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Whilst the confidence factor is well known in sport, how many of us stop to consider the same phenomenon in our working lives? ... confidence, or the lack of it, can make a measurable difference to levels of employee engagement.
The England cricket team’s early departure from the World Cup has given critics and commentators a field day with each espousing their own particular viewpoint. Too much cricket, too little cricket, the wrong cricket, the wrong team mix/manager/coach…the comments go on. Change the wording slightly and similar remarks appear whenever a sporting team fails to achieve as expected. It doesn’t really matter whether it is the local 5 a side football team or international stars, when reality doesn’t match up to expectation then the blame game starts.
But whatever the root cause, it is difficult to ignore the side issue and that is the effect which a lack of confidence has on teams or individuals. How many times have we seen a footballer fail to score in game after game and yet once they have scored that first goal then it’s almost like a dam bursting with multiple goals following in quick succession. The same is true in tennis, in F1 and in other sports; when confidence is low then things go wrong; when confidence is high, you can turn seemingly hopeless situations into success.
Whilst the confidence factor is well known in sport, how many of us stop to consider the same phenomenon in our working lives? Being honest, probably few of us do and yet confidence, or the lack of it, can make a measurable difference to levels of employee engagement. When the team is buoyant, when they have confidence in the leadership, in the product and in their own skills then work flows more smoothly and there are fewer mistakes. More importantly the team’s positivity flows from them and into customer experiences, adding a further boost to external relationships and to reputation.
Conversely when confidence is low then people spend more time on tasks than necessary, checking and double checking results. Even then mistakes creep in as does a ‘don’t care’ attitude. Bickering starts to destroy working relationships and when individuals don’t feel confident in what others are doing that leads on to a breakdown in team cohesion.
With this in mind, what can team leaders do to instil or boost confidence within a work team or business? First and foremost, confidence flows from treating people as valued individuals. That means listening to them, asking for opinions and sharing reasons for decisions. Praise and recognition are also important elements of confidence building. It doesn’t matter whether the praise takes the form of an employee of the week award, loud cheers when a sale occurs or a quiet well done. The way people are praised will vary according to the business sector, but whatever the form used, acknowledging a good job will help confidence to grow.
Next on the list comes empowerment, stepping back from micro-managing and enabling employees to take ownership of problems, devise solutions and co-ordinate more directly with other team members. Admittedly this may require some extra input at the start, perhaps taking time out to provide a more holistic view of the workplace or to arrange some blended learning but in the long run, the more empowered the employee the more their confidence will grow.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, never underestimate the importance of hiring for cultural fit and of staying vigilant. All of the qualifications in the world won’t mean anything if the individual who is taken on then undermines the team. But even the best balanced of groups won’t stay in stasis forever. Personal problems, outside influences, personality clashes; whatever the reason inevitably niggles will start to creep in after a time. When they do, the quicker they are tackled, the sooner the group will revert to confident cohesion.