The MPW Insiders Network 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 Mary Godwin, VP of Operations at Qumulo.
For women to instill confidence in the workplace, there is nothing like demonstrating confidence—especially when it comes to verbal communication. As I observe behavior that I am not particularly happy with in other women and myself, I find that it usually comes down to the quality of communication, rather than the quality of work.
For example: One of my male colleagues recently pointed out to me that whenever I have negative feedback to share, I always start the conversation with, "You're going to hate me for saying this…" He told me that in addition to making him nervous because he never has any idea as to what's coming next, it detracts from my message.
I realized that this is my attempt at softening whatever message I'm about to deliver, but in reality, it isn't actually softening anything. It's just me being "wishy-washy," and ultimately, a coward. How can your colleagues feel confident in you if your word choices leave them quaking in fear for the "other shoe to drop," and you aren't even confident enough to say what's on your mind without qualifiers?
See also: The One Quality Too Many Women Lack
On the other hand, I've had times when I've let the full force of my message fly with complete abandon. This can be an effective way to let off some personal steam and get your message across quickly. But as a means for instilling confidence? Not so much. It creates the impression of instability, especially if the tirade is based on emotions rather than data. Ultimately, I come away from these emotional interactions berating myself and undermining my own self-confidence.
As leaders, the best way for us to instill confidence in the workplace is to actually be confident and in control of our communications. For me, the best way to achieve this is to be absolutely certain of my subject and have the data to back up my opinions, whether it's explaining the facts about a particular initiative that I want to pursue or providing feedback to a team member. No matter how difficult the message, having real data allows me to declutter my thinking, understand the critical points that need to be communicated, state my perspective from a point of strength, and tamp down any emotion.
Here's the thing: Once you nail down effective communication and can demonstrate your credibility, you can get to work and start accomplishing your goals—which is the primary driver for obtaining confidence from others, and most importantly, from your biggest critic: yourself.