Each December I’m amazed at how quickly the year has gone by – and 2018 has gone by in quite a flash! A wonderfully busy and productive flash but I can’t believe we’ve already reached that time of the year when we traditionally reflect back, plan ahead and set new goals.
This time of year can be a funny one for energy, mood and productivity. A lot of us (like me!) are utterly stacked with a huge workload, but our bodies and minds are desperate to wind down and we’re having to find that extra push to get us over the finish line. This can leave us feeling exhausted and unfulfilled over the Christmas period and not in the best mindset to prepare fully for the year ahead. IMO, December isn’t the best time for goal setting (and I’ve written about why in another post), but it should be a time to focus on getting yourself into the best mindset possible.
Today I’d like to share with you some of my favourite tips on how to ensure your confidence levels are in the best place to tackle 2019. They’ve been the focus of keynotes and talks I’ve delivered to a range of corporate clients, who’ve all reported that ‘more confidence’ is number one on their people’s wish list. This isn’t a short blog (these tips aren’t quick fixes). So get yourself a cup of something yummy, put your feet up and take a read…
So what is confidence anyway?
Well, let’s start by acknowledging that confidence is not found on a driftwood quote
(I know, wouldn’t it be nice if it just was?!), it’s certainly not found in a bottle (although that first glass may fizz you up, it won’t keep you there for long) and it’s most definitely NOT found after you’ve manned up… or grown a pair… or put your big girl pants on (all expressions which I absolutely loathe!).
Although you may look around you and see swathes of confident people wafting around being #fabulous, you may take some comfort from knowing that no one is inherently confident. We can’t be confident ALL the time. Confidence is a decision, a choice, something you create for yourself. It’s a habit, a behaviour, a trait you nurture over time.
How can you create confidence?
In my ‘journey into confidence’ (which almost felt like a driftwood quote, apologies) what I have found is that are six tools that work. Tools which I store in my Confidence Kitbag and use all the time. And here they are:
- VISION: Know where you’re going and why
If you’re crystal clear about what you want and why, you will feel more confident, look more confident and everything you do will contribute towards that vision.
We all get the theory and yet, how often do you get to the end of the day and wonder what on earth you did? You know that feeling when you get home, someone asks you how your day went and you say, ‘OMG, soooo busy, reaaaaallllllly stressful’ and they say ‘OMG tell me about it….’ and it becomes a competition around who had the most busy/stressful day? Was that your goal? Was that your vision?
The reason this happens is because we get sucked up in the vortex of reactivity. Governed by other people’s demands, drowning in an inbox from hell, spending endless hours in meetings, it can be easy for days to go by without feeling like you’ve accomplished much.
So, what can you do? Start by understand your why– the more you understand and connect with your personal motivation, the easier you’ll find it to prioritise your time and decide what to say yes/no to. Set bold goals: maybe not the Big Hairy Audacious Goals which Jim Collins talks about in Good to Great but the Big Audacious Goals (who needs hairy?); not the easy next step, but two/three steps away, so you can ‘live into’ that. And then be proactive: book that course, schedule those 121s, have that difficult conversation, now.
- SELF-AWARENESS: work out how you’re going to get there
When you know where you’re going, you then need to understand how you’re going to get there. Self-awareness – and the self-acceptance that comes with it – bring about an unshakeable inner confidence which is unmistakable. This is about understanding your strengths and weaknesses, what your brilliant at, what you take for granted, how you let yourself down, the factors that can undermine your self-confidence and what you need to counter them.
How do you increase self-awareness? In my experience, the most effective routes are through feedback and self-reflection. When you’ve performed a task, ask people you trust to tell you what you did well and what you can do to improve. Build a virtual library of times when you’ve excelled. And when you’re feeling low, go to that library, rent out your Confidence Boxset and binge watch it until you feel better.
