The President & COO of a bank asked me—”How do we teach our senior bankers to be more confident with CEOs?”
I suggested a five-step process that begins by asking a different question:
1. Are you confident you can tie your shoes? Was Einstein a confident knitter? No one is confident in all contexts and no one lacks confidence. They only lack confidence in a certain context. For instance, someone might be 100% confident challenging the ideas of a four-year old, but feel less confident with a CEO. The fast track to unstoppable confidence is to train your brain to see them the same.
2. Fear and lacking confidence are different. Most of what people call lacking confidence is their hidden way of saying, “Mommy, I’m scared.” You might be the best natural born hitter in the world, but if you are terrified to stand at the plate, you won’t get up and play. To solve the confidence, solve the fear.
3. The answer is always preparation. Any fear or lack of confidence in any context is solved with preparation. It’s rational to lack confidence with a CEO when you are unprepared and risk looking silly. A Navy SEAL wouldn’t feel confident jumping HALO if he hadn’t done the prep. The less confident you are, the more you want to prepare, including physical and mental rehearsal.
4. Repetition, repetition. Competence builds confidence. You don’t get confident by looking at yourself in the mirror and telling yourself you are. You develop confidence when you know you are competent, which comes through one thing—proving it so through successful reference experiences. When you pull the chute at 2,000 feet and you safely land on the ground, that reference experience is the bedrock of confidence.
5. Keep doing it. All that matters to building confidence is to keep doing it. Get people who lack competence and confidence to be willing to keep taking action. Over time they build up the reference experiences that prove to them they are confident.
And guess what?
They are confident not because someone spent years trying to teach them to be confident, but because through their actions they have made it so.