The Confidence Guy

Wired into Truly Confident Living

Category: ‘Career & business’

Jun 03

Check out this great clip.

The clever thing about it is that people can relate to both parts – the pessimistic, apathetic part, and the optimistic, hopeful part.

As human beings we all have those sides to us. Some days we couldn’t give a flying fig about things, other days we plug into what matters and get involved. But this clip made me think – what happens if these 2 sides are perfectly balanced, 50/50?

It means equilibrium.
It means that things won’t move forwards.
It means that we get in our own way.

So the elephant in the room is the fact that if Gen Y really wants to move the world forwards they need to shift that equilibrium. They need to shift the balance away from apathy and towards engagement.

The optimism, flexibility and ‘can-do’ attitude of Gen-Y is well documented, particularly with regard to changing the workplace, but I’ve seen indications in my own work and in the writing of others that Gen-Y isn’t quite so ‘can-do’ as they like to think they are. This makes me think that for all the talking up and hopeful interchange, much of Gen-Y will hit a wall where they discover that changing things is much more difficult than they thought.

There’s a big can of worms here, because I’m always coaching people on knowing the difference between the things in their life that they can change and influence and the things they can’t. I’ve seen clients bang their heads against brick walls trying to get things to happen, when it’s either completely out of their control or something that just isn’t ready to happen, so I let them know that it’s okay to stop bashing away against something they can’t change, and that that energy is better used elsewhere.

But maybe that’s missing an important point – that if everyone simply focused on the things that they can change and influence the equilibrium remains intact. Surely to move things forwards in line with the optimistic and hopeful side of us we need to engage with more than the things we can control. We need to engage with the things that seem to be out of control.

I honestly believe that everyone wants their life to matter; that everyone wants their contribution to the world to be greater than the sum of the parts. The problem, of course, is how that can happen in a world that seems to make that as difficult as possible, and how you can deal with the sometimes paralysing fear that what you do won’t matter.

Here’s what I think.

Changing the world, or at least your world, sounds like a mammoth, intimidating, confidence shredding task. But if you shift your own equilibrium, so that you’re spending more of your time engaging rather than not engaging, the rest will follow. Simple as.

It’s much easier to find the confidence and courage to plug into something that matters to you, as it means that you don’t have to worry about whether what you’re doing will matter to the world or contribute to a Big Picture. It just means that as long as what you’re plugged into means something to you, that’s all that really matters.

So by all means engage with something as big or complex as volunteering for a charity, standing on a political stage to make your viewpoint heard, taking part in a community project, working for an organisation with values you connect with or helping a friend in crisis. But it doesn’t have to be big, grand or life-changing. It could also be as simple or as small as engaging with a friendship, giving your barrista a smile, taking time to listen to a colleague’s point of view, making a suggestion instead of making a criticism, or any one of a million other things.

The point is this – if you can decide to spend more of your time plugged into things that mean something to you than not plugged into much at all, then you’ve got something special.

That’s how the equilibrium shifts, and that’s how things change.

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Apr 30

An interview with Sir Alan may well make you nervous...Giving an interview can be one of the more stressful things you have to do, and there’s so much advice out there it’s hard to know where to start or which advice you should follow. The thing to remember is that giving a confident interview is a skill that can be learned, just like making a cracking omelette, driving a car or delivering a presentation. Here are my 5 tips to giving a confident and effective interview.

  1. Know your subject, but don’t over-prepare
    Years ago I turned up to an interview for a Project Manager position at a medical logistics company, knowing nothing at all about the company or the industry they operated in. Fortunately it wasn’t a job that I wanted, which was just as well because I didn’t stand a chance.

    You need to know your stuff; the company’s products, services, market position, opportunities, etc. Read up on the company prior to the interview, but be careful not to over-prepare.

