Monday, May 28, 2012

Self-Confidence at Work: Six Steps to Success

When 17th century philosopher René Descartes said "I think, therefore I am," he was describing the power of our thoughts and beliefs. Taken a step further, we can also say, "You are what you think."

Do you usually think, "I'm not good enough" or "I accept and like myself?"

If you answered the former, then it's time to replace those limiting beliefs. They get you nowhere at work.

You are not alone. Many women, regardless of their upbringing, education, work experience, age, or position have issues with self-confidence at work in situations with potential employers, managers, co-workers, and subordinates.

Feeling insecure sabotages our efforts. What's worse is that we telegraph how we feel about ourselves to others, who then take our cues and reflect them back to us, thereby perpetuating these feelings.

Working in what is still largely a male-dominated environment doesn't help. Men still essentially own the workplace. Here's some troubling statistics according to Mother Jones magazine:

o Since orchestras started requiring musicians to audition behind screens, the number of women hired has increased 20 percent.

o 86 percent of guests on Sunday morning political talk shows are men.

o Forty-two percent of female executives over 40 don't have children. For full-time working fathers, each child correlates to a 2.1 percent earnings increase, while for working moms, it's a 2.5 percent loss!

But despite the fact that women, and in particular, mothers, are still discriminated against, Mother Jones also reports that companies with women in top jobs see 35% higher returns than those without.

For those of you who may need some help strengthening your self-confidence in the workplace or anyplace, here's a six-step process you can use. It parallels the coaching process and keeps the focus on... yourSELF: Self-Aware, Self-Accept, Self-Control, Self-Assess, Self-Advocate and Self-Care.

Self-Aware. Take stock of your current reality. Keep a journal over time of when you feel the worst about yourself and review it periodically. Are there themes emerging about the people and situations that trigger you?

Do you break out in a cold sweat each time you have to present something to a group or ask for what you want? Do you suddenly draw a blank when an interviewer asks you to describe your best assets? Document, not just where your self-confidence dips but also when it peaks. When do you feel the most confident?

Finally, take a global view. Explore how you see yourself, how others see you, how you would like to be seen, and how you must be seen to be effective. Examine all results for insights. A sales coordinator noticed that her "annoyance" at everyone at work was pervasive... and a cover up for feelings of powerlessness and unhappiness that she did not feel confident enough to express.

Self-Accept. Let go of negative self-talk. The "I'm not good enough" conversation is the quickest way to feel stuck and paint yourself into a corner.

Do office politics make you crazy? Do you worry about what other people think? Say this every day: "What other people think of me is none of my business."

Everyone has fears, doubts, and things they'd like to change about themselves. Feel them, accept them, but then deal with them. Start turning negative self-talk into positive affirmations: Say this in the mirror daily: "I am a talented, competent person who deserves the best." Corny, but it works!

What other small thing could you start doing to accept yourself more? A photographer dealing with a slow recovery from a serious illness needed to find work. She had to build a new approach, so she set an inspiring goal that captured her acceptance of her situation: "Making the Most of Me."

Self-Control. Acknowledge your responsibility for your own life and your career. The work environment leaves little leeway for emotionally driven exchanges which are usually non-productive. To be the most effective, learn how to respond, not react. Separate feelings from thoughts and actions so you can navigate situations independent of whom you're with or what you're feeling.

This takes practice. One good resource is Daniel Goleman's book, "Working with Emotional Intelligence." "EQ" has been proven to matter twice as much as IQ, technical expertise, or leadership training as a predictor of success in the workplace.

A teacher had some issues that hindered her from interacting effectively with her colleagues and her principal. In addition, new work requirements were overwhelming her. Distinguishing between her issues and actual workplace issues, identifying her triggers, and then working on her communications and boundaries helped her keep her job, ask for what she wanted, and work smarter.

Self-Assess. What are your passions, strengths, talents, values, styles, wants, and needs? Take some time to reflect and write down as much as you can in each area. Are these being met in the workplace?

Many tools and assessments exist to help you uncover these. By using these tools, a market research analyst got clarity on her strengths and weaknesses. She also rediscovered some new passions and talents she had overlooked. This helped increase her awareness, confidence, and effectiveness, as she changed workplaces and began a new job. Her goal was, "Twice as confident and respected at work."

Ask yourself: If I had no limitations, like fear or money, what would I want to do?
Building a detailed, specific, and inspiring vision of where you want to be helps you achieve it. For example, if you've been coveting that management job, visualize yourself already there... what are you feeling? What kind of work are you doing? Whom do you work with/for? What difference are you making? Visualizations are a powerful tool for creating abundance in your life, as well as for reducing anxiety and building self-confidence.

Self-Advocate. Now that you know who you are and what you want, take control! Set concrete, realistic goals and make and follow a step-by-step plan to achieve them. Setting goals may be part of your company's performance review process, but these are on a much more personal level.

Promote yourself; put your intention out there. Every conversation is an opportunity. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

Sir Isaac Newton's first law is, "A body at rest tends to stay at rest but a body in motion, tends to stay in motion." The more action you take, the more positive reinforcement you get, and the more likely you are to stay in action until you achieve your goal! Develop a solid, well-planned strategy for meeting your workplace goals that includes marketing yourself and building and sustaining momentum.

An architect realized that no matter how much she advocated for herself at her current job, the work environment was toxic and was slowly eroding her self-esteem. Even when she decided to leave, her insecurity spilled over into her interviews and she was too nervous to promote herself effectively.

Changing her thinking about how she saw herself, her capabilities, and her potential helped her move forward. She thought of where in her life she felt confident and then applied it to her current situation. Slowly, she began to feel more powerful in interviews and this helped her market herself successfully. Eventually, she got a job where she could stretch her wings and feel appreciated. Her goal was to "Reclaim my brilliant career."

Self-Care. It's important to honor yourself. Treat yourself like you want others to treat you, with the emphasis on "treat." When you communicate to others that you honor yourself, they will honor you too.

An actuary set a goal of "Treat myself like a client" to motivate her to approach her finances with the same care and attention as she gave her clients.

When you reach your goal, pat yourself on the back - and set another one. Acknowledging your accomplishments builds self-confidence. And positive self-talk is a component of self-care.

How will you reward yourself when you reach your goal? Remember, you are what you think. Changing your thinking from "I can't to I can," getting clear on who you are and what you want, taking responsibility for your career, setting goals, getting and staying in action, and rewarding yourself for even small milestones can do wonders for your self-confidence... and your success in the workplace!

"He is able who thinks he is able." Buddha

© 2006 Crossroads Consulting Group. All Rights Reserved.

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