Series on Confidence Building – Working on insecurities

It is very common to come across people who are talented, ambitious, and well-liked, yet they feel insecure. As they push themselves to try new things and network with more senior people in the business they get “triggered.” They lose their point of center, and instead of showing up as the fabulous leader they know they can be, they play small, and momentarily believe that a small sandbox is where they are meant to be.

Natalie Michael, a well known and leading management consultant/coach tells us about how one of her clients worked through his insecurities and became more confident. In her own words,“One of my clients, we will call him John, was recently promoted to VP in a high growth company. He is a talented, hard working, funny, down to earth person with loving relationships in his life. He also has an excellent track record running high growth operations, and he has the ability to coach others and dive into the details when he needs to. The majority of the executive team supported his success and believed that he is the best person for the VP role.

But, when he was promoted to VP he lost his confidence (temporarily). Instead of being the great leader he is he kept quiet in key meetings, and instead of sharing his perspective and strategic insights he deferred to others. Why? He told me that he just didn’t think he had much to contribute to his “experienced and smart” peers. After some coaching work he now knows this is not the case.

So, what was the coaching work we did to turn this around? First, I sent him a document that highlights the difference between confidence and self-esteem. From studying the work of Nathaniel Branden, the “father of self-esteem,” I understand that self-esteem comes from a belief that you are wrong or bad in some way as a person, and confidence is more contextual. For example, I can have healthy self-esteem, yet not feel confident about expressing an opinion on brain surgery in a room of surgeons. For John, it was clear that his confidence was contextual.

Second, we explored John’s confidence triggers. That is, we looked at what specific situations would rock him off his best self. I had him complete six emotional trigger records in a variety of situations which derailed him. Doing this work (which took quite a bit of effort on his part) allowed us to see the beliefs and emotional patterns which emerged during insecure situations. For example, one unproductive belief was that it wasn’t okay to be learning his new role and somehow he should “know” how everything works. For him, adopting the learner mindset was helpful.

Third, we looked at cognitive thinking biases. That is, we had him figure out what happened to his thinking when he was insecure. Was he overly negative? Catastrophizing (imagining overly negative things would happen)? Or, was there an empathy gap (the tendency to be highly self-critical and lack empathy towards himself). When he pin pointed his biases he had an a-ha moment. “My mind is playing tricks on me. It helps to be aware of what is happening.” Then, we looked at more balanced and realistic thoughts compared to the negative biases that were chattering in his brain.

Fourth, we evaluated the physical warning signs that he was being triggered. We looked at his breathing, his body, his walk, his palms, and how the physical sensations of insecurity travelled through him. Then, we came up with a strategy for noticing when the physical sensations were starting up (usually this was the pre-cursor to the negative thinking) and he came up with a personalized technique for creating a moment of space so that the sensations would not escalate.

Fifth, we created a confidence “toolbox.” This consisted of 10 strategies that were totally customized to his needs and situation and that would help him re-center and ground himself in confident energy. Items in his toolbox were centering practices before key meetings, ensuring he was prepared, asking questions when the critical voice started to emerge, and taking stock of what went well each day and his role in creating these positive outcomes (a big one for him). This is stuff he knew how to do, yet he wasn’t connecting not doing these practices with his confidence plummet.

With all of these strategies deployed he started to understand that his confidence issues were contextual (and not an indication of his talent or potential), and they could be prevented if he anticipated his triggers, paid attention to his body, was prepared before key meetings, and he watched the negative thinking biases that took him down the rabbit hole. He recognized that when he was stretching himself he needed to do more of this personal work, not less, and the same principles that applied to him also applied to his kids and his direct reports. The multiplier benefits of his toolbox was gravy.

I am happy to report that he is thriving in his role.”

Series on Building Confidence – One step at a time

Confidence is always touted as one of the most important factors to succeed in any profession. A little bit of confidence can open up huge avenues and make you do things you didn’t even think you were capable of.

