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How to be more confident at work: advice from a chief confidence officer

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It’s no secret confidence has a seat at the head of the proverbial conference room table. It’s embedded in every success-oriented philosophy from “be the CEO of your own career” to “success is not final.” But it’s a nuanced trait. In most scenarios, confidence is admirable—even necessary. But put it in a slightly different context and it can quickly become seen as brash and arrogant. So how do you bring confidence to work and use it to inspire teams and maintain culture?

Alyssa Dver, co-founder and Chief Confidence Officer at the American Confidence Institute shared her perspective during a recent AMA (Ask Me Anything) in the Talent Optimization Nation. You can read the full transcript here, or check out the key takeaways below.

What creates confidence?

It can often seem as though some individuals are born with more confidence than others. We’ve all encountered these people; they’re more vocal in meetings and in asking for what they want, and they’re seemingly undaunted by risk or failure. But there’s no data supporting a genetic predisposition to confidence. In fact, confidence is lowest between the ages of 18-35 and peaks after age 50. If there was a true genetic component to it, wouldn’t it peak earlier in life to better serve us in the working world?

“Most people believe confidence is something you’re born with or lucky to get. None of that is true,” said Dver. “Scientifically, we know that confidence can be developed and how to do it. We also know anyone can not only build it for themselves, but they can also learn how to give confidence to others.” 

employees high five

What builds confidence?

Since confidence can be developed, there are tried and true ways to build it—and kill it. According to Dver, the three biggest confidence busters are regret, rejection, and failure. This goes for individuals who tend to be less confident, as well as those who have soundly established the trait. 

A simple mindset shift can be the key to unlocking confidence. Often, fear of failure inhibits confidence; however, failure can actually reorient us toward success. Recognizing failure as part of the process makes it less daunting and less likely to diminish confidence. 

Dver also recommends keeping a “confidence collection” of items like photos, emails, awards, and even LinkedIn endorsements that reinforce positive, confidence-building thoughts and memories. When confidence is tested by a stressful or uncomfortable situation, having these mementos top of mind can make it less intimidating and easier to navigate. 

Additionally, identifying the “why” behind confidence can reinforce it when these uncomfortable situations arise. Reflecting on why you feel confident helps clarify and empower the feeling so when it’s challenged, there’s a foundation to stand on. 

What kills confidence?

It doesn’t take a chief confidence officer to understand why confidence at work is a key success driver. But fostering confidence in employees is often overlooked. Dver pointed to two work scenarios that are confidence busters:

  1. Lack of clarity around what constitutes quality work. An employee constantly seeking validation—and not necessarily receiving it—will be less confident in taking ownership, sharing work, and asking for manager feedback, which in turn impacts productivity and performance. 
  2. Misalignment with a job or manager. This fundamental flaw can cause employees to feel disempowered and ultimately unconfident. Job and manager misalignment are two of the four forces of employee disengagement. Low levels of engagement cost an organization time and money in lost productivity and turnover, in addition to eroding company culture. 

To combat these scenarios, Dver recommended managers take these steps:

  1. Walk the walk. Managers should be role models who lead by example, then commend when employees follow suit.
  2. Be specific. Set concrete goals with measurable milestones, then coach employees toward those milestones. Along the way, foster confidence by recognizing small wins.
  3. Be an active listener. Acknowledging an employee’s feedback, goals, and concerns builds trust which, in turn, fosters confidence.

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In her role as chief confidence officer, Dver said her goal is to “measurably improve and sustain the diverse human appeal of a company both inside and outside.” To achieve this, she audits employees, customers, partners, and investors to identify perspectives on existing culture and gaps to the desired culture. From there, Dver continuously measures culture and provides the tools to empower employees to take ownership over it—including Culture Councils, mentorship programs, conflict escalation processes, and constant communication. All of this, she noted, is essential in developing and fostering confident employees who are motivated and proud of their work. 

“When people at the company are genuinely confident, it radiates to every stakeholder, making the cost of sales, talent acquisition, and capital fundraising lower,” Dver said. “Subsequently, profits increase and people want to work at, buy from, and invest in the entity. Thus, why wouldn’t every company want to have a CCO?”

Confidence starts with leadership.

It’s easy to see how confidence is inextricably linked to employee engagement and productivity. Building confident teams starts with senior leaders and managers. Inspire confidence in your employees and open the door for engagement and business results to thrive.

Learn more about confidence in the workplace from Alyssa Dver in the podcast, In Confidence.

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