Confidence is often both underrated and misunderstood as a tool for business success.
Some people mistakenly confuse “confidence” with self-esteem or conceit, but in fact, it is neither. Confidence refers to the fact that you believe you can perform a given task successfully, which is what both clients and employees are looking for in a leader. And that differs from self-esteem, which relates to how you feel about yourself in general. And then on the far end of the spectrum is conceit or overconfidence—which is having unrealistic assessments about your abilities.
As we enter the busy holiday season, it’s the perfect time to consider the topic of “confidence’ and how it can underline business success. Here are four things that can help you build your confidence.
1. Become an expert in your field.
The ideal way to build confidence is, of course, to know what you’re talking about. That means learning everything you can about your industry so that you can help your customers with the certainty that you are acting in their best interest.
The key is maintaining a robust schedule of professional development to stay current on what’s new and notable in your industry. That includes a wide variety of activities, from listening to webinars and taking online courses, to following influencers on social media and subscribing to relevant industry journals.
And of course, treat every opportunity as a way to build knowledge. Rather than dominating a conversation at a networking hour, listen to what others have to say and consider new viewpoints.
2. Be curious about others.
Surely you’ve been at a business or social event where someone is just babbling on about themselves. Rather than appearing confident, they give off the opposite vibe—insecurity. Remember the golden rule of conversation—that people love to talk about themselves and their jobs. So enter every potential networking opportunity with some questions in mind, such as:
- What’s new in your industry?
- How did you choose your job or company?
- What’s the biggest challenge you have solved recently?
- What is the outlook for 2019 for your industry?
- What project are you most looking forward to tackling in the coming quarter?
These types of open-ended inquiries underscore your confidence in yourself to give other people the floor while offering insight into the person you’re talking to and then naturally segueing into what you have in common or how you might work together.
3. Build a complementary team you can rely on.
Remember that confidence entails a realistic assessment of your skills, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be good at everything, nor should you. By specializing in the part of the business you prefer—or that you’re best at—you’ll be able to provide customers with products and services just as you had intended.
Say you own a food truck, and you have a brisk evening business at festivals and events. Then  someone asks if you can cater a party—with your food, but not the truck. Well, you can….but it’s not your specialty. You’re unable to feasibly keep your food at premium quality as you travel there, and your staff isn’t equipped to serve sit-down meals.
Instead, you refer a fellow caterer whom you know will do the job well. In that moment, you’ve exhibited confidence in your business—you don’t have to take every job that comes along if it’s not right—and you’ve helped a fellow small business owner, who more than likely will return the favor.
4. Remember when you did something well.
Confidence builds on itself, so spend a few minutes visualizing yourself having success before you plunge into an activity. See your prospective client nodding as you make your pitch or the audience taking notes as you give a speech.
And then make sure you take time to celebrate your wins, whether it’s a new business pitch or hitting your goal of 30 uninterrupted minutes of cold calling. Some people keep a “kudos file,” where they collect words of praise or encouragement from clients and colleagues. Or, just head over to your website or LinkedIn page to read positive comments and references from customers and colleagues that can help you remember why you’re so good at what you do.
As you create business goals for 2019, you’ll find that a sense of confidence will bolster them all—whether it’s launching a new product, finding new customers or serving existing clients even better. By practicing these four habits that lead to increased confidence, you’ll be readyfor a successful year.