    It’s also a good idea to figure out how you’ll respond to some likely questions, but knowing your subject isn’t a case of simply repeating memorised information, and if you go to an interview planning on spouting facts and figures there’s a risk that you’ll sound too rehearsed or stilted. Know what you’re talking about but leave room to think on your feet; you don’t have to be word perfect, you don’t need to know everything or have a slick answer for every question.

    One more thing here – sometimes the interviewer wants to see how you think on your feet and might throw a curveball question at you. If that happens don’t overthink it and don’t panic. Buy yourself some time by repeating the question and even saying that you hadn’t expected it. Then shoot from the hip.

  2. Don’t sweat it
    First of all, whether it’s a 1st interview or 3rd interview, always remember that the simple fact that you’ve been shortlisted means that they’re interested in talking to you and think you might be right for the job. That’s a good thing.

    Of course, it’s easy to focus on the drama of the interview and loose your cool as a result. A friend of mine was telling me recently about how she panics as she goes through each round of interview, piling on more and more pressure on herself.

    Focusing on the problem and the drama will only ever give you more drama, and that’s exactly what you don’t need. Yes, interviews can be nerve-wracking, but it’s okay to be nervous. Being nervous makes you give a better interview, because you have to up your game accordingly and can use that nervous energy to demonstrate your enthusiasm and energy.

    2 thoughts for you. First of all, how would you approach the interview if there was nothing riding on it personally? What difference would it make if you knew that whatever decision they make is just fine, and is no reflection on you or your ability? A shift in how you perceive the interview and it’s risks can work wonders.

    Secondly, try writing down a step-by-step guide – a how-to manual – for how to make someone else feel like you do when you feel nervous or panicky. How do you start that feeling going? What do you think to yourself that makes that feeling grow? What do you do that makes it worse? Write it down step by step and you’ll be clearer on what you’re doing that gets in your way. Then you can write the opposite how-to guide, countering each step with something else that will get you a different result.

  3. Understand that an interview is a 2-way street
    In a survey conducted by recruitment consultancy Office Team, just under half of the employees surveyed said they’d misjudged the culture of a company, and 59% of HR managers said they’d misjudged someone’s fit for a role.

    That’s why an interview has to be a 2-way street. It’s a method of establishing whether you’re the best candidate for a role and if the role and organisation is a good fit for you. It’s not simply about the interviewer pulling out the information they need to make their decisions, you need to get the information you need to make your decision.

    The interviewer is not your enemy – you need to see how the role and organisation fits you just as much as they need to see if you’re the best match for the job. With that in mind, it’s a level playing field – there’s no ‘upper hand’.

  4. Don’t be afraid to blow your own trumpet
    The whole point of an interview is to sell yourself to the person interviewing you. Fail to recognise that or fail to do it effectively and it’s game over.

    So the first step is to reconnect with your strengths, expertise and experience if you’ve forgotten what you’re about, what you’ve achieved and what your capability is.

    Then you’re in a good place to let your interviewers know what you’ve achieved by means of example – that’s the information they’re looking for.

    The saying goes that an interview is 2 people in a room lying to each other. I wouldn’t go that far and lying during your interview is like dressing a cow in a duck costume and asking it to quack – it’s not going to fool anyone.

    But you know what? Feel free to embellish a little. Big yourself up a bit more. Say that you had a little more responsibility than you did. Tell them that your results were a little bit more special than they were. Those are all valid parts of the interview process and it doesn’t mean that you’re misrepresenting yourself. It simply means that you’re selling yourself and giving a great interview.

  5. Enjoy yourself
    I’ve interviewed a good few people in my corporate past, and there was always one thing that made a candidate stand out head and shoulders above the rest – the fact that they were enjoying themselves, not just in the interview but generally in their life.

    With one exception (where the interviewer had a serious chip on their shoulder and was determined to make it an unpleasant experience; I doubt anyone took that job) I really love being interviewed, because I get to use some of the stuff I love doing. I get to build rapport with someone, talk about me for a bit (come on, we all like a bit of that), have some interesting conversations and even have a giggle.

