“I have lost my confidence”

Confidence can shatter like a vase

A common problem leaders encounter is where team members can lack confidence. Being afraid of making mistakes or taking risks.

Confidence, I have found in my career as a leader, can come and go throughout the years.

When we lose our confidence, it can feel like a precious vase falling off the mantelpiece. Shattering into many pieces. Yet, confidence can, and will return. Like gluing the cracks in a vase, we can come back stronger than ever before, given the right care, time, and love.

In the workplace, I try to follow the same approach as a leader. Recognising that we are not all born with confidence. Instead, confidence comes from early family experiences, and your social upbringing. Nature vs nurture. We also build our confidence at work. Through our achievements. On the flip side, everyone also makes mistakes throughout our careers. How line managers or leaders have responded to these mistakes impacts our confidence.

‘Every time I lose confidence… I lose interest and I’m always inspired to go for what gives me confidence.’ William Sebunje

Establish a safe environment

Effective leaders can help teams by establishing a safe environment. An environment where it is it OK for people to make mistakes. In return, people need to be open and admit to their mistakes when they occur. Before taking on-board feedback and developing and learning from the experience.

I have worked with people who would always blame everything and everyone else. Rather than admitting to their own mistakes. In these situations, I have always tried to contribute to a ‘safer’ work environment. By asking appropriate questions, in a constructive way. Turning the situation around, so individuals feel more confident making mistakes. Seeing mistakes as opportunities. Rather than failures.

With any team that I have managed, I can ask team members who has made a mistake this week. Knowing they will open and talk through what has happened. Often referring to a colleague who might have helped them. Indeed, that person could even be me. I try to show them that I am human. Talking through solutions, as a team, sharing experiences, and building best practice.

Dealing with a lack of ownership

You may encounter a recurring situation where an individual makes mistakes. Yet, they refuse to take ownership. Full stop. When this has happened to me, I always make time for that individual. I request an informal chat, saying, ‘ be honest with me, and we can find a way forward’. You might need to have this conversation many times with the same individual. Patience and sensitivity are key. Helping them realise that there is a ‘safety net’ in place. That their mistakes aren’t a reflection of their abilities in the workplace. A positive direction lies ahead.

The need for a psychological safe environment is at the mindset of great leaders. Especially those who have studied the work of Amy Edmondson. This is a vital component in a successful developmental organisation. The need to support the individual’s confidence runs throughout the whole concept.

It is about creating an environment that promotes candid feedback. Here individuals can admit mistakes, with confidence. Learning from each other. As a leader it is important to be consistent. Behaviour breeds behaviour. That is why leaders have the huge responsibility of setting an example, by ‘walking the walk’. Too many leaders can give up at the first hurdle. Or find themselves in a position where their own confidence is low. This can lead to them forgetting what they want to achieve and the direction the team is going in.

Don’t rush it

It takes time to bring about change, confidence is not given away, hidden in a pocket or a drawer that we can dip into. For confidence to build, leaders need to create that safe space – a ‘container’. Like our vase analogy. Only after you have assembled all the fragments of the vase can you find the glue, to put the pieces back together. Be able to repair breakdowns in confidence when they occur.

Within a patient and caring environment, the difference in individuals can be astonishing. Combining this with the right amount of praise and insight can herald a new start. Helping individuals to grow in confidence. Planting the seed that they too can become a leader of the future.

Seeing things through a different lens

Too often we tell people that they are the problem, instead of “we have a problem.” A different approach and a different lens make all the difference.

Let’s expand on this ‘lens’ analogy for a moment. We wear glasses which help us to read, to drive, or to assist us with screen time. Yet, when it comes to ‘looking’ at the way we talk to people that we lead, some managers will use the same approach. Repeatedly. Not picking up their glasses. Then, they will appear surprised when they have the same negative outcome.

It can be easy to forget that a manager’s poor behaviour, can result in poor behaviour within their team. With everybody not looking for the positive way forward. Putting up barriers. Stopping the creation of that ‘safe place’.

Imagine if we ‘looked’ at discussions with our teams as opportunities. To find solutions and embrace mistakes. What could that do to an individual’s confidence?

A novel idea, but it could help them find the right tools to see where that confidence is going. Rather than being lost?

By Mark Ellis, Leadership and Coaching Success Manager, Accipio

Mark Ellis

Mark Ellis specialises in coaching and leadership. He has Masters degrees in both areas, plus, a Level 8 CMI certification in Strategic Leadership. Mark has worked in the education, business, charity, and training sectors for over 25 years.