4 Steps to Being More Confident in the Workplace
When I was a kid, my dad told me stories about his star employees — those whose efforts earned them increasing responsibility and movement up their respective success ladders. His message was always clear: if I proved myself to be smart, analytical, hardworking, dependable and confident, I too would be successful.
So, imagine my surprise when I entered the workplace and realized that without that last one — confidence — the first four traits can be downright invisible.
Competence keeps you in your job. But it’s confidence that lands you the more competitive projects and roles, and it’s confidence that points you on an upward trajectory.
Admittedly, feeling more confident at an existential level may require turning tides that have been flowing certain ways for centuries. But here are some steps you can take today to raise your confidence levels at work immediately.
1. Recognize confidence may be something you need to work on.
Research shows women’s confidence levels are (generally speaking, of course) not as high as men’s, but because this disparity is so pervasive, many of us don’t even notice it’s an issue. Start paying attention to your mental state, your behavior in meetings and your interactions with colleagues.
Notice where you’re drawing in instead of acting bold; notice feelings of doubt, conversations in which you let someone else take credit for your idea, or moments in meetings where somebody else begins talking over you. These won’t necessarily be erased overnight, but noticing them is a vital first step.
2. Speaking of first steps, walk with a strut.
Okay, maybe don’t strut. But assess your gait as you move around your office or through the exhibition hall at your next conference. Analyze your posture. Are you slouching or plodding? Do you trail slightly behind others, or maybe lean in to whisper nervously to a colleague?
Practice standing up straight, shoulders back, striding with purpose and expectation. Walk and stand like you know what you’re doing, and people will believe you do. Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk on Power Poses about the messages we send to the outside world (and ourselves) through body language is a must-watch.
3. Eliminate self-deprecating language.
Whether it’s couched as a joke or an attempt to be disarming and charming, phrases like “I’m no expert but . . .” or “This may sound silly but . . .” undermine whatever idea you’re about to share. Further, when you get something wrong or run late to a meeting, comments like “You must think I’m a flake” or “I’m always running late” can plant opinions in others’ minds they hadn’t even considered.
Instead, speak your ideas like you expect people to seriously consider them. When you get something wrong or show up six minutes into that morning meeting, apologize swiftly and concisely and then move on.
4. Figure out your uniform.
You’ve probably heard “dress for the job you want” a million times, and it turns out that’s solid advice for two key reasons: YOU are more confident when you’re dressed better, and other people regularly make snap judgements about you based on what you’re wearing.
Better yet, once you figure out the right outfit for you, get five versions of it. Choosing your "uniform" has numerous benefits, like reducing your decision fatigue and saving time, energy and money. Plus, this puts you in company with successful people like Mark Zuckerberg and art director Matilda Kahl, who proudly wear the same thing every day.
Decide what first step you’re going to take TODAY.
Good intentions are nice, but just wanting to be more confident isn’t going to yield results. Make a plan and dive in. And then tell us about it! Let us know what moves work best for boosting your confidence in your workplace.
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