The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How do you exude confidence at work when you’re feeling insecure?” is written by Kirsten Helvey, COO of Cornerstone OnDemand.
For me, having confidence means making bold, sometimes tough decisions and refraining from second-guessing. Doubt and a tendency to overthink are borne from insecurity and can be detrimental to progress.
I call this doubt “analysis paralysis”—the act of overanalyzing a decision to the point where it hinders any sort of progress. I’ve fallen victim to this in the past when it came to recognizing that people were not a great fit for the role they were in. I’d give them chance after chance and all of the resources and support they could possibly need, even though I knew deep down that they’d never truly get it. I just didn’t have the confidence in myself at that point to make the tough decision to part ways.
Now, when I am faced with difficult calls, I try to follow four simple rules to remind myself how to be confident during times of self-doubt:
When making tough decisions, it’s important to follow your instincts and remember to stand by your convictions. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t take time to evaluate the impact of your decision, but the longer you wait, the more doubt will set in. Before analyzing the pros and cons, be sure to ask yourself, “What is my gut really telling me?” Often, you will find that your initial assessment is spot on.
When I started my career, I worked for a large, well-known company. At around the five-year mark, I had a gut feeling that no matter how long I stayed, I wasn’t going to learn anything further. That realization left me feeling extremely insecure, but I forced myself to find confidence by making a drastic decision: I quit, packed my bags, and moved across the country. At first, it was overwhelming and I was struggling to survive financially. Going through this experience ultimately showed me that if I have confidence in myself, I can accomplish nearly anything.
Seek advice when it’s necessary
Exuding confidence doesn’t mean you’ll always have the right answers. In many cases, seeking the advice and counsel of others is a great way to build confidence if you are feeling insecure. As a senior leader, I have built an entire team of experts to help guide me when making certain decisions.
For example, we are always looking toward where we should be prioritizing and investing in the business, and that comes with some hard decisions. You can’t do everything at once, so you need to be targeted about doing the right thing at the right time. I often consult with my team to determine what makes sense for us to focus on and invest in. By being able to tap different experts across the company with different points of view, I am exposed to new ideas and arguments to get a more holistic view so I can make a confident decision.
I also often rely on my team of experts when interviewing for senior roles. Hiring is one of the more difficult tasks I have, and it has huge stakes, so I’m always sure to seek input from the team. Having multiple perspectives helps give me the confidence that I am hiring the right person who can truly enhance our team.
Learn from your decisions
In your personal and professional lives, it is important to have a plan, but sometimes you can’t or shouldn’t stick to it. It can be helpful to take a step back to examine what isn’t working and what needs to change. Making decisions that turn out to be wrong will shake your confidence and lead you to make decisions that come from a place of insecurity.
The key is to never look back in regret, but instead to learn from your experiences and move forward. Mistakes will happen, and the consequences of those mistakes can vary, but never let the recent outcome dictate the future.
When I moved to California to chart a new path, I wasn’t always confident that I’d made the right decision. It was one of the scariest and most insecure moments of my life. I went from a management position at a large company to serving food and drinks and running errands, essentially doing whatever I needed to do to get by while I looked for the right opportunity.
But I chose to stay positive. If I’d let myself succumb to insecurity, I wouldn’t have had the strength to get through the hard days. I eventually got a temporary job, which turned into a full-time position. With that stability, I was able to settle down and take the time to think about what I truly wanted to be.
In the end, I took a chance by taking a job with what was then a small startup, where I believed in the leadership and vision for the company. I have never doubted that decision. Today, I am the chief operating officer of that small startup, which has since grown into a successful enterprise cloud company, and I look back on that decision with pride.