    That’s more important to me than being ‘professional’, which in too many cases means squeezing yourself into a box based on what you think your potential employer wants you to be like (more on being ‘professional’ in a future post).

    That’s why it’s important to figure out what’s important to you and what you enjoy, then leverage those things. If you look like the interview is torture or are just generally down-beat, you won’t get hired. Simple as. If you’re engaging with what you’re doing and where you are, that really comes across and will speak volumes.

    An interview is not a personal judgement on your character or ability. An interview is not the end of your world as you know it. Enjoy it, engage with it and bring who you are to the table.

Mar 21

So you’ve applied for the Next Great Job, been through the interview process, battled with pre-interview jitters and have been surprised by how much you want the damn job. You’ve given it your all, you’ve got everything crossed, and you hope and hope and hope that you’ll get good news.

And then you get the call that says you’ve got it and it hits you, “Holy crap, I got the job.

Now comes the part where it all becomes real. Of course there’s a part of you that’s elated and a part of you that’s rightly excited about what you’re doing, but there’s also that part of you that’s feeling pretty darn scared about what you’ve lined up for yourself and wants to spend some quality time hiding under the duvet.

Is the job too much of a stretch? Do you really have the experience to run that project lead that team have a direct report/take on that responsibility? Will the job match up to your expectations? What will your co-workers be like? Will your new boss be as okay as they seemed in the interview or will they tear off a fake latex head on your 1st day, revealing themselves to be a slobbering, carnivorous monster?

Whatever the new job is, you’ll have a transition process to go through, and that’s a scary thing. It’s supposed to be scary; here’s why:

  1. If it wasn’t scary it wouldn’t mean anything. Doing anything worthwhile means that there’s something on the line, and that means that something that might not work out as you want or expect it to. That’s part and parcel of doing something that matters to you, and that’s a Very Good Thing Indeed.
  2. If it wasn’t scary you wouldn’t be learning anything. Moving forwards often means that you move out of your comfort zone, which is clearly going to involve some discomfort and fear. That’s okay, without that stretch you won’t be exercising the muscles that give you new insights, new experiences and new skills.
  3. If it wasn’t scary you’d be living in a cushioned, protected world. Uncertainty and instability are part of life, and protecting yourself from those things means that you’ll be cutting yourself off from all kinds of experiences and opportunities.

Never forget how capable and resilient you are. Let yourself be scared because that’s where the good stuff is.

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Feb 07

A recent study conducted by Catherine Mosher of Duke University Medical Center and Sharon Danoff-Burg at the University of Albany found that 51 percent of undergraduate women prioritised romantic relationships over achievement goals, while more than 61 percent of men did the same.

While that margin might not seem that large, just think how this same study would have turned out 10 years ago or even 5 years ago. This is a pretty new and exciting phenomenon, and it’s seeing young women making a massive impact on the workplace. It shows that women are prepared to make tough choices and work hard to get into their chosen fields and organisations, and it’s clear that things are shifting.

I could talk about why it’s happening – the fact that today’s women grew up in an era when around 50% of marriages ended in divorce, and as Washington based psychologist Ellen Klosson comments, “Women have been aware of the time pressure to establish themselves in a career before starting a family, because of the difficulty of starting this task in their thirties and forties.” – but I’m more interested in what it means.

There are two significant impacts of this shift.

  1. Women are thinking about families later and starting them even later. There’s a bunch of apparently conflicting studies out there on whether this is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing, and for now it’s an issue I’m going to park to revisit another day (do let me know your thoughts though).

  2. The bigger concern I have is that there’s a very real pressure for women to perform and deliver consistently. Nothing wrong with that on the surface and you’re more than capable of doing just that, but I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard women say to me “You know, my colleagues and my friends would all describe me as confident, but I don’t feel it“.

Here’s what happens. You focus on what you want at College, you get a good job that pays well and challenges you. You enjoy what you do, get promoted quickly because you’re talented and deliver consistently and you might make a couple of career moves into other organisations with bigger and better prospects. You achieve a hell of a lot in a short space of time.

