Building Confidence – Using Feedback

One of the commonest scenarios that managers face is that of working with employees who appear to lack confidence at work.

The starting point for helping employees who lack confidence is to recognise that this is just a label that we have attached (often unconsciously) to a set of behaviours. It is recognising these behaviours and helping the employee to manage them effectively that provides the key to building confidence.

I recently worked with a manager who presented exactly this challenge and we started by listing the behaviours that were at the source of the problem:

  • crying frequently at work (2-3 times a week)
  • prefacing suggestions with self deprecating comments such as ‘This is probably a stupid idea but…’ and ‘I doubt that this will work but…’
  • periods of withdrawal and silence especially in meetings

Frequent crying is always a worry – as it maybe a sign of some deep problems that may require specialist support.  However it is not unusual and sometimes it is not a deep seated problem at all.

We then looked at the role of the manager in giving feedback, frequently and consistently, to the employee about these behaviours and the impact that they have in the workplace – ensuring that the employee is left with the responsibility for making changes.

We also looked at areas where the employee was performing well and where confidence was much less of an issue.  Again we spent a bit of time digging for successful behaviours and again agreed that the manager would increase the amount of feedback that was given to encourage these behaviours and to make the employee absolutely clear that their positive contributions were recognised and valued.

In most cases simple, clear and consistent feedback is enough to help the employee to remove the poor behaviours from their repertoire and as if by magic the label ‘lacking in confidence’ disappears.