Guest post by Linda Jones
Do you consider yourself a naturally confident person, or work hard to maintain an air of knowing what you are doing?
At work, do you find yourself shaking on the inside while everyone tells you how wonderfully confident you appear?
People who know me, say they can't believe how confident I am. Sometimes I can't believe it either. I think back to my childhood and how shy I was when I was really young and wonder how on earth things changed.
I have grown in confidence so much. Of course sometimes I won't feel so calm and capable but I dive on in and hope nobody notices while I endeavour to swim rather than sink.
On a personal level, I've always been someone who just wants to get on with things, and having a family means there's a lot more reason to make sure things get done - especially if it means I can pay the bills.
These days I spend much of my time training or mentoring others through work and even public speaking. I love knowing what I say can empower others helps my own determination too. I've been asked more than once to consider becoming a life coach. I don't know why but that makes me laugh - I can be as confident as anything but I'm not sure I have the right credentials to be coaching others in life skills. My unkempt kitchen is testament to that.
My biggest weapon in my confidence armoury is humour. At networking meetings, award ceremonies and training events, I'll shake people firmly by the hand and crack some joke or two. This often works well - but sometimes it doesn't and I'm left with a tumbleweed moment. At least they remember me.
I just shrug and carry on. I often think 'what's the worst that can happen?' and off I go. For me, setting up a business was one of the biggest leaps of faith ever - and people ask me how on earth I had the confidence to do so. But I don't see it like that, I saw it as a necessity for me and my family - I had two five-year-olds and lots of people offering me work, I knew I couldn't do it all myself so I had to find a team to help me and we could all grow together, I was happy and confident to delegate. People asked me "can you afford to do this?" With my approach to organisation, I knew I couldn't afford not to.
Personally, I found the prospect of cold calling potential customers terrifying so I decided to play to my strengths instead, my wonderful colleagues Kim and Carol work hard on marketing and business generation, leaving me to get on with the stuff I love and feel most confident in - seeing new ideas through, writing and training. Some eight years after setting up my company, I'm happy to say I have so much confidence in the team around me and when people come to work, they do so with a smile on their face -- and not a forced one, neither!
Sometimes things go wrong, however hard we work, we encounter problems. Then our mantra is that we aren't to worry, that we should be confident of being judged for when things do go wrong as for when things go right.
That confidence comes from knowing that we will always have acted in a way that we consider to be with integrity and honesty and if we make a mistake we say so. I think not trying to be something you're not, or attempting to fulfil some stereotype of what someone in business should be like, is really important. All you can do is be yourself. Not everyone will like you, and not everyone will want you to do their work, they may find a different supplier whom they prefer - that's life and as we carry on with our business, we do our best not to let knockbacks such as this get us down.
Joanne Mallon, who is a brilliantly supportive journalist and blogger has written about confidence with some great tips as she also works as a media coach.
She likens the way some think bout confidence to how they think about pot plants:
I feel that many people treat confidence as if it were some kind of indoor plant. They hope that if they nurture it, it'll grow, and maybe one day they'll tuck it under their arm and take it out for a walk. So they say things like "If I had more confidence I would quit my job/write a book/join a gym/insert scary action of choice".
But confidence doesn't work like that. It will not grow independently before you do things. It grows whilst you do them. So if you are waiting until you're more confident to do something, then your best course of action is probably to take a deep breath and do it anyway. And as you do, your confidence will increase.
I find that really interesting and definitely applicable to my experience - I felt I had to set up a company so just got on with it and confidence grew as work grew.
I should imagine there's often a similar leap of faith when a new franchisee starts with Musical Minis -- there's so much to do and while a new direction may be pretty scary, with confidence and determination, tasks become second nature. Looking at franchisees like Cathie Flynn who has been in business for 10 years offers inspiration of what can be achieved.
Joanne has some excellent direct tips on confidence - they are certainly worth checking out if you are feeling a little confidence is lacking:
* Linda is director of Passionate Media, a Midlands agency which works on publicity and social media support for Musical Minis.