Tech Leader Pro podcast 6, Your default mode is confidence

 
Published on 2020-11-27 by John Collins.

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File details: 18.2 MB MP3, 12 mins 40 secs duration.

Script

Intro:

My name is John, and welcome to episode 6 of the Tech Leader Pro podcast. Today I am going to discuss confidence, specifically your own personal confidence as a leader, and why a high degree of confidence must be your default state. Before we begin, I would like to briefly mention our sponsor Five.Today, which is the ideal product to help busy tech leaders to manage their days.

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And now, let’s get to our main topic without further interruption.

Topic:

So what exactly is confidence? Let’s begin with a dictionary definition:

Confidence is a:

"the feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something."

In this podcast I am going to talk about self-confidence, namely your belief in yourself to have the skills and judgement to get the job done effectively. When you start to lose confidence in yourself, you are in trouble as a leader and frankly you have no business doing the job: a leader must be confident, in fact it must be your default mode.

When you are not confident, you cannot make decisions which is one of the basic aspects of the leadership role. When you doubt your judgement, you may find yourself unwilling or unable to make a decision. In such a situation, your team will rapidly lose confidence in you, and will effectively stop following you, regardless of what the organization chart says.

The reason why I entitled this episode "Your default mode is confidence" is because I deliberately want to use the term "default mode", because it is technical and implies logic. Logically speaking, there is no reason why your default mode should NOT be confidence, unless you are in an extreme situation that you are completely under qualified to do, for example flying a plane when you are not a pilot. However for most situations faced by a leader, assuming you have the right mix of experience and training, you must be confident.

The confidence you feel must also be projected outwardly, to infect others. For those around you, if you appear confident in what you are doing, or the decisions you are taking, then they are more likely to feel at ease with those decisions. In general, when people observe a leader who is confident and in control, it makes them feel more confident.

Let me give you a real example, that is fun and illustrative.

Many years ago I worked with a manager from Spain. His favourite hobby was to take his kayak, and paddle for days along the many rivers of Spain. One time, his wife asked to join him on one of these trips, even though she had never been on a river trip before. During this trip, he lost his way and took the wrong fork in a river, and became completely lost. When his wife asked him "are we lost?", he told me he waved his hand to her in the back of the kayak and said "of course not, I know exactly where we are!".

Naturally he was not intending to hide facts from his wife, but did not want to overly worry her given her inexperience in navigating rivers in a kayak, and sure enough he was able to get back on course, without her even knowing there was ever a navigation issue. My friend was always confident in that outcome.

This is the burden of a leader: you must appear to be confident even when you have doubts, because to do otherwise will undermine the confidence in your team, and make you role exponentially more difficult.

Now I would like to talk about confidence when applied to sales, as a leader you can get pulled into these scenarios.

When you are part of a sales engagement, conference, or any other public engagement, you are acting as a representative of your company, your product, as most importantly as a leader: the people in your team. To project the right impression, you need to be confident that:

  1. Your company is financially secure, and has a good reputation and standard of conduct.
  2. Your product is of high quality, adds real value for users, and is fairly priced.
  3. Your team is motivated, smart, and professional.

Once you have internalized these indicators of your company health as part of your mental bedrock, you can project that impression externally with the confidence that you are standing on solid ground.

As a thought experiment, imagine you are thinking about buying a car and you visit a local dealership. The salesman comes out to greet you, but he has a weak handshake and struggles to maintain eye contact with you. He shows you around the cars in the lot, but seems disinterested. When you ask him about the features of a particular model, he tells you that he does not know as he is not a driver, as he takes the train to work. When you ask him why one model is more expensive than another, he does not know but tells you he will ask his colleague and find out for you.

Would you buy a car from this guy? Of course not! Not only is he not educated on his product, he does not even believe in it (remember he gets the train to work). A great sales person is a zealot about their product.

Sales are largely based on establishing credibility and trust with the person you are selling to, and that credibility is built based upon your confidence and knowledge about the product you are selling.

Without confidence, you cannot be credible.

Now lets talk about execution, because execution requires confidence.

Having an idea, to some extent, is easy. Nobody ever lost money by having an idea, or lost any reputation if they kept that idea to themselves. Making that idea public requires confidence, as now your reputation is on the line. Actually executing an idea takes even more confidence, as once you put an idea into action, you can actually fail in the real world, where failures can cost you time, money, and relationships.

