Although progress has been made in recent years, we still see fewer women in higher levels of leadership. One factor that negatively impacts women is lower confidence levels early on in their careers. The graph below shows results based on 11,556 respondents to a Zenger Folkman confidence assessment. 59% of the data comes from US respondents, and 41% from other countries.
Looking at this data, two observations become clear. Confidence increases as people age, and women have significantly lower confidence levels until age 50.
Because a person’s confidence is an internal attribute, others cannot determine if an individual’s confidence is low or high by simply looking at them. Instead, we make attributions of others’ confidence based on the behaviors they demonstrate. Zenger Folkman had an interesting dataset of 421 women whose confidence was assessed using a self-assessment which was merged with another dataset of evaluations from Direct Reports on 60 differentiating behaviors. Direct reports typically interact more with leaders and therefore know them better. On average, each leader was evaluated by 5 direct reports. By understanding the correlation between confidence and success, it becomes crucial for women to develop strategies that not only demonstrate their confidence but also build it from within. Through a comprehensive analysis of data from Zenger Folkman assessments and direct reports’ evaluations, we have identified seven key behaviors, which we call confidence builders. By consciously practicing these behaviors, women can not only project confidence to others but also foster personal confidence and create a positive impact on their professional journeys.
- Make a change that will improve your workgroup. Taking the initiative to identify areas of improvement within your work group and proposing practical solutions showcases your confidence in making positive changes. By demonstrating your problem-solving skills and proactive approach, you not only enhance your confidence but also contribute to the growth and success of your team.
- Improve the process to get work done easier, faster, or with higher quality. Seek opportunities to streamline workflows, eliminate inefficiencies, or enhance productivity. Taking the lead in process improvement demonstrates your confidence in your abilities to optimize outcomes. By proactively identifying and implementing improvements, you establish yourself as a capable and confident professional.
- Become a champion for a new project, process, or event. Taking on a leadership role in championing a new initiative exhibits your confidence in your vision and ability to influence others. By taking ownership and driving its success, you not only demonstrate your confidence but also inspire those around you to embrace change and strive for excellence.
- Market a process or product to others so they recognize the impact and value. Effectively communicating the benefits and value of a process, product, or idea to stakeholders or colleagues showcases your persuasive abilities and confidence in promoting something valuable. By articulating your ideas with conviction, you enhance your overall confidence and encourage others to recognize the significance of your contributions.
- Spot a potential problem early. Developing a keen eye for identifying potential issues or risks before they escalate demonstrates confidence in your problem-solving skills and ability to navigate challenges. By proactively addressing concerns and offering solutions, you showcase your ability to make sound judgments and contribute to effective decision-making.
- Represent the group to others. Taking the opportunity to represent your team or organization in external settings, such as meetings, conferences, or industry events, conveys confidence in your expertise and the value your team brings. By being a spokesperson, you showcase your ability to communicate effectively and advocate for the collective success of your group.
- Take on a challenging goal and be accountable for the results. Setting ambitious goals for yourself and committing to achieving them exhibits confidence in your abilities to tackle demanding projects. By taking ownership of challenging tasks and being accountable for the outcomes, you not only showcase your confidence but also develop resilience and a growth mindset.
Confidence is a critical ingredient for women’s success in their professional endeavors. By actively demonstrating confidence-building behaviors, women can not only project confidence to others but also cultivate a stronger belief in their own capabilities.
Through initiatives such as making positive changes within work groups, improving processes, championing new projects, effectively marketing ideas, spotting potential problems, representing teams to others, and taking on challenging goals, women can develop and nurture their confidence.
Remember, confidence is not a fixed trait but a skill that can be cultivated and continuously developed. By embracing these confidence builders, women can break barriers, seize opportunities, and thrive in both personal and professional realms, paving the way for success and empowerment. Start implementing these strategies today and witness the transformative impact they have on your confidence and overall well-being.
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