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Organizational Confidence: Fact or Myth
Confidence is one of those vague traits that is hard to define but you know when you see it. It is a characteristic that some have but many others lack. But, without a doubt, it is a quality everyone desires to have both professionally and personally. If confidence is an attribute generally associated with people, can companies possess it? Is there really such a thing as Organizational Confidence?
To explore the subject of individual vs. organizational confidence, it helps to start by defining confidence. One definition of confidence is: a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities. This is self-confidence. And it lives in the narrow area between insecurity and haughtiness.
According to Eric Ravenscraft’s article Why Confidence is so Important (and How to Improve Yours), “In the purest sense, confidence is knowing what you’re good at, the value you provide, and acting in a way that conveys that to others.” It is about getting as close as possible to the truth in one’s self-assessment. Those who believe they are better than they actually are might be thought arrogant or conceited. Those who think they are less valuable than they actually are suffer from low self-esteem. But, the sweet spot is when a person’s self-assessment mirrors or aligns with reality in a healthy, positive level of confidence.
Although most people would be at a loss to explain just why confidence is so important, most everyone agrees that it is a vital attribute in leaders, business executives, professionals, managers and for practically anyone in the world of business. We hire people who demonstrate confidence and we vote for elected officials who show a healthy level of self-confidence.
Why? We are drawn to confidence for good reasons. Here is what science has associated with confidence.
- Confidence spurs people to start things or strike out on a new idea while others are still pondering.
- Confidence early in life is related to upward mobility at work.
- Confidence inspires people to stand up for themselves in fair and consistent ways, and stops them from being treated unfairly or being unheard.
- Confidence is more attractive than physical looks.
- Confidence empowers people to say “No” when it is needed and appropriate.
- Confident people believe they are worthy and are thus better able to seize opportunities.
- Confidence overcomes fear of the unknown and inspires action and boldness.
- Confident people set the bar high and aim high. They stretch themselves.
- Confidence allows people to ask questions, which leads to growth.
- Confident people believe in their ability to succeed.
Companies and Confidence
Can confidence also be an organizational trait? The simple answer is yes. If confidence is a feeling of self-assurance arising from a person’s appreciation of his/her own abilities or qualities, then organizational confidence is a feeling of assurance arising from the employees of a company or organization appreciating their own ability to deliver on brand promises. A company with organizational confidence is comprised of people who believe strongly in the talents and skills of the staff to provide or produce, in a timely manner, the high quality services or products it promises.
Organizational confidence is usually strong in companies that have confident leadership and staff and a culture of support, innovation, creativity and growth. Individual confidence leads to the ability to be more creative, innovative and happier which leads to a business environment where people are unafraid to contribute, discuss ideas and take accountability. As individual team members grow and thrive, the company or business matures in its confidence.
Organizational confidence is really important because confidence breeds success which, in turn, breeds more confidence.
When individuals develop personal and professional confidence, organizational confidence is strengthened. Such organizational confidence represents a significant competitive advantage, which industry leaders understand and promote. Again, it is a trait that is hard to define but people know it when they see it… feel it… perceive it. Indeed, organizations that display a high level of collective confidence benefit from higher levels of productivity and efficiency, stronger teams, happier employees, better ideation and lower turnover. All of that then produces more organizational confidence. It is a virtuous cycle. Here’s how it plays out.
Organizations with strong confidence display:
- Efficiency – the ability to prioritize and act allows the organization to deal with changes and develop greater competence in tackling ever-increasing demands.
- Trust – Safety to express opinions and thoughts enables greater sharing and collaboration.
- Creativity – An environment of trust in employees enables greater freedom of thought, innovation and ideation.
- Connectedness – Deeper association among staff with the organization’s culture and purpose enables greater connection and a higher level of belief in one another.
- Awareness – Greater awareness amongst employees creates a greater sense of safety and well-being, which is known to result in increased productivity.
- Growing outward-facing sureness – Appearance communicated to the public by the establishment of having self-esteem and pride in the organization drives business.
A key quality of confident organizations is that they deeply know their business and brand. They work hard to ensure that all employees in the organization do too. They have an exacting focus on their customers’ needs and challenge every employee to keep a sharp eye on how their work ultimately impacts customers. Most importantly, confident organizations practice regular feedback. They implement daily open dialogue among staff, with a flat organization that encourages open communication across all levels.
Common Problems that Undercut Organizational Confidence and Real Solutions
There are some common issues that affect companies and undercut organizational confidence. Here are four.
