5 Tips to Building Confidence in Your Employees

Build confidence in employees

Leading an employee with low self-confidence can be extremely frustrating. You can see their potential. They have what it takes. If only they’d jump in and go for it, they’d achieve great things!

Taking them by the shoulders, giving them a good shake and shouting the truth at them is very tempting! You may have even tried it! But it’s likely to be as effective as whipping a horse that’s still in the stable.

So what can we do to help them release this potential? Here are 5 tips to help you on your way.

1. Ensure role clarity

The best place to start when employees are holding themselves back is to ensure that they understand and are capable of doing what’s required. This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to make assumptions that can prove to be costly.

If you’ve ever played the childhood game of ‘Chinese Whispers’ you’ll know how easily information can be misunderstood. We often make the assumption that the receiver of our message will store information in the same way as us.

In reality, this is rarely the case because each and every brain is unique and will interpret information in wildly different ways.

Clarity brings certainty and greater efficiency.

By asking lots of open questions (with warmth so it doesn’t feel like an interrogation!), we can listen for the accuracy of their understanding as they describe it in their own words. Ensure clarity in areas such as the following:

  • Do they have a clear understanding of their areas of responsibility and how they relate to others within the organisation?
  • Do you both have the same understanding of what high performance looks like?
  • Do they have the knowledge they require? Would they benefit from a training or mentoring program?
  • Are you both clear about your relationship and how you can best communicate with and support each other?
  • Have they formed other healthy relationships necessary for carrying out their work?
  • What other support do they need to be successful in their role?

2. Tap into strengths

People with low self-confidence are often all too aware of their weaknesses and far less conscious of their strengths.

Research has shown again and again that we do our best work when we are engaging our strengths – we’re more successful, more energised and happier. By identifying your employees’ strengths and naming them when you see them in action, you can help them tap into a precious inner reserve of positive energy, freeing them from the debilitating effects of self-consciousness.

3. Set them up for success with small wins

Our self-beliefs are developed over time, beginning with our first experiences after birth. By the time we reach adulthood, our beliefs about ourselves have been with us for a really long time!

Our words of encouragement and expressions of belief in our employees are critical. But realistically, they’re no match for a lifetime of learning to the contrary. Far more powerful is to help the individual to experience something different.

Set them up with tangible proof that they have what it takes.

There are 3 components to successfully creating this kind of achievement experience for your employee.

Firstly, work with them to create achievable goals. These can’t be big meaty stretch goals that will intimidate even the boldest among us. And they can’t be too easy either, or they’ll miss out on that feeling of achievement that you’re trying to create.

We’re aiming for something in the middle – a little bit challenging, but something you feel certain they can handle.

The second component of setting them up for success is to create the kind of environment that will support them in this direction. Again, we need a balance. Too much autonomy and they’re likely to sink. Not enough and they’ll once again miss out on the opportunity to challenge their self-limiting beliefs.

Tune in to the individual needs of each employee and encourage open and honest communication.

Finally, we need to close the loop and ensure that the maximum amount of learning occurs as a result of the successful achievement of the goal. Give lots of genuine, positive feedback (see the next point for how to construct powerful feedback).

4. Provide lots of positive feedback

As I’ve already mentioned, people with low confidence are usually already very good at recognising their faults and mistakes. And although we do at times need to talk about areas for improvement, to help them on their journey towards healthier levels of confidence, we need to bring their attention towards what they are doing well.

Challenge yourself to give lots of positive feedback. Verbal, face-to-face feedback is very powerful, but you might also send emails, surprise them with a written note on their desk or recognise them publicly in a team meeting or company newsletter. Be creative. The critical thing to keep in mind is that it must be genuine.

One of the best ways to destroy trust and respect in a relationship is to be inauthentic.

So make sure you mean it!

Giving high quality positive feedback is a bit of an art. To be most powerful it needs to be specific and constructed so as to stimulate new thought processes.  Including recognition of the individual’s strengths adds even greater learning potential.

Here’s an example of 3 levels of positive feedback. All of them are valuable, but the higher the level of feedback given, the more powerful it is.

Level 1 (Generic): “You’ve done a great job on this project!”

Level 2 (Specific): “Thanks for all the hard work you put into this project. You’ve produced a clear and concise report with valuable insights about where we can take this from here.”

Level 3 (Specific + Strengths): “Thanks for all the hard work you put into this project. You’ve really tapped into one of your greatest strengths, creative thinking, to produce a report that’s clear and concise with valuable insights about where we can take this from here.”

Better still, encourage your employees to identify what they did well, adding to their comments only once they’ve had time to carry out their own reflection. Allowing them to do the thinking for themselves further encourages long-term changes to their belief-systems.

5. Find a skilled coach / mentor

It’s difficult to put a dollar value on what a good coach can produce.

Essentially, low self-confidence is a result of unhelpful thoughts and feelings. These thoughts and feelings then produce behaviour that’s less than optimal – for example, withdrawal, people-pleasing, approval-seeking, attention-seeking, bragging, timidity and indecisiveness. Purely focusing at the level of behaviour change is unlikely to lead to sustained improvements.

A skilled coach can facilitate changes in the way we think, leading to more rapid performance improvements that last.

It’s important to find the right coach. And the right coach may be different for each individual. Look for somebody who is authentic, compassionate and a good listener, but who will also challenge, encourage and hold your employee accountable.

It can be beneficial to identify 2 or 3 coaches who fit this description and allow your employee to choose the one they feel they connect with best.

Building confidence takes time and plenty of patience. But the effort required to provide this support will likely be an investment that pays off in time, resulting in better performance, greater effort, higher levels of engagement, improved relationships and enhanced wellbeing.

Now that’s worth taking action!

Give this amazing gift to your employee and the benefits will also be yours, your teams and your organisations.

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