As part of Henny’s training in her new job, she was invited to take part in a training module on the early detection of eye disorders among children. Initially, she lacked confidence as she had never sat together with doctors and eye health experts before. She also felt she did not have experience outside of her daily duties as a nurse. However, she later attended a meeting of the module organizers where she gave input about how the module could be improved and her ideas were accepted, which pleased her.

Following an internship on a pediatric ward, she was invited to help develop a module on how to train others to screen children’s eyes. The development team consisted of ophthalmologists, refractionists, opticians/optometrists, nurses and trainers from the provincial, city and regency departments of health, and was supported by child eye health specialists.

After several meetings, the team of ‘master trainers’ had to present the modules that they had developed. She had never expected to take the role of a master trainer. However, with encouragement from other members of the team, Henny presented a session to the others, who gave her feedback on how to improve her presentation skills. Although she only had five people attending her first training session for other trainers, she felt very nervous. Over time, however, her confidence has grown. She has found that her experience – as an eye nurse who deals with children every day – strengthens her teaching, as it provides her with many practical examples of eye disorders she can share.

When she was asked if there were major changes in herself after becoming a trainer of trainers, Henny said: “The first time I delivered a training session, I prayed that none of the participants would ask questions. But now, it is me who prompts, ‘Is there anything you want to ask?’.” Her dealings with patients have also changed. “Now, my delivery and tone of voice are a bit different. I am more patient and more detailed when explaining something,” she said.

Henny has gained a lot by working at the eye health clinic for children. In addition to increasing her knowledge and making friends, she also gained the trust of her supervisor and colleagues in dealing with patients, particularly children. “If the intention is good, everything will go well, the main point is that I am happy working with children and collaborating with HKI,” she says.


Series on Confidence Building – Tackling Insecurity

Very few people succeed in business without a degree of confidence. Yet everyone, from young people in their first real jobs to seasoned leaders in the upper ranks of organizations, have moments — or days, months, or even years — when they are unsure of their ability to tackle challenges. No one is immune to these bouts of insecurity at work, but they don’t have to hold you back.

What the Experts Say “Confidence equals security equals positive emotion equals better performance,” says Tony Schwartz, the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live. And yet he concedes that “insecurity plagues consciously or subconsciously every human being I’ve met.” Overcoming this self-doubt starts with honestly assessing your abilities (and your shortcomings) and then getting comfortable enough to capitalize on (and correct) them, adds Deborah H. Gruenfeld, the Moghadam Family Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior and Co-Director of the Executive Program for Women Leaders at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Here’s how to do that and get into the virtuous cycle that Schwartz describes.

Preparation- Your piano teacher was right: practice does make perfect. “The best way to build confidence in a given area is to invest energy in it and work hard at it,” says Schwartz. Many people give up when they think they’re not good at a particular job or task, assuming the exertion is fruitless. But Schwartz argues that deliberate practice will almost always trump natural aptitude. If you are unsure about your ability to do something — speak in front of large audience, negotiate with a tough customer — start by trying out the skills in a safe setting. “Practice can be very useful, and is highly recommended because in addition to building confidence, it also tends to improve quality. Actually deliver the big presentation more than once before the due date. Do a dry run before opening a new store,” says Gruenfeld. Even people who are confident in their abilities can become more so with better preparation.

Get out of your own way – Confident people aren’t only willing to practice, they’re also willing to acknowledge that they don’t — and can’t — know everything. “It’s better to know when you need help, than not,” says Gruenfeld. “A certain degree of confidence — specifically, confidence in your ability to learn — is required to be willing to admit that you need guidance or support.”

On the flip side, don’t let modesty hold you back. People often get too wrapped up in what others will think to focus on what they have to offer, says Katie Orenstein, founder and director of The OpEd Project, a non-profit that empowers women to influence public policy by submitting opinion pieces to newspapers. “When you realize your value to others, confidence is no longer about self-promotion,” she explains. “In fact, confidence is no longer the right word. It’s about purpose.” Instead of agonizing about what others might think of you or your work, concentrate on the unique perspective you bring.

