Confidence is an often misunderstood trait. Loud, showy and extroverted behaviour can look like self-assurance, but that’s not always reality. Sometimes quiet can be confidence, as can humility and unpretentiousness, or owning basic possessions. Without those widely-accepted indicators of confidence in place, you might not realise you have any at all. But confidence is necessary to get where you want to be. It’s required to empower a team, stay motivated to work and make those audacious requests.
Yota Trom is a coach on a mission to help leaders in technology connect with their inner confidence. As a coach and the founder of Together in Tech, a London tech meetup that turned into a global network of 6,000 people who build their businesses while supporting each other, Trom has seen first-hand the patterns of self-doubt and imposter syndrome that many leaders experience. Trom started her own career as a software engineer, moving up into senior roles at Amazon and Yahoo before securing her masters in Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology. She is also a visiting lecturer at University College London (UCL) on the topic of Humanistic Leadership and Management.
By helping her clients realize their potential and understand their self-imposed limitations, Trom has seen them become more confident in their abilities and better able to build on their strengths, leading to more success in their chosen fields. This success has come in the form of huge pay rises, game-changing promotions and complete career pivots. Here’s how to make this happen for yourself.
1. Understand what confidence is
Trom believes that confidence is a skill that can be developed. She suggests that people should first identify the areas where they already feel strong and confident, of which, “everyone has at least one area.” Once identified, they can spot patterns and build their confidence in other areas.
To do this, think of three areas of your life that you feel good about and know you are doing well. “Confidence is the feeling of recognising that you are good at something,” Trom said. So dig into the reasons you feel that way about those things. Perhaps you have developed the skills, you have been doing them for a sustained period of time, or you feel you have a natural talent. However small, unpack your existing confidence in those specific areas.
Next think of “three things that you are less good at, that you think might need improving,” and apply the same lens. Why do you feel unconfident about these things? Knowing that you have a track record because you successfully completed those things in the first list, “take that confidence through to the second list, and think about them in the same way.” Feelings of confidence in one field can be translated into another once you know how they came to be. Now the gap between where you are where you need to be is clearer, you can work to fill it.
2. Find your inner calm
“Identifying your strengths and maximizing them comes more naturally to some than others,” said Trom, “but the most confident people are also the most authentic.” They know who they are and they know how they show up, and this is consistent across their week.
Cultivating this consistency and connection starts with self-awareness and leads to creating a plan of action. For the awareness step, Trom advises that you, “close your eyes and try to connect to your centre.” Find a sense of calm inside your physical body, maybe by anchoring on your breath. See if you can describe how you feel when you do this, perhaps, “aware, open, peaceful, calm, receptive, clear.” Labelling how you feel when you are fully in the present moment means you can get back to this moment when you are next in a challenging situation.
“Your centre is where your confidence exists,” said Trom. Being able to revisit this place will help you find that sense of inner confidence that can go awry with stress. Think of the words you came up with and recite them as mantras. Use the words to reconnect with your inner stability and peace.
3. Upgrade your self-talk
Build and demonstrate inner confidence by being conscious of the words you use to describe yourself. Trom encourages her clients to “use empowering words and tell themselves stories that are kind and loving,” instead of focusing on their weaknesses.
Think about a recent setback or rejection you dealt with. Notice how you talk to yourself when you feel like you haven’t done your best or have missed the mark. “How were you thinking about yourself and your role in what was going on, as you were processing the information?” asked Trom. Do you berate and belittle yourself? Many of us do.
Now, “imagine someone you deeply care about describing how they felt after hearing an adverse reaction to their work or request.” Visualize them explaining how rubbish they felt and wishing they had done something different, blaming themselves for not doing enough. “What would you think about them and what would you say to them? Compare the difference in how you treat and reassure them to how you speak to yourself.” Trom knows that you were probably kinder and more generous to them. Next time apply the same compassion to your own situation.
4. Work on your assertiveness
The next step to displaying confidence at work is to practice assertiveness so you can speak up for your values and needs. This means knowing what you want and communicating clearly to others “in an assertive yet kind way, without being confrontational.”
To get good at this, revisit your centre. Next time you notice someone’s defensiveness in response to your request, or you feel uneasy about asking for what you want, ask yourself questions. “What is really bothering me? What do I need? What would make me feel good here?” she said. Ask, “how can I frame this in a way that makes it clear that it’s not coming out of anger? How can I communicate more respectfully?”
Trom’s advice is to apply empathy to the other person. One of Trom’s clients was recently frustrated that taking notes in meetings seemed to always fall to her. Instead of simply venting her frustrations, assuming malice or letting resentment build, Trom advised her client to “suggest that this task was intentionally rotated around participants and create the process for future meetings to ensure everyone got the chance to take the notes. Rather than focusing on the problem and frustration in the role of a victim, channel the energy into the solution and communicate in an assertive way.
5. Reward yourself
Finally, look back and reward yourself for your accomplishments to date. It’s so easy to go through our work making incremental progress without stopping to reflect on how far we have come. Celebrations don’t have to be grandiose, even a congratulatory journal entry or pre-dinner acknowledgement of the win might be enough.
“We tend to focus on what’s coming next: the next goal, the next achievement, and we rarely take the time to look back into what we have achieved so far.” But doing so can spark confidence. Trom suggested to diarise acknowledging successes, for example at the end of a hard training period or work sprint. This way, as you are persevering you know there will be a period of reflection coming. It doesn’t feel like you’ll be labouring away forever. Use the reflection period to notice the strengths you brought forward.
“The most powerful emotion we can harness is love, and loving yourself leads to having the confidence to show up exactly as you are and motivates you to continue striving for success.” This starts by acknowledging and celebrating your wins, however small they are, and rewarding yourself accordingly.
Master the art of showing confidence at work
Master the art of showing confidence at work by understanding confidence and what it looks like when it is present, then connecting to your inner sense of calm to find this feeling more often. Upgrade how you talk to yourself when things don’t go to plan, practice delivering your words assertively and reward yourself for the wins. The confidence you seek exists within you, now it’s time to bring it out.