You won’t get to the top without self-confidence; to build it, you have to believe in yourself. Don’t worry about being perfect — put up a brave front and do the best you can. That’s it in a nutshell. Here’s a little more background for you.
Last year, as I often do, I taught a seminar for MBA students at the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. A second-year student approached me and told me he’d read my book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. “In the book you talk about classic challenges faced by your clients,” he said. “I noticed that you never discuss self-confidence problems. How do you deal with your client’s self-confidence problems?”
This question really made me think. I rarely encounter self-confidence problems in my work with CEOs and potential CEOs. It is almost impossible to make it to the top level in a multibillion-dollar corporation if you do not believe in yourself. On the other hand, I am frequently asked to speak at business schools, and I have noticed that students in my seminars often want to talk about it.
This is such an important topic. I thought I would share a few suggestions about how you can build your self-confidence. I also hope you will offer your own suggestions.
1. Don’t worry about being perfect. There are never right or wrong answers to complex business decisions. The best that you can do as a leader is to gather all of the information that you can (in a timely manner), do a cost-benefit analysis of potential options, use your best judgment — and then go for it.
2. Learn to live with failure. Great salespeople are the ones who get rejected the most often. They just ask for the order more than the other salespeople. You are going to make mistakes. You are human. Learn from these mistakes and move on.
3. After you make the final decision — commit! Don’t continually second-guess yourself. Great leaders communicate with a sense of belief in what they are doing and with positive expectations toward the achievement of their vision.
4. Show courage on the outside — even if you don’t always feel it on the inside. Everyone is afraid sometimes. If you are a leader, your direct reports will read your every expression. If you show a lack of courage, you will begin to damage your direct reports’ self-confidence.
5. Find happiness and contentment in your work. Life is short. My extensive research indicates that we are all going to die anyway. Do your best. Follow your heart. When you win, celebrate. When you lose, just start over the next day.