Problem 1: Poor Communication Affects Organizational Confidence
This is a general inability to hold meaningful conversations among individuals in the company. It can result in ineffective directives and a lack of understanding about situations good or bad. Companies that struggle with communications do so because of fear of dealing with tough questions or of being seen as not having all the answers. Taken to an extreme, poor communicators can resort to giving statements or issuing edicts and then retreating to the office where it’s safe or avoiding giving any edits at all. When communications are unclear, a multitude of problems can develop.
Solution: Leaders are responsible for bringing others together, for gathering information and for gaining understanding about the challenges team members face. Leaders don’t have to have all the answers or even need to monopolize the conversation. Instead, the company’s leadership should practice the art of asking good questions, listening intently and asking team members to offer solutions. Empowering everyone to contribute and solve problems increases organizational confidence.
Problem 2: Inconsistent Decision Making Affects Organizational Confidence
In business, good, timely decisions are invaluable. Organizations where decisions are delayed or avoided will struggle. Good decisions are made when there is enough understanding about what is happening, there is a firm grasp of what the best outcome should be and enough counsel is sought to validate that thinking. Those who are uncomfortable with this decision making methodology make poor, untimely decisions. As a result, credibility suffers if there are questions about the allocation of resources or how a critical issue was handled. Nothing undercuts organizational confidence more than poor decision making.
Solution: Inventory recent decisions made. Was there a clear understanding of all the factors involved? Was there enough information gathered about the situation and available options? Was another perspective use to validate thinking? Was a decision made in haste or in a heightened state of emotion or with an ulterior motive? The more that the decision-making process is understood and the approach is improved, the greater the organizational confidence.
Problem 3: Weak or No Talent Development Affects Organizational Confidence
Placing a priority on talent development helps the company achieve goals faster with less frustration and stress and increases organizational confidence. There’s nothing better than having built a solid team that works cohesively, consistently over performs and provides a talent pipeline for higher position opportunities. But if an organization does little or no talent development or training, or it is poorly orchestrated, it creates personnel and performance issues. Achieving major initiatives becomes questionable. Turnover escalates. More outside hiring is required to fill key positions. All of that undermines organizational confidence.
Solution: Each company should clarify its talent needs. Is there a job description for every position and a performance plan? Leaders should know the strengths and weaknesses, competencies, aspirations and personal issues of all direct reports. Continuous development should be prioritized to help each employee develop their own professional growth plan. Companies should also continually scout talent and keep a pipeline of people who appear to be great additions whether there is an opening or not. Lastly, the management team must embrace the importance of talent development and training that supports the overall goals of the organization.
That, in turn, increases organizational confidence.
Problem 4: Poor Relationship Building Skills Affect Organizational Confidence
Great organizations are able to influence and garner high levels of support from its staff. Employing the best and the brightest is what produces great organizations. But this requires an ability to develop quality relationships built on respect, openness, and a genuine interest in the well-being of team members. If there are no solid relationships in an organization, it will be difficult to have candid discussions to resolve issues and even more difficult to motivate staff to go beyond their own comfort zones. Determining who is loyal to the organization will be a challenge. All of this undermines organizational confidence.
Solution: Staff must trust the leadership completely and leaders must demonstrate integrity and genuine concern for the well-being and professional success of all members of the team. Issues standing between colleagues must be identified and resolved. When done proactively and with honest intent, the company can show that it is okay even when staff don’t see eye-to-eye. Decisions should be handled collaboratively, not in a vacuum. Leaders should seek out and accept feedback, and be open to opposing views or critiques. This approach builds relationships which then builds organizational confidence.
Quote of the Week
“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Theodore Roosevelt
 English Oxford Living Dictionaries, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/confidence
 October 8, 2013, Ravenscraft, Eric, Why Confidence is so Important (and How to Improve Yours), Life Hacker, https://lifehacker.com/how-to-build-your-confidence-and-why-it-matters-1442414831
 October 18, 2012, Hasmath, Reza, Dr., Self-Confidence the secret to workplace advancement, The Melbourne Newsroom, University of Melbourne, http://newsroom.melbourne.edu/news/self-confidence-secret-workplace-advancement
 August 5, 2013, Ratliff, Kate A., PhD, University of Florida, and Oishi, Shigehiro, PhD, University of Virginia, Gender Differences in Implicit Self-Esteem Following a Romantic Partner’s Success or Failure, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2013/08/men-self-esteem.aspx
© 2018, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.