For financial managers struggling to advance, often the biggest career obstacle isn’t a dearth of opportunity but a lack of confidence. They simply do not have faith in their own ability to leap, to swing, to take a step into new and uncomfortable territory. People who lack confidence “constantly second-guess themselves and their abilities,” said Joy Medos, an executive coach based in Austria and supervisory board member for Gabor Shoes AG.
Confident people, meanwhile, “believe in their abilities and are not afraid to ask for help or learn something new,” she added. They are also not fearful of slipping up, “as they know that this is the right way to success and that they can learn out of failure”.
Self-assured professionals are also able to “speak with passion” about something they believe in, noted Cara Moore, a London-based executive and life coach. In addition, those who are confident demonstrate to others that they are capable of handling a job, according to Nick Dunnett, managing director for Germany and Switzerland at Robert Walters, a global recruitment consultancy.
The bottom line? Confidence can be key for professionals if they want to move up and on, get noticed, and be taken seriously. It is not enough simply to be competent. Confident people put themselves forward, earn the respect of others, often get promoted, and do not question their choices. Those who lack confidence often apologise too much, take a back seat, and possibly accept a salary that is far too low for their skillset. In short, they feel they are not good enough compared to others in their realm. This can impact their decision-making and career direction for years.
Many introverts possess confidence, while some outwardly exuberant extroverts do not, and some professionals holding top managerial posts may still lack confidence, but they continue to work on that shortcoming and succeed. The good news is that people who lack buoyancy can learn to be self-confident through training, reading, and practice.
So how does one build and project workplace poise? Medos, Moore, and Dunnett offer the following tips:
Know yourself. You cannot exude confidence if you don’t know yourself, your beliefs, your interests, or your values. Figure out your fortes, and look for opportunities where you can use these strengths and get noticed. “Find out who you are and what you stand for,” Medos said. “This will help you feel more comfortable when getting into any discussion, and you will be able to make the right choices.”
Avoid negative thoughts. Be aware of how you visualise things, because your thoughts can morph into reality. “Picture the end result of what you are trying to achieve,” Dunnett said. Manage your inner critic that says you cannot thrive. “You get what you focus on, and if you envision yourself being successful, you’re more likely to be successful,” added Moore.
Prepare and practise. Rehearse before a job interview, meeting, or presentation; review the subject matter at hand; and be geared up before entering into a situation where you will be observed by others. Work on becoming more competent in areas that spark your passion. “By feeling better prepared, you will automatically feel more confident,” Medos said.
Be aware of body and verbal language. Those who lack confidence may slouch, avoid eye contact, cross their arms, or express regret as a protective mechanism in the hope that they will not be judged. Avoid these behavioural traits. Smile, feel at ease, use a firm handshake, maintain eye contact, and stop apologising. Instead of saying, “I’m sorry I am late,” replace it with “Thank you for waiting,” Medos advised. “It will turn your mood from apologetic into grateful, from negative into positive.”
Find encouraging influencers. Avoid negative associates and “surround yourself with people who will give you assurance and confidence”, Dunnett said. Sharing your thoughts with friends can also give you “a more rational perspective”, said Moore.
Adopt a growth mindset. Cut yourself some slack if things do not go as planned. “Don’t ruminate when things go wrong,” Moore said. Know that you will learn from your mistakes and that these missteps will help you grow and develop. Take a leap of faith that you can accomplish the project at hand, get that promotion, or speak to an audience — because you can. Be confident.
— Cheryl Meyer is a freelance writer based in the US. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, an FM magazine senior editor, at Andrew.Adamek@aicpa-cima.com.