14/08/2013

By Gavin Meikle, Head Of Learning And Founder Of Inter-Activ


Recently I was talking about employee performance with a colleague and he shared some intriguing new British Research into this fascinating and pertinent subject. One of the things he said that caught my attention was around confidence and the fact that it is not as straightforward as people think. The study he was quoting identified two different types of confidence related to high performance. The first was an individual’s confidence in his or her own abilities, and the second was interpersonal confidence. What interested me was the research finding that two types of confidence aren’t automatically linked.

Some people can be confident in their own abilities to complete a task but may lack interpersonal confidence. Interpersonal confidence can be defined as, the extent to which we are prepared to assert ourselves, and also our preparedness to deal with challenge or ridicule.

Do any of your staff have high confidence in their ability to do their job, but low confidence in their ability to assert themselves and to deal with any challenges that arise?

Now consider the effects of this pattern on your team. A lack of assertiveness and an unwillingness to speak out for fear of challenge or ridicule from one or more “expert” members of the team can lead to serious problems and many expensive mistakes.

So, what can you, as a manager, do to help build interpersonal confidence?

Practice makes perfect: Generally speaking, the more we do something the better we get at it. Especially if we are encouraged to reflect in a balanced way on what went well. Avoiding expressing your thoughts and feelings, on the other hand, keeps us stuck. As managers, we should actively encourage our “shrinking wallflowers” to face their fears and have a go. I know many managers who have found that joining a local Toastmasters Club was a “safe” place to confront their fears and build their interpersonal confidence.

Constructive feedback builds confidence: Many human beings suffer as a result of an innate tendency to be over critical of themselves. If they do assert themselves, they reflect almost exclusively in what they didn’t do well, reinforcing the cycle of low interpersonal confidence.

Such people benefit enormously from receiving specific constructive feedback. Feedback that focuses their attention on a) what they did well, and b) what they could do to be even better next time. I believe that managers have a duty to their staff to help them develop by shining the spotlight of attention on what they do well. This isn’t just a “nice” thing to do. There is a wealth of data that demonstrates how a more positive, strengths based feedback culture delivers significant bottom line benefits.

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In conclusion: Confidence is essential for high performance, but there is more to it than initially meets the eye. Confidence in one’s own abilities to do the job does not necessarily automatically bestow one with the confidence to express ourselves assertively. Thankfully there are simple steps that managers can take to assist those with high ability confidence to grow their interpersonal confidence to.