How to boost your confidence at work

‘All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence and then success is sure’ said Mark Twain. Cynical, certainly – and ignorance never helped anyone’s career.

But it’s true that being confident and motivated at work could help.

Here we are looking at how to improve your confidence as part of the AATPowerUp series which aims to supercharge your Business skills.

Learning to be confident

Dr Rob Yeung, psychologist and author of The Confidence Project: your plan for personal growth, happiness and success says: ‘Confidence is something that is built up by nature and nurture. But confidence can be improved through effort and persistence’.

Dr Gary Wood, psychologist, coach and author of Letters to a New Student and Unlock your Confidence agrees. ‘Confidence is learned rather than an innate quality although some people seem like ‘naturals’ it’s just that they have had a head start in family support or social networks. We often hear the advice that we need to ‘fake it ‘til we make it’.

‘What this really means is that people show courage and take risks and put themselves out there. A key element of confidence is courage and faith in our own abilities but true confidence cannot be faked. At heart, confidence is about being comfortable in your own skin and helping people to be comfortable in theirs’.

Confidence tracking

‘It’s a lot easier to feel confident when you have done a good amount of preparation and practice’ says Dr Yeung. ‘For example, if you’re going into an important meeting or a job interview you can relax and feel much more at ease if you know what to say.

‘So think about what preparation you can do – for instance, for an interview you can think ahead about likely questions and then write out and loosely rehearse saying out loud your interview responses. That way, when someone asks you to talk about, say, your biggest achievements or your weaknesses you can feel more confident that you have something positive to say.   

TIP: Dr Wood says that a helpful strategy is ‘confidence tracking’. This means looking at areas of your job and life in which your confidence levels are higher ‘and work out what’s different and what you’re doing differently. Then you can borrow from these high confidence situations to help in lower confidence ones’.

Having belief in your ability

‘Confidence is merely a belief in your own abilities and sometimes people have high beliefs in themselves that are not matched by their competence and capability. For example, we’ve all seen singers and other performers on TV talent shows who are confident that they are great even when we in the audience can see that they are actually not very good’, Yeung notes.

In the office ‘people who are highly confident may actually come across as arrogant or even narcissistic’ says Dr Yeung. ‘Such individuals may not be able to see their own weaknesses or they may blame others rather than themselves when things go wrong’. And actually, a less confident worker may be better. ‘There’s some research evidence suggesting that people who feel anxiety and worry about their performance may actually end up getting better results’ he adds.

Julie Ward

Julie Ward, Tax Hut

Julie Ward was “a little bit quirky” at the start of her career, subconsciously offsetting her dyslexia by working extra hard on developing her technical knowledge. “When you have a weakness you often don’t realise you have a lot of strengths that offset it,” she says.

Ward became a tax expert, learning how to break down complicated tax issues into plain language, which gave her career a huge boost. She ended up becoming a co-author of the Tolley’s Taxwise books and later started her own business, The Tax Hut.

Speaking up for your achievements

But do you actually need to be confident to succeed? ‘There is definitely research suggesting that people who speak up more tend to be rated as being more capable and intelligent than others who may be quieter’ says Dr Yeung. ‘So if you are a quieter individual, it is in your career’s best interests to think about how to boost your profile’.

TIP: Do this by preparing ahead of meetings so you can point to successful projects: if you don’t mention them, who will know about them? ‘The reality of the workplace is that you need to speak up for your achievements if you wish to be noticed and promoted’ Dr Yeung adds.

How to make others feel confident

If you’re a manager of staff, then you play an important part in boosting your team’s confidence – and tempering those who can appear too confident. Dr Yeung says: ‘When you have a member of the team who is lacking in confidence you should be looking to give him or her projects that will challenge that person just a tiny bit each time and gradually grow their confidence’.

Jay Wilson AATQB, Senior Finance Officer with Allay in Newcastle upon Tyne says that ideally, a team needs a mixture of personalities. ‘You can have someone who has been in a business 20 years with sound knowledge and experience but who doesn’t have the confidence or communication skills to provide leadership. In contrast, you can have someone with very limited knowledge and experience but with sound leadership and people skills and by managing staff in the right way could lead a department’.

If you do have a team member who is more confident than maybe they should be, then you have to give them feedback so they can change. ‘High confidence that is not backed up by high skill and capability is likely to lead that person to take on responsibilities and projects that won’t get done well’ adds Dr Yeung. And, adds Dr Wood ‘Truly confident people are team players who take others along with them’. So boost your own confidence – and others will follow.

You can follow the latest on Twitter with #AATPowerUp, or check back here for more.

Charlotte Beugge spent more than 20 years as the deputy personal finance editor on The Daily Telegraph and then The Daily Mail. A freelancer since 2010, her work has appeared in national newspapers, magazines and websites.

Related articles