Get feedback when you need it – While you don’t want to completely rely on others’ opinions to boost your ego, validation can also be very effective in building confidence. Gruenfeld suggests asking someone who cares about your development as well as the quality of your performance to tell you what she thinks. Be sure to pick people whose feedback will be entirely truthful; Gruenfeld notes that when performance appraisals are only positive, we stop trusting them. And then use any genuinely positive commentary you get as a talisman.

Also remember that some people need more support than others, so don’t be shy about asking for it. “The White House Project finds, for example, that many women need to be told they should run for office before deciding to do so. Men do not show this pattern of needing others’ validation or encouragement,” says Gruenfeld. It’s okay if you need praise.

Take risks – Playing to your strengths is a smart tactic but not if it means you hesitate to take on new challenges. Many people don’t know what they are capable of until they are truly tested “Try things you don’t think you can do. Failure can be very useful for building confidence,” says Gruenfeld. Of course, this is often easier said than done. “It feels bad to not be good at something. There’s a leap of faith with getting better at anything,” says Schwartz. But don’t assume you should feel good all the time. In fact, stressing yourself is the only way to grow. Enlisting help from others can make this easier. Gruenfeld recommends asking supervisors to let you experiment with new initiatives or skills when the stakes are relatively low and then to support you as you tackle those challenges.

Principles to Remember


•Be honest with yourself about what you know and what you still need to learn

•Practice doing the things you are unsure about

•Embrace new opportunities to prove you can do difficult things


•Focus excessively on whether you or not you have the ability – think instead about the value you provide

•Hesitate to ask for external validation if you need it

•Worry about what others think — focus on yourself, not a theoretical and judgmental audience

Source: Harvard Business Review, Amy Gallo

Series on Confidence Building – Self belief

Confidence means having belief in yourself and in your abilities. It is important that you understand your value and know what you bring to the table. Only you can stop yourself back from succeeding.

Julie Zhuo knew she had things to say but she wasn’t sure how to get heard. As a product design manager at Facebook, she had developed valuable expertise in the products she worked on. Yet, she lacked the confidence to share her ideas. She was used to being one of very few women in the room. That had been the case when she was studying computer science at Stanford and it was still true now that she was at Facebook. She knew this meant she needed to make a concerted effort to speak up. But being the minority voice wasn’t the only reason she felt unsure of herself. She says that she also suffered from “imposter syndrome,” feeling as if she hadn’t earned a right to her ideas; she had somehow ended up where she was accidently, not through hard work.

Julie was intrigued when someone in HR told her about a workshop offered at Stanford by the Op-Ed Project. After attending and getting positive feedback about her ideas, Julie tried something she had never thought to do before: write an op-ed.

Last November, she published a piece in the New York Times about the danger of anonymity in online discussions. “It was a matter of someone saying you can do it,” she explains. “It had never occurred to me that I could be published. But it actually wasn’t hard at all.” The reaction she got in the workshop and afterward back at Facebook boosted her confidence. “Since then, she’s gotten a lot of support from colleagues, which has emboldened her to speak her mind. “Of course it’s still a work in progress, but now I’m a much more confident speaker and writer,” she says.

Source: Harvard Business Review, Amy Gallo

Series on Confidence Building – Identifying the Challenge

Lack of confidence can stem from various factors. Even an able and proven professional can often come across situations where he finds himself lost and with no confidence to move forward. It is to identify the challenge that you are facing accurately and take the necessary steps to recover.

In 2010, Mark Angelo, was asked by the CEO of Hospital for Special Surgery in New York to create and implement a program to improve quality and efficiency. Mark was relatively new to the organization. He had worked as a business fellow for the previous year but had recently taken on the role of director of operations and service lines. Even though he had background in operations strategy from his days as a management consultant, he was not familiar with the Lean/Six Sigma principles he’d need to use for this project and didn’t feel equipped to build the program from scratch. He was particularly concerned he wouldn’t be able to gain the necessary support from the hospital’s physicians and nurses. What would they think of a young administrator with no hospital experience telling them how to improve quality and increase efficiency?