Then, when you start getting closer to that big 3-0, something interesting happens. You start asking if where you are is what you really want. You start asking just how long you can keep running. You start asking what else there is for you. And importantly, you start asking just who you are underneath all that achievement and success.

Sure, I’m generalising a little here, but let me be really clear – I see this every day when I’m working with clients and I asked myself the very same questions.

The desire to succeed and deliver is one to be applauded, but only if it means something to the individual who’s putting the hard graft in. Time and time again I’ve worked with women who have achieved great things but who don’t feel it. There’s a transition where the desire to achieve, move forwards and succeed in their field shifts from being a genuine desire into habit – and that’s where the danger is.

The bottom line is that when the challenge and the success stops being personally relevant the meaning and purpose behind everything you do is lost – let that ride for a few years and the price you pay is a compelling sense of who you are and what’s important to you.

Don’t fall into the same trap.

Feb 02

Moving into a management role for the first time can be darn scary. Whether you’re promoted internally or hired straight into a position where you have a team reporting to you, there are some key things that will help you find your feet and ramp up your confidence quickly.

  1. Fake it just enough
    You can’t know it all and pretending that you do is sure to get you into hot water. If you adopt the approach of ‘faking it til you make it’ your team will see straight through you, and sooner or later you’ll trip up big time.

    Of course, if you answer every question with a shrug of your shoulders and a blank stare your team will lose all confidence in you and respect for you, so there’s a balance to be struck. You need to fake it just enough so that you build trust and respect in your team, but not too far that you pretend you can do it all yourself.

    It’s really down to being ready to wing it, something that will always be part of the job of a manager.
  2. Find your groove
    Don’t walk around doing an impression of ‘a manager’. It’ll feel fake and it just won’t get the results you need.

    Finding your style as a manager can take a while, but it’s the only way you’ll be able to bring everything together and deliver consistently. Learn from the best managers you know and by all means look for a mentor, but don’t take on someone else’s approach and style wholesale.

    Don’t assume that your team want to be managed the way you want to be managed. Look at what your team needs and how to manage them to get the best out of them, and figure out what strengths, talents, experience and skills you have that will meet those needs.

    In the Business Week article ’Becoming the Boss’, Linda A. Hill suggests that to succeed as a new manager you need to: “Demonstrate character (intending to do the right thing), managerial competence (listening more than talking), and influence (getting others to do the right thing). She cites a great example, ”An investment bank manager won employees’ respect by shifting from showing off his technical competence to asking them about their knowledge and ideas.
  3. Focus on the relationships
    A manager will thrive or die on their ability to build relationships. You’ll have all kinds of conflicting demands made of you and your team, and it’s through your relationships with people that things change and things get done.

    Hill suggests that “it’s imperative to earn respect and credibility by leveraging the knowledge of the people around you”, and the only way to do that is by building positive, enabling relationships, not just in your own team but with the people your team depends on to get things done.

    I’ve seen that whenever I’m helping organisations out as a Project Manager I always place a high priority on building relationships, and that effort shows results pretty much instantly. People will respect you, trust you and go that little bit further if you have a good relationship in place.

One last thing – always remember that you’ll ramp up your confidence and find things easier if you add your own personality and strengths into the mix.

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Jan 29

One night in the not too distant future I’ll be on my way home on a dark night, will turn the corner and see a cuddle of coaches (I think that’s the right collective noun) wearing Tony Robbins face masks and brandishing rolled up self-help books, ready to give me a right royal talking to.

This post may well get me into trouble with my fellow coaches. It’s been on my mind for a long time, so in for a penny…

Coaching is a great service and does a lot of good, but as a business and as an industry it really needs to step up, grow up and face the issues that are holding it back, or run the risk that it will continue to deliver just a fraction of its promise or even start to atrophy.

