting. Clearly, you don’t want to be the overly critical parent that means well, but ends up destroying their children’s self-esteem.
At the same time, the last thing you want to do when you want to improve employee self-confidence is to be a “helicopter leader.” As a manager, you need to provide the right amount of space and support for them to come into their own.
In other words, you need to be a good coach. Coddling your employees, micro-managing them and generally being over-bearing will only have the opposite effect. It’s much more helpful to provide enough autonomy and opportunities to increase their sense of ownership. To that end, here are six steps to boosting employee self-confidence.
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People need to think of self-confidence as a trait that some just naturally possess while others don’t. Defining confidence in this way leaves relatively little room for manoeuvring and makes it easier for employees to place the locus of responsibility outside of themselves.
The more people see confidence as a static trait, the less likely they are to be motivated to change it.
Nelson Mandela once said that “the brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Likewise, being self-confident does not mean you are entirely free of self-doubt. As long as you’re continually pushing yourself towards growth, self-doubt will always niggle at you. Confidence is simply the decision to push ahead in spite of that self-doubt.
Confidence is less about talent, and more about mindset. If it rested so much on talent, you’d think that child prodigies would grow up to be the most self-confident and successful ones amongst us. The reality is quite different.
In her book “Hothouse Kids: The Dilemma of the Gifted Child,” Alissa Quart writes that “they’re often left with a distinct feeling of failure.” Being raised to believe that the natural abilities were the defining characteristic of their personhood has led many former child prodigies down self-destructive paths.
Since they grew up with the notion that their gifts were static, dealing with failure was particularly hard. They tended to take failure as a naysaying reflection of their incompetence, which destroyed their self-confidence in the long term.
Developing self-confidence necessitates having a growth mindset, which, according to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, means:
People tend to shy away from growth opportunities that can build their self-confidence because they fear failing. Growth mindsets shift this perception and effectively minimise that fear; it makes these growth opportunities win-win situations regardless of success or failure.
Self-efficacy–your belief in whether you have the right skills and expertise to overcome a particular challenge–is a crucial element of self-confidence. It differs slightly from the latter in that it is based on practical self-assessment and is linked to a particular challenge. You may, for example, be a self-confident person in general, while also lacking self-efficacy in a task you’ve never taken on before.
Ensuring that your employees receive the training they need to be well-equipped in terms of their knowledge and skills is vital in increasing their self-efficacy. The more well-trained your employees are, the higher the chances that they
You can’t build self-confidence by buttressing employee weaknesses. You might succeed in helping them feel less bad about themselves when they improve at something they’re not good at.
In contrast, when you enhance their strengths, you’re helping them see the value that they can add to themselves and the people around them.
This is vital in changing the way they see themselves. Knowing what each of your people are good at and allowing them to maximise their strengths goes a long way in facilitating higher self-confidence. As management guru Peter Drucker said, “You cannot build performance on weaknesses. You can build only on strengths.”
Self-confidence is built by overcoming adversity, not avoiding it. There’s no need to treat your employees like fragile goods; it’s essential to ensure that they have a good amount of challenge at work.
According to Karl Rohnke, one of the pioneers of adventure education, there are three zones of personal performance:
The stretch zone is where the most growth occurs; this is where your work challenges you without being completely overwhelmed.
Assigning tasks that help your employees to enter their respective stretch zones is crucial in assisting them to build their self-confidence. The more incremental advancements they make in the stretch zone, the better they’ll feel about themselves over time.
The corporate world generally construes employee rewards to mean financial compensation. This alone, though, isn’t enough. Managers need to be much more attentive in facilitating greater self-confidence.
Receiving recognition at work is instrumental in providing a boost to self-confidence. You can do this by:
People who have low self-esteem tend to hold back a lot; it takes a lot of vulnerability to open up about why they may feel incompetent or plagued by self-doubt.
Paying attention to your employees is even more crucial in this regard. It isn’t enough to just listen to what they’re telling you, though. Self-doubt is very often masked and carefully hidden. Practicing good empathy and active listening can help you connect to your employees on a deeper level so that you can coach them better.