Sometimes, confidence matters as much, or even more, than competence. Learn how to boost your confidence when it’s needed.
By Lynn Grodzki, LCSW, MCC / copyright Sept 2017
I have been fascinated by a number of studies about the role of confidence and how it affects those in business and leadership. They confirm what I have observed as a business coach over many years. Whether or not you have sufficient confidence can directly impact your level of private practice success, including your bottom line.
The Importance of Confidence
Recent studies suggest that for those in business, confidence acts like a source of fuel, allowing people to go further and faster.
Those with more confidence are able to persist in their goals longer with a higher chance of completion. They find and get more resources. They accrue better information. Because they sound confident, they are listened to and talked to with more respect.
In terms of public perception, those with more confidence rate as more talented when compared to those who are equally trained and talented, but more modest. Higher confidence even equates with more money earned and other financial benefits.
How Confidence Affects Private Practice
As a business coach, I have seen that confidence affects 3 key areas of private practice;
- The perception of you and your business by others (think potential clients, referrals sources, colleagues)
- The energy and drive you have for your projects (accomplishing your goals)
- The felt sense you carry that can encourage or block your daily tasks (your feelings and emotions about your work)
In light of the studies and my observations, I wondered: How does confidence develop, especially in those who are new to the profession? What is the best timetable between competence and confidence?
Confidence versus Competence
Just to clarify terms:
- Competence speaks to your ability: this would include your training, methods, certification, results, experience and expertise.
- Confidence reflects your attitude: this would include your level of belief about yourself, self-assurance, and how you express this to others.
As clinicians and practitioners, we are usually taught that competence comes first and that with time, our level of self-confidence will naturally develop.
But now, based on these studies and my observation, I think we need to build confidence along with, not after, competence. I see it as a skill, as important as any other to develop when building your ideal private practice.
I recommend that you develop both confidence and competence, as early as possible.
Let me show you how to develop more confidence.
Do You Have Sufficient Confidence?
As a business coach, I can often spot what seems to be a confidence gap. For example, do you:
- Have difficulty talking about your work in a way that generates new business?
- Worry that if you express your competence, you will be seen as bragging?
- Set goals that are too small or give up too soon?
- Default to getting more and more training when you have doubts that you are not good enough?
- Hope that others will see your value, rather than having to say it yourself?
- Struggle with the “imposter syndrome”?
If you feel that your level of confidence could use a boost, let me show you some basic steps to close the gap. These simple steps can confer some positive effects for your business in a lasting way.
First, it helps to understand what can block the development of confidence.
Common Blocks to Confidence
If you experience a confidence gap, here are some common reasons why, according to research I have read:
Hormones further behaviors, some of which seem to help to project confidence. Men, in general, appear more confident than women, according to studies, perhaps because testosterone fuels risk taking and tolerance of conflict. In areas of leadership and business, the ability to invest in a project, experiment, or stand up for an idea connotes assurance and belief in oneself.
Introverts appear less confident than extroverts, especially in a public setting. Many of us who are primarily introverts are empathetic, quiet, and reflective; this makes for a good therapist, but may not translate to looking like we have confidence in business. Extroverts are more expressive and tend to talk and emote more, which is perceived as appearing more confident.
Learning to be overly accommodating as a child, or the need to be seen as “good” or even perfect by parents or others can hinder a sense of ease and experimentation that leads to confidence. Perfectionism is especially difficult to overcome, sowing seeds of self-doubt and making it difficult to assert oneself or act positively. Those who are easy going or appear less anxious seem more secure and trustworthy by the public.
Some in our profession suffer from “imposter’s syndrome.” Its hard to master the craft of psychology and psychotherapy and claim expertise, especially in a public arena or online. Others fear disapproval by their colleagues. They resist speaking up or looking confident due to the “tall poppies” pattern: the tallest flowers tend to get cut down first. They don’t want to appear boastful or egotistical for fear they will be “cut down” or discounted by peers, supervisors or mentors.
How to Build Confidence in Business
The good news is that higher levels of confidence can be taught, learned and applied, like any other skill. I have been helping those in private practice to build confidence, in order to meet their business goals, for many years.
I recommend using any or all of the following six possible strategies for boosting your confidence in business:
- Persist: The amount of effort that is needed to build, sustain, and maintain a business is probably more than you consider. Your level of persistence in service of your private practice goals is key to developing confidence. Confident business owners are persistent. They follow through, over and over again. Don’t give up too soon.
- Risk: Learn to tolerate some risk. Stretch. To expand your level of confidence, experiment. Go a bit beyond your limits. Remember, small steps count. What can you do, try, or test that might be new behavior? Who can you call, contact or reach out to meet? What event can you attend?
- Voice: In my book, Building Your Ideal Private Practice, 2nd Edition, see chapter 8: “The Brand Called You” for ideas to help define your basic message, a way to talk about yourself and your work based on your values, passion, and areas of interest. Can you bring your work into your conversations? Find your voice and assert who you are and what you do in a way that feels true to your nature.
- Refute: When you have doubts or anxiety about work, develop more confidence with the technique of refutation, explained in Martin Seligman’s book, Learned Optimism. Use self talk to answer back to any doubts or pessimistic thoughts, especially those that may pull you off course. Use objective statements to counter overly negative thoughts and build self-assurance.
- Act as if: A certain degree of projecting confidence is akin to performance. You may need to “act as if” you are confident before you really feel it. As many of us know, this one strategy is a quick fix. Act as if you feel calm, have a voice, can take a calculated risk, and have energy to persist with your desired goal. Acting as if you are confident leads to feeling confident. Practice makes perfect.
- Get support: I am a big believer of the value of teamwork. Who do you turn to support you when tackling any or all of these new behaviors? Who can you support in kind? We all need collaborative partnership to succeed. Who is on your team?
Hope this list of strategies spurs you to move forward with new behaviors and an improved level of confidence.
Some links to additional articles and studies on this topic:
Professor Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic explains our inability to differentiate between confidence and competence.
The role of self confidence and career paths.
How lack of confidence holds women back.
Why confidence matters as much as competence.
The secret to career success is not talent, hard work or education, but sheer, unashamed confidence.