For five months, Mark struggled to get the project on track and his confidence suffered. He knew that his apprehension was in part due to his lack of knowledge of Six Sigma. He read a number of books and articles on the subject, talked to consulting firms that specialized in it, and spoke with hospitals that had been successful in developing and implementing similar programs. This helped but he realized he still didn’t know if he would be able to get the necessary people on board. “I was anxious and stressed because I had no idea how I was going to transform the organization. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. It was going to take a collective effort that included our management team and all of our staff,” he said.

He talked with the CEO who had supported him since the beginning. He also looked to his family for emotional support. Through these conversations he realized that his anxiety stemmed from a desire to be liked by his colleagues and therefore to avoid conflict. “After many discussions with my CEO and observing how he handled these situations, I learned that it is better to strive to be well-respected than well-liked,” he said.

This was a turning point for Mark. Instead of worrying so much about what others thought of him, he focused on doing what was best for the patient and the institution. In December, he presented the vision for the program to the entire medical staff. While he was nervous about how it would be received, he knew this was a critical moment. “I was able to get up in front of one our toughest constituencies and present the vision that we had been developing over the past few months,” he says. His presentation was met with applause. “In the end, my confidence grew by leaps and bounds and we were able to design a program that has since taken off with great success across the hospital. I was able to overcome my mental blocks and knowledge deficits to build a program that will truly help transform how we approach performance improvement and patient care,” he says.

Source: Harvard Business Review, Amy Gallo

Series on Confidence Building – Restart

In life, we are often faced with various challenges that put us down; draining our confidence and belief. Usually, however, all it takes to come back from this is to get back on your feet and realize your potential. Build your confidence back up and better things start happening.

Jane had successfully owned her own business, a café, for over 25 years and was actively involved in the day-to-day operations until a serious health issue was diagnosed. The condition was directly linked to years of working in a kitchen and she was advised that she could no longer continue working in this environment. Eventually, Jane was forced to sell her business. Having been divorced for a number of years and in her early 50s, her personal circumstances dictated that, financially, she would have to continue working.

Jane discovered a program that offered support in helping unemployed adults over the age of 50 to explore their potential and assist them back into employment. She initially felt that she had no skills or experience and was beginning to really worry about what employment opportunities were available to her. The program encouraged her to look at the skills she used in running her own business. Before long, she had a list that included dealing with the public, customer service, marketing and promotion, recruiting and managing staff, dealing with complaints, as well as an array of financial skills.

This helped build Jane’s confidence and shaped her CV as well as a number of job applications. She also started to think about what she enjoyed doing in her spare time and realized that the tourism sector was something she would be interested in exploring further. She applied to work in a local hotel as a breakfast assistant. However, her employer was so impressed that she was offered a supervisory position due to her wealth of experience. Jane worked in the job for around six months and continued to learn and develop her personal interest, which was focused on becoming a tour guide.

Having continued to pursue her ideal job, Jane has now successfully realized this goal and is currently working as a tour guide for a local tourist attraction, where she thoroughly enjoys meeting and guiding tourists and gains a great deal of satisfaction from the work she does.

Series on Resilience – Women in workplace

Resilience, the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. A ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences.

In a practical sense, Resilience is a set of skills—sometimes learned, other times innate—allowing you to persevere, manage stress, and triumph in the face of challenges. Faith’s at the core of these skills. For many women, resilience is a strength considered essential. Both women and men need resilience to deal with difficulties in life. But, women often need more resilience than men to overcome traditional obstacles placed in their way, in order to advance in the business world. Many women, however, are not aware of the amount of resilience they do possess.

