The Cyclicality of Confidence

Most of my last few weeks have been tied up in various meetings.  The unique part has been that in those meetings my role has been quite different depending on the topic and the participants.

After one of those meetings, I reflected on how I’ve changed my personal interactions over the years and how I’ve had to adapt based on the topic or individuals involved on the other end.

For me, the intriguing part is this process never ends; the topics and people involved are always evolving. After some thought I believe the cycle looks something like the following:

Step 1: Internally feeling a low level of confidence.  In this case, it’s likely you are in the room with several subject matter experts or professionals who are more experienced than you. The best course of action is to be an avid listener and note taker.  Learn from those around you.

Step 2: Demonstrating externally that you belong, but not quite feeling the same assurance internally.  If you listen and take a lot of notes, the odds are you’ll begin to understand the problem and ask the right questions.

Step 3: You begin to engage with the answers. Instead of just asking questions, you are now able to build upon answers given to the questions you ask and build your own internal insights.

Step 4: Giving others the confidence they need to feel as though they belong.  This skill can be broken into two different parts. The first is explaining a complicated subject in a way where others feel as though they’ve became an expert just by listening to you speak. The second, helping others see their own insights but had not yet realize it.

Very few people make it to step four and it’s one of the skills I feel is needed to lead a company or large team.  It is a truly special strength to instill confidence in others especially when the topic is complicated or the stakes are large.

One of my favorite sayings is “if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”  Get in the right rooms, listen, take notes, engage, and help others see they belong in the room too.

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