MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How can more women leaders instill confidence in the workplace? is written by Renae Scott, CMO of Togo’s Eateries.
One of my first supervisors in the working world struggled with confidence. She continuously questioned every decision and focused only on potential negative outcomes, ultimately paralyzing her team. Her skills weren’t lacking, but her self-doubts created a glass ceiling for all of us and negatively impacted the business. My supervisor was missing a sense of fearlessness that can be learned and unlearned, and that is what gives me hope. Young children lack many of the real and imagined fears that we have accrued over time. They haven’t burned their hands on a stove; they haven’t been told they can’t play baseball with the boys; they haven’t been rejected by their first crush. People learn to fear future outcomes, and we, as leaders, can help them unlearn fictional fears. We can mentor people to articulate their thoughts, feelings, and ideas with confidence.
The first step is to make your employees articulate a strong vision for themselves. At a company and department level, we define a mission and grade our success relative to it. I believe managers should do something similar with their employees. For example, during my annual meeting with each employee, I ask, “Where do you see yourself in one year? What about in five years?” I really don’t care if that future is with Togo’s or another company. The point is, I want my teammates – women and men – to articulate their vision because it instills confidence. Don’t you drive better when you know where you’re going?
Second, enable your employees to own their successes by quantifying their vision. Let’s say my social marketer’s vision is to create one of Instagram’s most talked about food brands that year. Here’s how we could quantify it: Togo’s will have X Instagram followers who regram our images Y percent of the time. As a result, brand awareness among our target demographic will increase by Z percent. Now, the social marketer can own her results. No matter how self-deprecating she may be, her teammates and I will know that she grew (or didn’t grow) our Instagram presence. Even if she downplays her success, we can toot her horn. And by doing so, help build her confidence.
That brings me to the third point: make acknowledgment a habit. Teach your team to embrace all personalities – particularly the introverts – by hosting a weekly “shout out” meeting. When my team and I hop on the phone every Monday at 11 a.m., each person is required to share something awesome that they or a co-worker did in the last week. It buoys people who might otherwise doubt their own value. Finally, foster a balanced, healthy lifestyle among your team members. Stressed, overworked, and sleep-deprived people do not maintain or grow their confidence. Eventually, the imbalance undermines their physical health, relationships and commitment to the company, unleashing a plague of self-doubt.
To help your employees create balance, find out what they do for pleasure. I notice that successful people tend to have a physical outlet, and I encourage it. When a teammate has worked late nights for a board meeting or has given up weekends for a grand opening, I reward that person in his or her area of interest. For example, one employee loves The Bar Method, so we gifted her a months worth of workouts for free after a rough spell of work.
You can’t necessarily instill confidence in a workplace, but you can redesign your culture and leadership to instill confidence in people. Confidence is best in moderation – let’s not forget all leaders, explorers, financiers, athletes, etc. who have harmed themselves or others through grandiosity. However, if the female-male confidence gap is as wide as I suspect, we must push women well beyond their comfort zone.