There are many responsibilities in being a good leader, whether you’re a junior manager or a c-suite director. One of your key goals is to build confidence among your team, this is especially important if the company is changing direction or taking on a significant new project.
The American Management Association (AMA) states that there are seven key ways in which a leader can instil confidence. These are: acknowledging weaknesses but playing to people’s strengths, helping employees to identify their strengths and opportunities to capitalise on them, not making the assumption that people know how good they are, immediately acknowledging when someone does something very well, encouraging people to publicise their achievements, creating small victories and planning for the future. Individual employees with less confidence may require a more personal investment, tips for achieving this include building trust, giving specific feedback and encouraging them by making them a mentor.
Seven key areas for building confidence in your team
The AMA highlights that during employee evaluations there is often a greater focus on employee weaknesses and areas for improvement, than there is on their strengths. The focus of these evaluations should be to identify the employees’ strengths and align their responsibilities with the areas where they excel. This is especially important as not all employees will be aware of their strengths; there may be areas where they possess innate talents without appreciating fully how effective these skills are. This is closely linked to the notion of helping employees to identify key strengths and how they could be capitalised on; it may be that an employee has a hobby or responsibility outside of work in which they excel and this can be leveraged into their duties to great effect. Good timing is essential for effectively influencing employee confidence, so if a manager sees a job well done they should act upon it immediately whether informally or through whatever employee recognition programme the company uses. This does of course rely on managers being available to notice such achievements which will not always be the case; therefore, it can be useful to have a system in place where employees can publicly share their achievements so that key wins to not go unnoticed and successes can be built upon. Creating small victories can be key to maintaining employee moral especially if your team is working towards a larger goal, big goals can be scary and create tremendous pressure; if that goal is broken up into smaller steps it can feel more achievable and celebrating smaller goals is a great incentive towards the greater goal. Planning for the future can be a great way for employees to feel confident about any upcoming changes, especially if that planning includes a variety of contingencies; the more prepared employees are for a range of eventualities, the greater their confidence in meeting changes when they occur.
Building confidence in insecure individuals
Whilst the seven key points will broadly work in every setting, there is not ‘one size fits all’ as teams are made up of different individuals. It can be particularly challenging to get employees to perform at their best when they lack self-confidence. This is a challenge which the Harvard Business Review recently addressed; with a range of ideas for helping the employee change how they see themselves. Critically, the manager needs to be sure of their interpretation of insecurity and that they are not making this judgement when the real driving force is a personality quirk, a cultural or social difference, or a risk-averse nature. The way forward is to be honest with your employee (about how their behaviour limits the team and could be a block in their own career path) and to build trust with them over time so that they feel any feedback is coming from a feeling of care. Both expectations and feedback need to be specific and clearly explained. When clarifying expectations, you may need to provide more support in the short term so the employee can appreciate what is required from them and what resources and how much time they have available, the idea is that going forward they can be more proactive and autonomous when undertaking such tasks in the future. Key to boosting their confidence is creating opportunities for success and then give clear feedback on what enabled that success, by specifying each of the things they did well they are encouraged to similar successes in the future. It can also sometime help to pair colleagues together where they have complimentary skills so that the less confident employee can mentor another colleague in areas you perceive they are skilled at, in this way they learn to see that value for themselves. Of course, these ideas may not always work and if there is little improvement you may need to question whether it’s worth the continued investment or whether it would be better all round to re-assign the employee to a different role.