Kanika Tiwari is the co-founder of JetSetGo – India’s first online marketplace for private jets and helicopters launched in 2014. Leveraging her more than eight years of experience in the aviation industry, Kanika realised the frustration of customers while dealing with charter brokers and operator due to the fact that due to sheer lack of transparency and non-availability of charter planes, customers pay astronomical amounts. It was from here, that the idea to develop JetSetGo started.

JetSetGo is fundamentally re-defining the private aviation business, by seamlessly creating marketplaces that join the dots between charter customers and operators on one hand and service providers with operators on the other. It recently raised funding from Yuvraj Singh’s debut startup fund, YouWeCan Ventures, in July this year. For Kanika who has beaten cancer too and is now entering unchartered territory, the flight to greater heights has just begun.

Series on Resilience – Psychological Resilience

Psychological resilience is defined as an individual’s ability to successfully adapt to life tasks in the face of social disadvantage or highly adverse conditions.

Jack Ma, who founded Alibaba and is its Executive Chairman was rejected from as many as 30 jobs, including a job at KFC before he became the richest man in China. His e-commerce company, Alibaba attracts 100 million shoppers a day and his real time net-worth is a whopping $21.9 billion. But, being the richest person in China didn’t come easy to Ma. He went through a lot of rejection before seeing all the unprecedented success.

For starters, Ma revealed in a recent interview that he failed a college entrance exam three times. Unfortunately, it didn’t just end there. Ma faced more obstacles when he founded Alibaba in 1998. The brand didn’t turn profitable for the first three years, and Ma had to get creative.

One of the company’s main challenges was that it had no way to do payments and no banks would work with him. This is when he decided to start his own payment program called Alipay. The program transfers payments of different currencies between international buyers and sellers.

People called the idea of Alipay stupid at that time. Today, 800 million people use Alipay.

Series on Resilience – Importance in employee engagement

Organisations have become increasingly interested in how to develop employee engagement. The success of such an intervention is not only dependent on its quality, but also on the organization of the intervention and the process. Read on to see how resilience is an important predictor of engagement.

In a randomised trial by Jo-Anne Abbott, Britt Klein, Catherine Hamilton and Andrew J Rosenthal, an internet-based online resilience building program was evaluated among sales managers at Australia. This program was designed to enhance resilience by teaching seven skills to help improve ability to cope with challenges and setbacks and maximize potential achievements. Sales managers found the resilience training very enjoyable and believed it would improve their work performance and life skills.

At an individual, employee level, personal resources such as self-efficacy and resilience and job resources like social support and supervisory coaching may be important predictors of engagement. The conclusion will be that these factors should be optimized at the personal level.

Series on Resilience

You become resilient by dealing with small-scale stress’s that you’re able to learn from. Women have many more opportunities to do that in their lives than men do, in part because they have more exposure to the stresses that come from being excluded from the privileges that come automatically to little boys and that continues throughout women’s lives as they carry different burdens and expectations from men. Women still carry more child rearing responsibilities. They carry more of the emotional load in families. The gender biases that exist either beat you down, or you develop a sense of yourself and others as being okay.

Chanda Kochhar is the managing director and chief executive officer of ICICI Bank. She is widely recognized for her role in shaping retail banking in India.

Kochhar joined ICICI as a management trainee. In 1993, she was appointed as one of the core team members who were assigned the responsibility of setting up the bank. She was promoted to assistant general manager and then to deputy general manager. In 1998, she was promoted as the General Manager and headed ICICI Bank’s major client group, which handled relationships with ICICI’s top 200 clients. From 2007 to 2009, she was the bank’s chief financial officer & joint managing director.

This journey was no easy task. In her career which extends to over three decades of experience, she remained strong willed and alert. Her determination to make it to the top only grew from year to year. Kochhar’s career growth can be traced along with the expansion of the bank over the past several years. In 2009 she was appointed the Managing Director and the Chief Operating Officer of ICICI bank and in 2011 she was awarded the Padma Vibhushan.