- Network: build relationships with people who’ll support you along the way
It’s very easy to get stuck behind your desk, the valiant keyboard warrior, getting stuff done, firing off emails but not actually engaging with the people around you. I find that women especially will deprioritise relationships, continually juggling multiple priorities, rushing around and not making time to create valuable connections.
Relationships are what will help you achieve your goals; taking the time to build strong and wide-reaching networks will mean you won’t be doing it alone. So what can you do?
Start by nurturing relationship with the people around you. Schedule regular meetings with your manager and colleagues, people who will appreciate and reflect back your best qualities. Identify people you aspire to, join tribes of people who lift you up, be brave, strike up conversations with people you’ve never met and find ways to support one another. You never know, you may actually start enjoying it..!
- VISIBILITY: stand out from the crowd
Although it would be lovely if results spoke for themselves, I’m afraid they don’t. You could be the best XYZ in the world, but if people don’t know about it, you may as well be living under a rock. It can be really challenging for people who don’t naturally like talk about themselves to do their own PR. Women especially are brought up to not show off or take up too much space. So what can you do?
If you want to be confident, you need to see yourself as confident and provide people with the evidence to see you that way too. Confidence is a choice and you need to be prepared with all the information/ words/examples to prove it to yourself and others. In my personal branding masterclasses I encourage people to think about themselves as though they were a product. So consider: What is your brand?What do you represent? What’s your function? What are you features and benefits? What makes you different/better? What’s your USP? How do other people see you?
- RESILIENCE: Be tough and soften up
There are times when your confidence can be knocked. Events happen that are out of your control: maybe you’re criticised or hurt, publicly ridiculed, or something you put your heart and soul into and expected would happen didn’t – like a promotion or pitch win. There are also life events that can seriously tarnish your sense of identity and related confidence: getting married, having babies, caring for someone who’s sick, a bereavement, getting sick yourself, a changing work status.
Through coaching people during challenging times, I’ve found that different resilience strategies should be used depending on the knockback. These vary from being tough, like a diamond, or soft, like a bouncy ball. So which to choose, when?
Choose tough…if you’re the kind of person who really cares what other people think and prioritises being liked over being respected. Identify occasions when you can say ‘no’, rather than always saying ‘yes’, set strong boundaries so that people don’t take advantage. Don’t always be the one who makes the tea.
Choose soft…if you’re the kind of person who thinks they can handle it all alone and then realises, when the wheels fall off, that they can’t. This isn’t about wearing your heart on your sleeve 24/7, it’s about giving yourself permission to be vulnerable and accessing the help you need. It’s amazing how much warmth you will receive and the difference it will make to your ability to bounce back. And be the one who lets others make the tea for them.
- ASSERTIVENESS: claim your right to be heard
There are many ways we can undermine our confidence through our communication style. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that to ‘be good’, we need to be quiet, sit still, not answer back or interrupt. This will affect how we contribute to conversations: we’ll say say ‘yes’ too often and don’t say ‘no’ enough, we let others speak first and allow ourselves to be interrupted. Some people will play the self-deprecation card, when they minimise their own qualities to make others feel and look better.
There are loads of tips on confident communication in my other blogs. To develop gravitas, which will ensure you command respect, get taken seriously and claim your right to be heard, you need to develop a confident mindset, strong body language and powerful voice.
For a confident mindset:think: I am your equal; seek out the win/win and visualise yourself communication confidently.
For a strong body language: learn how to stand and the subtle changes you can make in your gestures, facial expressions and eye contact to convey assertiveness.
For a powerful voice: learn how to breathe into your diaphragm, practice speaking low and slow, play around with volume and intonation to ensure you’re heard.
I encourage you to try out the tips from my Confidence Kitbag because they are far more successful if you apply them, rather than just read about them. For now, I’ll leave you with this: we are all at our best when we’re feeling confident. Confidence is a choice, a precious jewel which needs to be nurtured and polished. We can all work together to boost our collective confidence through valuing our strengths and exchanging gold-dust feedback.
I wish you every confidence in 2019.