5 Mistakes Leaders Make That Undermine Confidence

by  Karin Hurt  |  Leadership Coaching
5 Mistakes Leaders Make That Undermine Confidence

“Karin, I get the whole confident humility thing, I really do.”

“But, no matter what I try, my team just waits for me to tell them what to do. They seem scared to act. We’re in a real crisis.”

“If they really cared, they’d step up and do something. I don’t really have time to fix them, we need results now. I think some of them may need to go.”

If you’ve tried to develop confidence in your team, but they’re still scared, take a closer look. You may be falling into one of these 5 traps.

1. Give me a new big task, because you believe in me, but don’t give me enough support to succeed.

Stretch assignments and special projects are one of the best ways to build confidence and skills. Be sure you’re also providing the scaffolding and resources to succeed. Failing at one of these big opportunities will make both of you gun shy to try it again. If they’re scared to even try, help them get past their bad last-time experiences.

2. Tell me I am doing great, but with no details as to what is working.

If someone’s insecure about their accomplishments, it’s particularly important that your praise is specific. You did a great job when __________. The presentation you gave worked so well because__________. Shallow or unspecific praise is more likely to be discounted by your team member’s competing inner voice. If you want to build confidence, praise with specifics.

3. Recognize what I do at work, and ignore who I am and what I am accomplishing on the sidelines.

Always remember the person is bigger than the job. Treat them that way. If you want to tap into your team member’s full potential, pay attention to what they’re already accomplishing in other arenas. A great way to build workplace confidence is to help them leverage skills they already are using outside of work.

4. View me as a specialist, and over look my creative idea and what I could do to contribute to the bigger picture.

There’s a downside to being pigeon-holed as an expert. If you only go to the finance guy for finance things, he’ll always act like a finance guy. To build larger confidence ask provocative questions that get him thinking more strategically.

5. Stay calm, cool, and collected, and show no emotion around my big wins.

When a team member is feeling really proud and comes to you for affirmation, it’s okay to say “wow.” I promise, being impressed with incremental wins will build confidence, not encourage them to settle for mediocrity.

Wait – There’s More

For a great line-up on confident humility, see what Lead Changers and others have to say in the confidence and humility editions of the Frontline Festival.

Also, for exercises to build more confidence in your team, download my free e-book Talking Teams featuring nine activities to inspire confident humility and achieve breakthrough results.

How has someone helped build your confidence?

About The Author

Articles By karin-hurt
Karin Hurt is a leadership speaker, consultant and MBA professor. She’s a former Verizon Wireless executive with 2 decades of diverse cross-functional experience in sales, customer service and HR. She was recently recognized on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Speakers for your next conference, AMA’s 50 Leaders to Watch in 2015, and Trust Across America’s 100 Thought Leaders in Trusted Business Behavior.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

John Smith  |  03 Mar 2015  |  Reply

Hi, Karin – as always, useful and engaging information:)

First, a quick story. I once spent an entire day bound, gagged, and treated as baggage by my staff as they worked through an all-day ROPES course experience, because they kept looking at me whenever the facilitator asked them a question … and he noticed. Very interesting being taken completely out of the team role, as a leader and as a participant. Taught me something about what you are getting at here.

Second, this is one dynamite list of “Leadership Gotchas” and one I am painfully familiar with, having committed most of these sins at one point or another.

The reality is that leaders too often, trust a little, but not enough. We want our folks to be creative, dynamic, and independent … but get real nervous when they start to display the behaviors we say we want.

Thanks for a great post:)


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