By Elaine Cercado
“Self-Confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings.” ~ Samuel Johnson
Last week, I was talking with a friend who asked my advice on how she could be more confident in the recommendations and decisions she gives at work. Our conversation made me reflect back on those times when I felt most confident with my ideas, decisions and actions, and those times when I felt least confident.
The times when I showed confidence, which I define as “contagious conviction”, people believed in me, rejoiced with me, and gave their wholehearted support and commitment. In many occasions, they actually led to victorious moments. In my first job as an account manager in an IT multinational company, I delivered my first internal presentation to our senior sales management team with so much conviction, I remember getting an enthusiastic applause and many “well done” remarks. When I progressed and became a regional sales and business manager, in another multinational company, I started engaging senior leadership teams of our regional clients. My confidence during client presentations and negotiations carried me through tough and complex situations and led me to many successful deals – and a successful regional management career.
On the other hand, the times when I doubted myself – and showed that – were the times people doubted me too. Consequently, the “buy-in” and support would be half-hearted and tentative, and the results would take longer or would take a different path, and worse, would turn unsuccessful. There was a study from Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Behavioral Decision Research, which showed that confidence would win over accuracy when it came to earning the trust of other people. The research, by Don Moore of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, showed that “we prefer advice from a confident source, even to the point that we are willing to forgive a poor track record. Moore argues that in competitive situations, this can drive those offering advice to increasingly exaggerate how sure they are. And it spells bad news for scientists who try to be honest about gaps in their knowledge.” I do not encourage at all being overly confident, as I believe in remaining authentic. Authenticity is a key aspect in gaining and radiating confidence.
Be H-A-P-P-Y: the Formula to Radiate Confidence!
- Stay HUNGRY for knowledge, learning, participation, networking, experience and excellence. The hunger is your source of power, as it drives curiosity and courage. Hunger is rooted on your passion. According to Stephen Covey in book The 8th Habit, “Passion comes from the heart and is manifested as optimism, excitement, emotional connection, enthusiasm and determination. It fires unrelenting drive.” Aristotle also said: “Where talents and the needs of the world cross, therein lies your vocation.”…You could say “Therein lies your passion, your voice” – that voice energizes your life and gives you your drive. It is the fuel at the heart of vision and discipline. It keeps you at it when everything else may say quit.
- ACCEPT who you are. Celebrate your strengths. Know your limits, and try to improve where there are gaps. Discern your purpose by defining your mission and vision in life. To find your mission, you have to know yourself. To know your self, it helps to have a multitude of powerful and positive images to communicate to yourself and to others. What you think about yourself is clearly reflected in everything you say or do – at work, at home, in the community. Hence, it is very important to take the time to get a clear picture of who you really think you are.
- PROJECT well! Once you know and have accepted who you are, you start to gain and radiate confidence. Leverage the power of communication skills, specifically the use of empathetic listening, and of both verbal and non-verbal language. Demonstrate charismatic leadership virtues such as the “3Gs of Leadership: Grace, Giving and Gratitude.” There are also 3S you should remember to project well: your Smile, Sincerity and Sensitivity to feelings and cultures of others. And remember one more “S”: frame what you communicate in Stories. Why in stories? According to Chris Anderson, TED curator, “Humans are wired to listen to stories… When I think about the compelling presentations, I think about taking an audience on a journey… There is an “aha” moment, and the audience’s perspective shifts in a meaningful way.”
- PRACTICE, practice and practice! Good practice makes perfect. Perfection equals mastery. Mastery empowers confidence. For presentations, practice mentally, then with a draft, then with a mirror or video, and finally with an audience. Build your strong, confident presence – whether in a formal presentation, or in a less formal meeting – through persistent and consistent practice. The same rule applies to confidence in decision-making. Research and analyze as needed. Then take your stand. Practice by playing it out in your mind or testing the water with a person you trust. As said, your passion will give you voice and courage.
- YOU are unique – stay authentic and true. All the hunger, accepting, projecting and practicing will work meaningfully in the long run if you remain true to yourself. As Steve Jobs has said in his widely popular graduation speech at Stanford: “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Stay Hungry to learn and excel. Accept who you are. Project well. Practice consistently. Remain authentic and true. The result: You radiate confidence. Literally, when you are HAPPY, the world rejoices and celebrates with you. You standout due to the positive and contagious aura you radiate. Such confidence and joy within you and around you will then lead you to greater undertakings in life!