Going from idea, to public commitment, to implementation takes increasing levels of confidence, on a sliding scale, because the degree of risk increases on that same scale.

People who lack confidence never try anything, in case they might fail. In extreme examples, they put more energy into mocking those of us who are confident enough to try something new, and often revel in the failures of others. The mindset is obviously deeply flawed, as it is motivated by fear and resentment, but sadly in this world it is prevalent.

Many truly confidence people do not care about the opinions of such detractors, as they are too busy executing their own ideas. True confidence is powered by your own self belief and determination, it is an internal engine that drives you which cannot be influenced by those negative influences around you.

So far I have talked a lot about why you should be confident, but how exactly do you build your confidence in the first place? Actually there is no great secret to obtaining confidence, it is entirely logical: confidence is based upon experience, and experience is gained via practice. Let me give you an example.

When I was a teenager, I lacked confidence in all aspects of my life. I was socially isolated, introverted, and generally pushed around by my peers. At age 17, I joined a local Karate dojo as I was becoming frustrated with my lot in life.

I still remember my first class, I was terrified! The senior students were so confident in their movements, their attitudes, and their physiques, they were really intimidating! Those first few weeks were the toughest, but I stuck with it and my instructor and classmates were incredible supportive, actually I would say studying martial arts was a life-changing experience for me. But why?

Firstly you learn how to fail, a LOT. You will be put into situations where you are guaranteed to fail, like sparing with a black belt when you are a white belt, or sparing with multiple opponents at the same time while you are alone. On hundreds of occasions, I have been knocked flat onto my back, but you learn to get back up, bow to your sparring partner, and try again.

Over time, your blocks becoming more effective so you get hit less. You kicks and strikes become more effective, so you can go on the offensive. As you become more competent, your confidence grows. Nobody tells you that you are getting better, you just feel it. That virtuous cycle of internal feedback grows, and can run like an internal dynamo for the rest of your life. Furthermore, you take that confidence you gain in the dojo, out into the street, and into every other aspect of your life.

In the beginning of every learning process, regardless of the topic, you will lack confidence at the beginning: this is normal. As you gain more experience, your gain more confidence in yourself, and eventually your confidence can not only carry you through, but also influence those around you in a positive manner.

Wrap-up:

Lets recap what we have covered today:

  1. Firstly we began by defining what confidence actually is, and why it is logical for it to be your default mode.
  2. We discussed that you confidence levels impact on your ability to make a decision: low-confidence people are afraid to make a decision, as they do not want to own the outcome. For a leader, that personality type is untenable, a leader must be confident.
  3. As a leader, you not only have to be self-confident, but you must also demonstrate confidence to those around you, even when internally you may have doubts (this is natural). You must project your confidence outwards, to infect and inspire those in your team. Nobody will follow a low-confidence leader for long.
  4. We discussed the example of a leader in a wilderness, who gets lost but does not panic, as he is confident in his own ability to find the correct route forward. In the meantime, he continued to demonstrate that he was confident to those who relied on him, even though he was lost temporarily, so they would not panic.
  5. We also discussed the fictional example of a car sales person, who is not confident on his knowledge of the product he is selling, a car, therefore he cannot make you feel confident about buying it. Confidence extends to what you are selling: in order to convince others, you yourself must be convinced and believe in what you are selling, like a zealot. Credibility requires confidence.
  6. When it you have an idea, you must execute on that vision. Ideas are easy, but successful executions are hard. Confident leaders are able to execute, because they are not afraid to fail, they will own it. Low-confidence leaders fear failure, therefore struggle with execution. Remember, when someone says "I’m an ideas guy", normally that means they don’t want the hard work, risk, and pressure of execution.
  7. Finally, I discussed some techniques you can use to increase your own confidence. In my case I used martial arts, however you can use many other pursuits such as performing music, joining a local drama group, taking part in debates and presentations, or really anything that makes you feel uncomfortable at the beginning, but over time and with practice you can gradually increase your capability, and therefore your confidence in it. Normally that boost in your personal confidence can transfer to other aspects of your life, so the effort is worth it.

I hope you enjoyed this episode, and I look forward to covering the next topic in this series with you! In the interim if you want to follow me online, you can find my blog at TechLeader.pro, or follow me on Twitter @TechLeaderPro.

Thanks for your time, take care and have a great week!