If confidence is the belief in our own abilities to attain success without arrogance, then leaders should be hungry for a team of confident employees. These employees reach outside of their comfort zones and take risks. In today’s world, the risks you take help measure your success.
Rather than a skill we do or don’t have, confidence is a practice crafted and honed over time through trying, failing, and learning. Employees need an environment where they feel safe enough to try something new so they can develop the belief in themselves needed to take on bigger tasks. With more faith in themselves, they push harder to achieve their greater potential which benefits the company.
Here are three ways you can promote a company culture of confidence for employee and business success.
1. BUILD COMFORT AROUND FEEDBACK
Straightforward and timely feedback builds confidence. Be honest when evaluating an employee’s strengths and weaknesses so they never have to worry what their manager really might be thinking of them.
There’s no need to tear people down when doing this. Instead, build up how much more they could achieve through their strengths with constant learning and improvement. Confidence begins by becoming more self-aware to help employees create a self-assured mindset around their unique strengths and understand how this mindset builds a better team.
While only 7% of interpreted information comes from the messages we say, people can assign up to 38% of meaning through tone. Even the most brilliant leader will find that speaking in a sharp, pompous tone will cause others to resist hearing their thoughts, strategies, or feedback.
Instead, use a calm, strong, and deliberate tone to avoid ambiguities or prevent coming across as hostile. Sometimes we speak more harshly than intended, which can come off as disrespectful. If someone responds to your feedback negatively, take a minute to reflect on your tone before you continue.
Feedback should also be personalized. While you don’t need to be friends with everyone, you should at least treat employees as people with feelings and interests. Get to know who they are beyond just an employee. With greater awareness of the person who exists outside of the office, leaders can craft better feedback that’s empathetic to the receiver. Instead of adopting one way of managing, adapt to the needs of each employee to build their individual confidence.
2. GIVE THEM WHAT THEY NEED TO DO THEIR JOB WELL
If you want a team of confident people who believe they can do their job, give them the tools they need to do that job well. While this does not necessarily mean that everything will be perfect, it is a part of developing confidence.
For example, when our company began growing, we gave product management and procurement full authority to buy what they believed they needed to do their jobs and ended up with a very high inventory. This allowed us to collect feedback and evaluate our spending, further developing confidence while providing the necessary data to back up future decisions that otherwise depended on tribal knowledge. Now, with this feedback, we can spend again to invest in developing these areas.
New employees also need proper training to work effectively and feel confident in handling their responsibilities. I used to say, “Practices are things that guide you and your behaviors, but policies are excuses to stand behind.” But favoring practices over policies made me resist developing important training processes that are now becoming more critical as we grow.
These kinds of policies and processes are simply documentation of day-to-day business to create day-to-day tools that allow you to scale. In addition to training options for new employees (such as watching others model scenarios they might experience), it is important to take tribal knowledge in new product development and turn information inside people’s heads into a documented process. It may take more work, but with established training processes, your ability to effectively integrate new people grows along with the organization.
3. COMMUNICATE YOUR VISION
Only with a well-communicated vision from an organization’s leader can an employee pursue that vision with confidence. Beyond simple awareness of the vision and strategy, employees should understand why the leader has this vision and how this strategy intends to guide the company. Not everyone will always agree with your vision, but at least make enough of an effort for everyone to clearly understand it.
Vision, strategy, and execution are part of what I call our “Now of Age” plan, which we communicate not only to our employees but to our customers and investors. We boldly proclaim its core elements across our website because we’re not afraid of our competitors knowing where we’re headed. We’ve been shouting our intentions to grow from the rooftops and have made clear that we’re gathering the resources to do it, but we had to make a lot of guesstimates on products and materials along the way.
I watched people on our team reach outside of their comfort zones to make this happen. We grew 90% this year, surpassing our annual goal, and already I can see this achievement reflected in the confidence of my employees.
Confident teams represent confident companies, and confident companies make money. Leaders should be responsible for building a culture that inspires these mindsets. Find ways to let employees feel assured in their decisions, abilities, and skills so they feel comfortable speaking up, sharing ideas, and solving problems. Give them the tools and freedom to be creative, try new things, and innovate. The more opportunities you create for employees to develop their confidence, the happier and more productive they will be.
Cheri Beranek is the President and CEO of Clearfield, providing optical-fiber management and connectivity solutions across North America.