Investing in employees is about more than providing the latest training, in-office resources, and benefits. Companies that take the time to focus on professional development benefit significantly from a more confident, capable, and engaged team. A recent conversation with a group of men and women during a talk on confidence took an interesting turn when a male CEO asked how to help his female employees display more confidence in the workplace. As a coach, I asked the two female employees accompanying the CEO their opinion. The women were not comfortable enough in the group setting to share their opinions, so I offered some thoughts to consider.
Confidence Is Essential In The Workplace
The truth is, you can have a team filled with experience, extensive educational backgrounds, and amazing ideas, but without confidence, your enterprise may never benefit from such a deep talent bench. Consider these steps to unlock higher levels of confidence among your team members.
- Ask Questions: This might seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised by how many people miss the mark on this. During your next one-on-one meeting, ask them what they need from you and/or how you can provide them with meaningful support. This will likely be such an unexpected inquiry that you may not get any suggestions the first time. Ask again and try different approaches rather than believing there is simply nothing you can do to support them.
- Create an Equitable Environment: Recognize that office politics are a reality of corporate work-life! All these things mean something: equity in titles, office spaces (location/proximity to the boss, size, furniture style, etc.), how much time is spent with the boss in the office, on the phone, and offsite, parking spaces, and other perks. Doing your best to bring a shared experience among peers can send powerful messages to everyone within an organization, especially if there has been a history of inequality.
- Be an Advocate: Offer employees stretch assignments that provide opportunities to explore, grow, gain visibility, get exposure, and learn new things. Ask if they are interested and have capacity, instead of making an assumption about this. If the assignment is truly outside their area of expertise, be prepared to engage through teaching, regular progress check-ins, and/or assigning them a mentor.
- Be a Sponsor: Nudge employees to apply for roles outside of their existing comfort zone. If they don’t believe they are qualified, meet with them to discuss their qualifications, their “perceived” gaps for the role, and why you believe they are “right” for the role. Help them connect the transferability of their skills and experience to the prospective role. Conduct a mock interview with them to prepare for the types of questions they will likely encounter. Make introductions to the hiring manager, and share your thoughts on why they would be a great fit for the role.
- Be a Source of Honest Feedback: When you are concerned about being faced with a negative response to feedback, you are more likely to keep valuable insights about how they can become more successful to yourself. This doesn’t help anyone. In fact, it hurts everyone. Feedback is intended to provide insights and perceptions into how they can improve. Keep in mind, most people come to work to make a positive difference and add value. If their work isn’t adding value and they aren’t making a positive difference, they need to know immediately (not once a year in their performance evaluation or when you finally give up on them, because you can’t trust them any longer).
- Offer Positive Verbal Encouragement: Tell them when you see them doing something great rather than simply noticing and assuming they already know how well they are doing. You’d be surprised how many people value and appreciate knowing their boss noticed. It can be the energy boost that gets them through a tough day (we truly never know how challenging a person’s life might be outside the office), and your kind words can further motivate them to be an even more productive member of the team.
- Engage in Active Observation: Notice when employees excel and share your observations with specific examples. Everyone has unique talents and if you pay attention, you will see the unique talents of every member of your team. Whether it’s strategizing, listening, facilitating, collaborating, detail-orientation, gaining alignment, getting buy-in, socializing ideas, client engagement, follow-up/follow-through, communicating, or something else, everyone does something well that makes a difference and adds value to the organization.
Increased Employee Confidence Benefits All
The entire organization benefits from a more confident team. Confident employees are more willing to share their knowledge and expertise with other team members, and are more likely to be innovative, speak up, and actively engage in solving workplace challenges. These behaviors ultimately contribute to organizational success.