27 November 2014

Confidence building in business: how to

Confidence is key in business, particularly if you work for yourself or manage staff. Use these tips to maximise your performance and that of your staff.

Almost everyone suffers from a lack of confidence at some point, whether it’s because a business deal hasn’t worked out or you’re setting up a business for the first time and are feeling slightly overwhelmed.

The important thing to remember is that confidence is a skill and therefore you can build up your confidence.

Why confidence is important

As a business owner or independent worker, you are reliant on the income you can make from your products or services. It’s therefore vital that you’re confident in your own abilities. People with a healthy level of confidence also tend to be more motivated, positive and focused. This is even more important if you have employees, as confidence is a key element of leadership and decision making. How can you lead and motivate others if you can’t master your own insecurities?

People with low self-belief tend to be less satisfied in general and less productive. Plus they potentially generate less work, as a lack of confidence will stop them from taking risks.

Some people naturally have higher levels of confidence than others and it’s important to note that too much self-confidence can be as bad as too little.

Confidence building techniques

Improve your body language

There’s something to be said for the phrase ‘fake it until you make it’. If you behave as though you are self-assured, others will perceive you as such and this can positively influence the way they interact with you. You can project confidence through your body language:

  • Stand up straight and tall with your head level. If you’re sitting down, maintain your posture with a straight back. People who hunch their shoulders, cross their arms and look down at the floor can be perceived as defensive or insecure.
  • Use open hand gestures and show the palms of your hands, indicating an open attitude.
  • Try to mirror the body language of the person you’re speaking to. This sends an unconscious signal to them that you have something in common, promoting a sense of trust.
  • Avoid fidgeting. Don’t make any nervous movements like jiggling your legs, playing with your hair or tapping your fingers on the table.
  • Smile – this makes you more likeable, approachable and memorable according to research.
  • Make eye contact. Look at the person you’re speaking to for at least 50% of the time. This will make you appear more interested in what they’re saying.
  • Focus on the person or people you’re talking to – whether it’s a networking event or a meeting. Maintain eye contact and use the names of the people you’re talking to. This will make the conversation more personal to them and it will help you to remember their names if they are new acquaintances.

Mentally increase your confidence

  • Stop any self-talk that focuses on what you can’t do or what you have done wrong in the past. Don’t expect to be perfect, but focus on your strengths and what you can learn or do better in each situation.
  • Visualise success. Many famous sports players use visualisation techniques to mentally prepare ahead of an event. Research supports this technique, suggesting that mentally rehearsing what you want to achieve can prime you for success.  
  • Avoid comparing yourself to others. There will always be someone who seems to do something more effortlessly than you or has more knowledge in a particular field. Often, they’re just better and projecting their confidence and successes.
  • Research from the Harvard Business School has shown that power poses like standing tall with your arms outstretched for a few minutes can improve your confidence by increasing your levels of testosterone and lowering your levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
  • For times when you just need a quick confidence boost, have a list of achievements to hand to remind you of what you’ve accomplished so far.  Try to visualise and remember as much detail as possible to help you recall how this success felt. 

Learn to improve confidence

  • Focus on the things you can control. Identify what is causing self-doubt. You may be super confident in your business, but not at networking or public speaking. Once you’ve identified what’s holding you back, you can work on improving your skills in this area.
  • Practice; whether it’s your pitch, a presentation or your networking skills. Prepare in advance and know what you want to say.
  • Embrace opportunities that allow you to learn or stretch yourself, whether it’s in business or your personal life.
  • Don’t strive to be well-liked – aim to be respected instead.

Improving the confidence of your employees

You can also use some of the techniques above to build the confidence of your employees. Spot the signs of low self-esteem, such as constantly seeking praise, dismissing compliments and a low morale.

Don’t assume that members of staff know what their strengths and weaknesses are. Help them to identify these and then you can capitalise on their strengths and support any shortcomings. Publicly acknowledge successes and give credit where it is due. It’s also important to acknowledge mistakes, but focus on constructive criticism and what can be learned from the error.

Create a culture where your workers are comfortable asking questions and requesting support when they need it. Make sure they’ve been adequately trained and avoid micro-managing, which indicates that you don’t trust them to do their job properly.

Tweet us your suggestions for boosting confidence.