GLN conversation – Confidence
Earlier this year I was approached to become a Director of the Global Leadership Network UK (GLN) and having accepted the appointment I had a “conversation by email” where we explored my background and some leadership related topics. The discussion that ensued is reproduced here in an unedited format. (Note that the Global Leadership Summit (GLS) is the flagship conference for the GLN which is held in Chicago in August each year. This includes talks from Leaders around the world and is rebroadcast around the UK later in the year.)
At the GLS in the UK and Ireland last year, delegates were asked to select from 11 key competencies where they needed to grow in the area of ‘Leading Yourself.’ Out of the 11 competencies, ‘Confidence’ came out as the top training development need. What do you make of that?
I know that many great leaders would acknowledge that “the most difficult person to lead is yourself”, and I certainly resonate with that in my experience. John Maxwell dedicates a chapter to that in “Leadership Gold”, a book about the lessons that John has learned from a lifetime of leading.
In “High-Performance Habits”, Brendan Burchard encourages us to envision our future self and to articulate that vision in three aspirational words. Mine are “competent, confident, and valued”. As a professional speaker, trainer and coach, I want to feel that I am competent in what I do, both by my own standards and by the standards of other professionals in my industry.
Then I want to feel that I deliver with confidence. The people that know me best know that one of the biggest challenges I’ve had to address has been one of personal confidence. I want to have confidence in the material I would like to share, and in my ability to deliver that material. I also want to know that I am able to share that material in such a way that people will find value in it; that I am able to “add value to the room”.
For me, the journey towards becoming competent, confident and valued involved the confidence to fail. From a Professional Speaking perspective, it meant entering a couple of speaking competitions in a supportive environment both in the Professional Speaking Association (PSA) and in the John Maxwell Team (JMT). I didn’t win the competition in either case, but then I didn’t expect to, although I did get to the finals. The most valuable thing I learned was the process of working on the content of my talks in such a way that they would become memorable and meaningful, of remembering what I wanted to say without losing my way, and on delivering that talk with confidence. I learned to push through to ever-higher standards and not to be satisfied with less than my best.
I learned what it felt like to stand in front of a room filled with other professional speakers and to “dry up”, to have not the slightest clue what I was going to say next, to freeze with nothing in my head to say just 30 seconds into my talk, and to push through that experience to the other side. I learned how much preparation it takes me to deliver with confidence and that how much time it takes someone else is actually irrelevant. I know how long it takes me to prepare so that I am able to deliver a competent, valued message with confidence.
I also learned to confront the negative self-talk that we seem so eager to engage in to sabotage ourselves. On the first day of a conference I was attending a friend asked me what I was looking forward to most, and my response was to say “I am looking forward to not screwing up on Tuesday”. You see, on Tuesday I was one of several JMT coaches who were due to chat with John Maxwell on stage at the JMT Conference in Orlando. Later I recognised the negative self-talk and corrected myself to say “I’m looking to hit it out of the park on Tuesday!”.
When Tuesday came, there were ten of us lined up to chat with John on stage. We had all screwed up at least once in practice, and I for one had practised what I was going to say hundreds of times. I was last in line, and each of my friends went up in turn and gave a fabulous performance. I found myself saying to myself “you’re the last in line, and you’ll be the first to screw up”, however, I was able to capture that negative thought and turn it round to be “you’re the last in line and you’re going to be the best of the lot”. Whether I was is for others to decide, but I know that I didn’t screw up.
I have found that confidence comes from a combination of two things: knowing that I am good at what I am going to do and knowing what I am going to do has value for the intended audience. I have found that out by being prepared to fail.
Where would you as a coach start with someone lacking in confidence? What can an organisation do to cultivate a confidence building culture?
As a coach, one approach would be to find out what does a person want enough that they are prepared to fail, to get there. Then I would want to make sure that to build a confidence culture that they had a safe, well-informed place to fail. For me, that has been the PSA and the JMT. It has also been a Mastermind Group that I attend on a monthly basis. We’ve talked about Mastermind Groups earlier, as a group of people who come together with a common purpose that includes giving honest feedback, helping each other grow and holding each other accountable. It is in groups like these that we can build our confidence since we can test new ideas and explore whether our “thing” has value to others, and we can obtain honest, frank feedback from people we know, like and trust.
About Roger Fairhead
Roger is a leadership specialist delivering Leadership for Business Achievement through Speaking, Training and Coaching to business leaders and entrepreneurs.
“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.
Leadership for Business also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.