The problem can be boiled down to this – there’s no certainty in what the client gets from being coached, if anything at all. Look at it this way – you go to an accountant because you’re getting a professional service that meets a need you have; you go to a lawyer because you have a solid degree of certainty in what you’re getting for your money. All the time there’s no certainty in the outcome there’s absolutely no reason for someone to go a coach. As a business model that really sucks.

Just look around the web at the sites of different coaches and you’ll see what I mean – 90% of them are woolly, vague things that have scant information about what the client’s gonna get. Why would you spend a lot of money on a service where you have no idea what you’re getting?

I got in touch with Christian Mickelson, a successful business coach in the USA, because I knew he’d get what I was talking about. He said, “If a client is going to pay you hundreds or even thousands of dollars every month, they want to know what they are going to get for their money. And what they are buying is speed (they want to go faster), and certainty (they want to know that they are going to get there).

Spot on.

The problem is that traditional coaching is based on the central principle that a coachee needs to find their own answers and that the coach shouldn’t direct things. What that boils down to is that it’s nearly impossible for a client to understand what they’re purchasing, and that means that coaching remains a niche service despite its huge potential. Six years after I entered the industry that’s still true.

What I call ‘Coaching 2.0’ is about giving ready-to-go clients the benefits they’re looking for and providing solid expertise to solve their problem; it’s about giving people real value for money. This isn’t just about the sales process – a coach can create a nice and shiny sales process that does it’s job, but if the product or service doesn’t deliver then it’s as much use as a concrete parachute.

Coaches need to create processes that deliver concrete results. They need to create certainty for their clients for the industry to grow, and they need to do that looking at the evidence of what works and what doesn’t, and by realising that it’s okay to direct things and add their own experience, knowledge and skills.

Jan 06

“I hope you can help me with something Steve. I hate my job. I really do. I want to quit because I hate where I work and I dread Monday mornings, especially now the Holiday’s are over.

The people are fine for the most part, and some of the people I work with have become friends, but I hate the way I have to work and don’t get what my boss is doing at all. What if quitting is the wrong thing to do? I’m scared that if I leave it might be jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Should I stick with it?”

– Nicole B. in LA

Oh Nicole, Nicole, Nicole. Hate’s a strong word, and you’ve it used with relish. It’s abundantly clear that you’re either in the wrong job or the wrong company, and here’s the thing – you don’t owe them anything. That might sound heartless or mercenary, but it’s true. When you went to work for them you signed a contract, which means that you sell them your time, your skills and your experience in exchange for a salary and benefits. When you look at the cold, hard facts it’s a business exchange – you have something that’s of value to them and they’re paying you for it.

That means that if the deal isn’t working out for you in the way you’d like it to you’re well within your rights to change things and move on. You ask me if it’s the wrong thing to do and if you should stick it out in your organisation. What’s the impact of you doing that? What would it be like to spend another 6 months or a year there? Zoom forwards to the end of the the year and see how you’d feel if you stuck around.

It’s natural to be scared about quitting work, especially if you don’t have anything else lined up just yet. That doesn’t need to hold you back from looking at your options and seeing what else is out there, and I guarantee you there are jobs out there with your name on them. I think you’d probably agree that the piece of you that’s scared or is thinking that you might as well stick it out is the small, scared, hide your head under the covers part. It’s the part of you that’s happy to settle and wants to aim low so you don’t get disappointed or run the risk of screwing up. That’s okay, we all have that. The trick is to be aware of it and manage it so that it doesn’t hold you back and end up damaging your sense of who you are.

So what about the better part of you? What about the part of you who’s massively capable and knows that you can get more of the good stuff? What would that part of you do here?

A big question here is is about the kind of experience you want to have in your work. Sure, you could stick it out and things may change, but it seems like you know full well what your experience of your workplace is. So what kind of experience do you want in your work and your career?

It sounds to me like you’re selling yourself short Nicole. Strike a balance between putting energy into doing your job well enough and looking at your options, and good luck for whatever happens next.

Stay tuned. Lots more articles coming up describing key strategies that will help you if you’re in a similar place to Nicole…