How to … build self-confidence

by 28 Nov 2006

Why is it important?

How you feel about yourself has a huge impact on what you do in life and how you do it, especially when it comes to your career. Being self-confident means you are far more likely to aspire to greater things, take risks, overcome challenges, grow and succeed.

Those who lack self-confidence and self-belief tend to stay in their comfort zone and often remain in jobs that no longer challenge them.

While there is nothing wrong with finding a level you’re comfortable at –and remaining there if it makes you happy – clinging on to limiting beliefs can mean you miss out on opportunities and enjoyable experiences that help to further build confidence. You’ll never know what you are capable of until you try.

Where should I start?

Carry out a self-confidence inventory to pinpoint what may be restricting your self-confidence. Do you know where you can and can’t go? Are there particular aspects of your job that you feel insecure about? Reflect on the possible root causes and how you could take steps to build your confidence in these areas. This may involve training in a skill you feel needs developing.

“By analysing the constraints on your confidence as honestly and precisely as possible, you can establish more appropriate development strategies,” says John Hackston, managing consultant at business psychologists OPP.

“Also, seek feedback from others about your strengths and development needs and see whether this corresponds with the areas you lack confidence in.”

Gradually stretch yourself

Once you have established current levels of self-confidence, you then need to determine the confidence levels you’d like to achieve.

From this, formulate an action plan and outline the necessary steps to reach your goals. Make sure the goals are realistic, attainable and incremental, as achieving small triumphs along the way will allow you feel good about your performance and to gradually gain confidence as your capabilities develop in these areas.

If the task or project in front of you seems particularly daunting, break it down into more manageable chunks, as the chances are that you will have successfully handled at least some similar component tasks previously. And remember that once a new situation has been mastered it is one that you can repeat again.

Take your lead from others

Choose someone with whom you have a good rapport and respect to be a mentor. They will help to instill within you the belief that you have the capacity to succeed. They will have had similar experiences and will be able to provide tailored feedback as well as eliminate nagging doubts as you confront new challenges.

Watch, listen and learn from what confident peers and colleagues do and how they do it. Which of their traits or behaviours can you take on board that will portray you as more confident?

Also, use in-house development programmes and other training events as an opportunity to see how your confidence levels stand up against other managers.

And talk to as many self-confident people as you can about how they acquired their assurance, to discover whether there is anything else you could – or should – be doing.

Monitor and review your progress

It is crucial to regularly evaluate your progress, which can be difficult to do alone.

Again, a mentor will help with this, while another route is to garner opinions from managers, colleagues and subordinates via a 360-degree feedback exercise. Conduct one when you embark on your action plan and then again as you progress.

For more information

The Ultimate Book of Confidence Tricks: Boost Your Confidence to an All-time High. Ros Taylor, Vermilion, ISBN 0091884578

Second opinion building up self-confidence

John Hackston, managing consultant, OPP

Do you think, generally speaking, that the HR profession is confident enough?

The HR profession is in a difficult position - it needs to raise its profile to be accepted at board level. Having a confident approach will present the profession in a more favourable light.

At a recent seminar of the Oxford Forum, HR guru David Ulrich advised people to make sure their ideas were in the meeting room even if they weren't. HR professionals need self-confidence to develop this and other skills that will help raise the profile of the profession.

What advice would you offer anyone who is not quite sure whether they are sufficiently confident?

If you are not sure whether or not you are sufficiently confident, it is likely that you would like to be more confident. Consider working with an executive coach. They will be able to design a more individual approach and work closely with you to develop your self-confidence.

You also need to take responsibility for your development and try to put yourself in situations that you may find challenging, but that will enable you to practice your self-confidence.

What are the do's and don'ts of developing self-confidence?

Do consider using psychometric tools as these will help you to improve your self-awareness and develop a plan carefully targeted to your individual needs.Don't think that it is something that can be done for you. You will need to take an active role and seize opportunities to practice.

Top three tips?

Identify what might be restricting your self-confidence. Create a tailored development plan - this may or may not involve an executive coach. If not, consider finding a mentor who can provide added motivation and act as an impartial sounding board. Evaluate your success - consider any outstanding needs and how best to achieve these.

By Scott Beagrie. Courtesy of Personnel Today magazine. www.personneltoday.com

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