How To Protect Your Confidence
What is it that you most want to protect? It might be some combination of family members, your home, or your reputation. Perhaps it’s freedom, or your country, or a way of life.
All of those are worthy of protection, and you may have still other items on your list.
But on a personal and professional basis, one of the most important things to protect is your confidence. Especially if you want to stand out, make a difference in the world, and live without regret.
When you lack confidence, you stay in your comfort zone instead of getting out there where you can learn, grow and achieve greater success. You stop saying “yes” to opportunities, and instead stick to the status quo. You feel afraid to reach out to senior people who can help you, so you languish behind the scenes.
Without confidence, you fall short of the life you could lead, and deprive your family of the advantages you otherwise could provide them.
On the other hand, when you have confidence, anything is possible. You feel more comfortable taking chances, many of which can pay off big time. You’re more likely to make key decisions crisply and with intention. And you approach stakeholders in a more powerful and influential way.
What we can learn from entrepreneurs about confidence
I was recently reminded of the importance of confidence when I attended Jeff Walker’s LaunchCon event in Los Angeles. It was a great opportunity to learn from Jeff and other successful entrepreneurs. And it was an amazing experience to be part of this warm and welcoming community of over 800 people from more than 30 countries.
As part of this, I was invited to take the stage and share my journey with this group – what a great honor! And it was energizing to spend time with this community of innovators, all bursting with energy and committed to taking action.
One thing I observed about the successful entrepreneurs who spoke at LaunchCon is that they are confident. They believe in themselves. When they take a knock, they bounce back. And they take a lot of knocks.
The truth is, entrepreneurs not only have to be confident, but they have to preserve their confidence. Being tentative doesn’t serve them well. When you’re an entrepreneur and owner, the buck stops with you. It’s your business and it’s up to you to be in the right mindset.
In fact, I’ve heard it said that, “the most important thing that an entrepreneur must protect is their confidence”.
The rise of the corporate entrepreneur
As I listened to the panel discuss the topic of confidence, it occurred to me that the core need for confidence is not just for entrepreneurs. These days, it’s true in a corporate context as well.
In today’s world, you can’t afford to be just an employee. You also need to be what I think of as a corporate entrepreneur or rainmaker: someone who makes things happen for the organization that can be seen, felt or heard.
Instead of being the obedient drone, clone or cog in the corporate shadows, you need to be that person with ideas and influence who harnesses the vast array of capabilities across the organization and generates outsized results.
To do that takes confidence.
In its simplest form, confidence could be putting your hand up and asking a question or expressing an opinion. Then being okay with what happens and learning from it. And doing it again, but better.
At the more complex end of the spectrum, it’s taking calculated risk to adopt an innovative approach in order to deliver large-scale results.
So how do you maintain the confidence you need to be that rainmaker and corporate entrepreneur? How do you protect your confidence and keep forging forward when life confronts you with obstacles, negativity and self-doubt?
How to protect your confidence
Whether you’re an entrepreneur with a company of your own, or a corporate entrepreneur within a larger organization, your confidence is bound to take a hit. Perhaps even often or regularly.
Here’s what I learned from the speakers at the conference about how they protect their confidence. If you’re a corporate entrepreneur, these three strategies can help you too.
“Don’t allow people to rent space in your head”
To get to a certain level of success and seniority, you will have to take a stand. And taking a stand will polarize people.
When that happens, you will attract some naysayers and criticism – often undeserved. Sometimes, you will even get what I call “nasty-grams”. You know, receiving those emails that make you feel awful or getting ambushed in a meeting with a biting comment.
When people say nasty things to and about you, take a page from these entrepreneurs: don’t listen.
To quote Susan Garrett, one of the entrepreneurs and a world champion dog-trainer: “Don’t allow people to rent space in your head.”
So, if you’ve rented out all your mental rooms, clean house. And then stop renting out that space to negative people.
“Fake it till you make it”
At the conference, we were given lanyards with our name badges attached. You know, the kind you wear around your neck to make it easier to connect with people (and avoid the embarrassment of not remembering someone’s name!).
This led to Susan’s second piece of advice: “When you need to feel confident, just put Jeff Walker’s name on your nametag and wear it when you sit at your computer or at your desk.”
For the LaunchCon audience, Jeff is at the pinnacle of the industry and a role model. But for you, the name you put on the name badge will be your role model’s name.
Sure, wearing your role model’s name badge may be easier to do as an entrepreneur working from a home office or in a hip office space. But even if you’re in the most buttoned down organization, you can still channel your role model and their confidence until you have enough of your own. (Or wear the nametag inside your shirt!)
“You got this”
The third piece of advice was to tap into people around you who give you confidence that you can do it.
Our host Jeff told us the story of a particularly hairy rock climbing episode when he was stuck partway out on a narrow path. To the right was a 1,000-foot sheer drop. To the left was a 100-foot drop. And in front of him was a waist-high step up to the next part of the path.
If this step had been on flat ground, he could have pushed down on the waist-high rock and heaved himself up easily. In rock climbing language, this move is called a mantel. But given the heights involved, he froze. He couldn’t go forward or backward, and sideways was certain death.
Fortunately, he had a friend coming up behind him who is an experienced climber. His friend talked him through it, saying, “You got this, Jeff. Put your hands up there and smooth mantel up. You’ve done this many times before, and you can do this now.”
