Building Confidence and Delivering Performance

Bragging, blaming and bravado as well as solitude and holding back can all be symptoms hiding a lack of confidence. These behaviours can negatively impact relationships and performance, but perhaps more harming is that low confidence can impair our ability to change, or to take on and complete new projects, acting as a roadblock to success.

Leaders therefore have a responsibility to help build their team members’ confidence so they can be successful, but what is the best way to do this? Katy Milkman, a professor at Wharton, states that a simple way to build someone’s confidence is to ask them for advice.

In her podcast How to Build Confidence she digs into the benefits of helping others and highlights how self-doubt affects our ability to take action. The science behind these common-sense concepts lends credence to leaders who find ways for their team members to mentor, teach and coach others. Frank Oppenheimer’s quote “The best way to learn is to teach” plays a role in Milkman’s suggestion that providing people with opportunities to advise others is a way to build their confidence, as does the more subtle aspect of our natural tendency to take our own advice.

Research shows that if we don’t take our own advice, even when it is directed to others, we create an internal friction that feels like hypocrisy. So, the benefits of advising and teaching others includes a short-term boost in self-confidence though sharing expertise, and a long-term boost in confidence and performance by ensuring the advisor follows their own advice more diligently. A supporting study showed that students who gave study advice to others at the start of a semester scored higher on their own marks through the semester. Not huge increases in marks, but measurable, and that after only giving 10 minutes of advice one time at the begging of the term.

Another element Milkman discusses is how to manage challenging objectives. Research done by Wharton and Cornell indicate that you need to give yourself an occasional free pass (emergency reserve) for when things don’t go as planned. Failure or missing is OK occasionally, especially when a difficult goal is set. This leads to better performance than those that don’t employ this strategy. It’s a matter of recognizing that stuff happens, and sometimes there is nothing you can do.

Finding opportunities for your team members to mentor and teach others is an essential element of helping with their development. We also believe that leaders who employ a coaching style of leadership help to build their team members’ confidence through the coaching process. Coaches allow the coachee to produce their own insights and solutions to their issues and opportunities, giving them the opportunity to advise themselves and therefore gain the boost in self confidence and performance.