6 ways for managers to grow employee confidence

Gina Jones

Friday 10 November 2017

Confident team members are happier and more productive, but not everyone has the innate ability to project confidence. Here are some tips to bring the best out of less confident employees.

Employee confidence is an attribute that’s hard to measure, but ignoring it could be costing your organisation money, according to a new report. Statistics from The Hard Value of Soft Skills report by McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and Tupperware Brands found a link between confidence and increased revenue. The study discovered that greater confidence among the workforce yielded 22 per cent higher sales and a 27 per cent increase in new leads. It also found that confident workers are 45 per cent more optimistic about their future, and 24 per cent more likely to overcome challenges encountered at work.

It’s clear from this that confidence boosts productivity. So with this in mind, we look at how managers can nurture confidence in their team.

1. Embrace innovation

A survey of UK employees discovered that 32 per cent were afraid to put their own ideas forward and, as a result, those businesses are missing out on a raft of new solutions that could help drive their companies forward. It’s important to create an environment where employees can share their thoughts and ideas, no matter how ‘out there’ they may seem – it may just lead to your next big innovation. Having informal brainstorming sessions in smaller groups and offering incentives and prizes for new ideas are just a couple of ways to encourage less confident team members to step forward.

2. Recognise their differences

While everyone on your team may have the same opportunities, not all of them will approach them in the same way. A recent study from the University of California found a disparity in confidence between men and women, not just in the US but globally. The eight-year study analysed data from more than 985,000 men and women across 48 countries, asking them to rate the phrase: ‘I see myself as someone who has high self-esteem’ and found that across the board, regardless of culture or country, men have higher self-esteem than women.

This lack of self-confidence can manifest itself as an aversion to risk, and makes women less willing to pursue new challenges, which means they often miss out on opportunities. In fact, 14 per cent of employees feel they have missed out on a promotion because of their lack of confidence.

Managers should spend time getting to know their team and understanding the skills and talents they have outside the job they are currently doing. Focusing on these individuals’ personal talents and attributes will enable you to find ways to incorporate those strengths into their job.

3. Offer detailed feedback

Employees with low self-confidence are less likely to be able to take in positive comments about themselves. Using generic phrases to praise them like ‘great job’ or ‘I see potential in you’ is less likely to get a response than if you can point to something specific they have done. Instead, try giving a more detailed appraisal, such as: ‘When you did X, did you see how that changed things? You made a huge difference.’ There’s an art to giving feedback in a constructive and supportive way.

4. Create opportunities for them to win

“One of the quickest ways to build employee confidence is to give them a chance to succeed in something,” recommends Natasha Maddock, director of team building specialists Aim for the Sky. “Select a project or task that plays to their strengths or allows them to pass on knowledge to a colleague or client. You can then build on initial accomplishments by selecting more challenging tasks that use the same key skills that they have already demonstrated,” she says. Remember though to keep things simple when giving instructions, to avoid overwhelming employees.

5. Encourage them to ‘fall forward’ rather than back

Those who lack confidence often use their mistakes as a stick to beat themselves with, and it can hold them back from making progress in future. When things go wrong, instead of allowing the person to dwell on it, it’s important you encourage them to ‘fall forward’. Discuss what happened and what they learned from it, and try to frame it as a positive thing for their future development. It’s also worth learning more about conflict resolution and how to mediate a crisis before tackling this.

6. Make them the teacher

If a member of your team is lacking confidence, give them the opportunity to recognise their own skills and strengths by asking them to teach what they know to someone else. Give them a mentoring role within the team, perhaps training up a new recruit, or sharing knowledge of a particular thing they are good at with others in the team. Putting them in a position of responsibility shows you have faith in their abilities, and will hopefully encourage them to have some too.

It’s easy for the more confident members of your team to dominate conversations and projects, but by encouraging quieter employees to come forward, managers can ensure they are maximising the potential of their team and boosting productivity in the longer term.

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