How to Balance Your Confidence and Ego
We all want to be confident, but we also don't want to be those high-level managers who let their ego get in the way of working with people or making a decision that would benefit the company. Although having an ego and confidence is often synonymous, having a huge ego can really harm you. Having the confidence to support everyone else on your team, will only make your company and you succeed in the end. Keeping those priorities straight will gain you respect and confidence so much faster than putting others down to build yourself up. Even though there is definitely a grey area, you can find a balance that works for you.
For example, when I was working as an Executive Personal assistant, an extremely important part of my job was to protect my boss. That meant a couple of different things. One was straightforward, I protected her time and organized her schedule and meetings accordingly. Then it got a little more complicated. Sometimes it meant seeming foolish to other people if it made my boss look better. Like saying I messed up the time for a meeting when she actually forgot. And most importantly, sometimes I had to protect her from herself, and speak up when I thought she was going in the wrong direction, while still making it super clear that the final decision was hers. This last point is so hard. It involves having the confidence to speak up, but also the ability to take criticism and be okay if they don't agree with your opinion. That balance is hard, but it all comes down to these factors:
1. Get your priorities straight.
What is your job? Know the parameters really well. And then do it. You were hired to do your job, so make sure it gets done.
2. Know your place.
What is everyone else’s job? You might have to get clarification if you are just starting a new job, but it is also important to know what your team members are responsible for. Clear communication is the key to working these boundaries out. When you come across a task where you need to delegate, break up the tasks and then keep asking yourself, "is this my job?" If the answer is no, then let the other person do it. For example, I had a task that involved sending out an email to clients. I had another team member that was directly in charge of client relations. Even though I was representing the owner of the company, that email should not have come from me. Instead, I worked with my team member to make sure it came from him, but still represented what the company wanted to say.
3. Listen with a fine-toothed comb.
Find the point. Filter out the information you do need from a conversation. Often people will get their panties in a twist from something someone else said by accident. Maybe they aren’t from this country and was trying to make a joke. Maybe they don’t know your sensitive about that topic. Brush it off and see from other perspectives. The drama will make people lose respect for you. Before freaking out about anything, take a deep breath. Make sure you are acting in a positive way, and not reacting out of fear or anger.
4. Confidence is the first thing people will notice about you.
Even before you open your mouth, people are noticing things about you. Your posture, professional appearance, handshake, bright attentive eye contact, a smile can all go a long long way. That’s 90% of the first impression. But, don't let your ego be the first thing they notice. Ask them questions and don't just talk about yourself.
5. Create opportunity and open your ears.
You don’t know everything. That’s why you have a team or coworkers. Collaboration leads to the best results so don’t be afraid to speak up, but also to be ready to clearly articulate why someone else’s idea won’t work. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t foster creativity and generate more new ideas. At the same time, listen to why other people are saying your ideas would not work. Adjust accordingly. If the team wins, you win too.
6. You're a duck.
This is the answer to that, "what animal are you?" Interview question everyone was talking about when I was graduating college. You are calm on the surface but underneath you are working away. I don't know if that is what I would have said as the answer, but I agree with some aspects of it. On the surface, you always have to be calm and keep a level head. When there is a problem, with all eyes on you, you need to calm people down and get them into a positive mindset where they are all trying to creatively come up with ideas. Rally the troops. Then if the team really does a great job, let them know it, and make sure your boss knows who did an amazing job. Support your team by being the engine that pushes them along.
7. Never shy away from necessary confrontation.
Most people don't like confrontation, but you are just going to have to get over it. It happens. And if you avoid it, you are just going to make it worse. Plan your talking points. Listen. Have the goal of a mutual compromise to solve the problem. Be open, but don’t give too much room for wiggling. Whenever I have had a problem with a team member, I hear the problem first, weed through to the information I really do need, then take a breath. I think about what I need to change, and how to clearly say what the expectations are. Then I will bring them in, state the concerns and what the expectations are, then ask how I can help them achieve that. Listen to the answer. Don't let them pass all of their work onto other people, but work toward a compromise. Maybe you need to be clearer in the future or check in with this team member more to keep them on track.
8. Build others up.
When you meet someone for the first time, they are going to remember how they felt when they were with you. Make sure those feelings are positive, happy, and confident. Compliment them, make them feel welcome. Find something that you have in common and work with that. Make a real connection. If you know them well, start to think about what they need and how you can help give them that confidence boost. You don’t get anywhere in the long run by putting people down, at least not to anywhere you really want to be.
9. Know your weaknesses and your strengths.
Know your weaknesses and work on them. Admit them, seek out team members that have strengths in those areas. Be open to constructive criticism, and advice from others. Know your strengths as well. Work toward answering your Big Question to give yourself confidence. A common one is grappling with making a difference in the world. Maybe you want to leave a legacy behind. All you want is for your kid to succeed. To have enough money to travel the world and experience other cultures. No matter what your true motivation. Find it and aline yourself with it. If you are passionate and are catering to your strengths that will give you endless natural confidence.
10. Don't gossip.
Egos come out in this way a lot. Gossiping about others won't get you anywhere, and you will end up losing the respect of the people around you that you need to work with. Always show respect to others, and work to create a collaborative environment where you support each other. I will say that in a higher management position, it is necessary to sometimes question an employees ability to do their job, but it should never be discussed in front of other team members.
Whether you are working on your professional life, personal life, having your own business, following your dreams, whatever you choose to do, gain the respect you deserve. And handle any situation with grace.
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Owner and CEO, kfons