That’s when Jeff channeled a song that represents his community of students and followers. It happens to be “Seven Nation Army”, which has a great riff. More importantly, it has powerful meaning for Jeff. The song connects and grounds him to his strong community of support.
The combination of that song and being guided by his friend brought back Jeff’s confidence to mantel up onto the step and then crawl the remaining 50 yards of the narrow path to safety.
Just thinking about Jeff’s experience makes my palms sweat, even from the safety of my office chair. Imagine standing in the middle of nowhere on your own, up on a strip of rock no wider than a sidewalk, trying not to look down and not wanting to die.
Sometimes, the actions we want to take at work can feel like being up on that strip of rock. Even seemingly small ones, like going up to someone and asking for guidance. Or speaking up at the weekly meeting. Or calling up a high profile business prospect.
Taking action requires confidence, but sometimes it’s just at the moment when everything around you conspires to drain your confidence away.
And that’s why Jeff’s story demonstrates the immense power of a supportive community in bringing your confidence back into the frame when you need it. Who’s in your community of support, and how can you summon them up when you need them most?
As you move forward to adopt the mindset and behaviors of a corporate entrepreneur and rainmaker, I want you to have these proven strategies in your repertoire. That way, you can make sure you protect your confidence. It’s the foundation for your success.
Others may test you, and even discount you. But don’t let that stop you or dent your confidence. They just don’t know your value yet.
When you protect your confidence, you have the best chance for helping people to see who you are and what you can become. And that’s when you can really make your contribution and shine.
So when it comes to protecting your confidence:
- Don’t allow people to rent space in your head.
- Channel your role model and fake it until you make it.
- Draw on your community of support.
Now, I’m curious: which of these strategies will you use to protect your confidence?
Leave a comment and let me know.
Interesting that title is to “preserve” confidence as opposing to building confidence. I would put “fake it till you make it in building category.” I particularly relish the part about “To get to a certain level of success and seniority, you will have to take a stand. And taking a stand will polarize people.” I have taken stands, and most business lit seem to skirts this–more of the “how do you influence others”–from the classic book with name I don’t recall at moment. I have taken strong positions numerous time in career–with significant upside as well as down.. enjoyed your article.
Great observations, Udo. Especially generous of you to share that you have taken strong positions and how that has had both upside and downside.
I find that the way someone takes a stand is also important. Done with respect, there can be a big silver lining even in the downside case, which is that people generally respect those who have a view and back it up.
Taking a stand is important – but there is a correct way and the not so correct way . Rarely are things black and white , and what is black – can become white in the future ! I recently completed the Dale Carnegie course and the point that was echoed among us Dale disciples is how the exercises in “disagreeing agreeably” was the best part of the course. May – do you have any experience with this or can you recommend some tips and exercises on this topic ?
Alexander directed his question from response to my posting back to May–and I am interested in hearing her response.
I wanted to add my thoughts as well. I think the way you make a response is situational. On some occasions I have had to take a strong stand because of need to conform to laws or clear customer agreements. (If one wants to renegotiate agreements, that is fine but integrity demands you stand by them until it is changed.)
In cases where problem solving or developing strategy in involved, I try to get the team focused clearly on a written statement of what we are trying to achieve. I work to direct team to facts in order to minimize the impact of emotions. Facts come in many forms–hard data, process definition, priorities, financial restraints, more. It can be therapeutic for the team to come to agreement on what the simple facts of a situation are. In summary, clear problem/goal statement, and fact discovery can get the discussion off to a good start.
Great points, Udo. Thank you for sharing these additional thoughts!
Thank you for sharing your insights, Alexander. What you say is so true, and “disagreeing agreeably” is an incredibly useful capability to cultivate.
On this topic, I have come to realize there are three particularly important principles to keep in mind in order to be successful in disagreeing yet maintaining respect. The first is one from my Chinese heritage. Using pinyin, the saying is “dui4 shi4, bu dui4 ren2”. Translated to English, it means that when you are criticizing or disagreeing, “focus on the item or issue at hand, not the person”. Or said another way, “don’t make it personal”.
The second is the corollary: don’t take things personally, but rather keep an open mind. When you get too attached to a particular outcome, it clouds your ability to see things from someone else’s viewpoint or even to recognize that there may be other valid ways to look at a situation. That, in turn, makes it harder to retain your composure and reduces your ability to be effective in persuading others.
The third is treating the other person with respect. This includes respecting their basic human desire to be seen, heard and acknowledged. And it also means not goading or antagonizing them. When people feel respected, especially when there is a difference in point of view, they are less likely to escalate and retaliate.
With those principles as the backdrop, I find the best way to take a stand is: (i) make sure you truly and dispassionately believe this is the right position to take, (ii) link it to the common goal of the group or organization, (iii) have the facts and data to back it up, (iv) put together your case or storyline so that your rationale is clear in your own mind and your logic is impeccable, and (v) know the “lay of the land” in terms of where your key stakeholders stand on the issue and where you will need to do some pre-work and/or damage control after the fact.
I also agree with Udo’s points on tailoring your response to the situation, minimizing the emotional aspects to the extent possible, and having goal clarity and fact-based discussions at the heart of your approach.
Hope this helps.
Don’t allow people to rent space in your head
That’s one I particularly like too.