As a manager/leader, one of our most important responsibilities is to build leaders and productive colleagues by providing them the environment to think for themselves and grow. The confidence to pursue ideas and actions beyond their comfort zones is a big part of this process towards leadership and towards our co-workers’ ability to do their job. I also believe having an environment where people can confidently do their jobs is part of having an engaged staff. Engagement to me means a staff feels maximum personal satisfaction with the work they do. Secondly, they also contribute to the organization to the best of their willingness and ability. From experience, here are some ways we can build the confidence of others:

  1. Communicate goals clearly but leave room for staff to find ways to accomplish them. Do not micro-manage, especially when working with talented and creative folks. Unless we work in an environment that doesn’t require much thinking, providing our co-workers room to explore ideas and come up with their own ways to accomplish the goals you’ve given them is the way to go. However, those goals and expectations must be communicated to save those assigned the tasks from spending emotional energy and wasted time and effort.
  2. Allow room for “failure” as part of the learning/growth process. The world is changing rapidly, and we encounter new experiences/ideas every day, and we may not necessarily know how to always respond to them in the right ways. Personally, the biggest moments of growth I’ve experienced have been through my mistakes. These mistakes encouraged me to re-evaluate my approach, and these mistakes helped me improve the quality of my work. Luckily, I had bosses in the past who understood that making mistakes is all part of the learning process. So while they helped me understand how to eliminate those mistakes, they also did not admonish me to the point I stopped trying new ideas. Don’t rob your co-workers of these opportunities to grow by not allowing them to make mistakes.
  3. Set higher expectations and standards beyond their comfort zones and abilities. This requires that you are intimately familiar with your co-workers’ skills, knowledge, and interests. Understand their areas of strengths and weaknesses and challenge them to further utilize their strengths and improve their weaknesses. You may encounter resistance as this will require more work from them, and they may not understand why you are challenging them, but growth isn’t always comfortable.
  4. Praise in public and criticize in private. How demoralizing is it to have your ideas interrupted by your boss in public settings because he/she just happens to believe their ways are better, and does it look incompetent? There are situations when a manager does need to intervene because the information is incorrect. But even then, there’s a diplomatic method to point out the error and/or to suggest different ideas. This point relates to point 1 above in that, as leaders. managers, we need to be clear about our expectations and goals. If our colleagues don’t understand what they are, they may share their ideas contrary to what we have in mind. In these cases of confusion, it’s best to speak with your colleagues behind closed doors, clarify your expectations, and understand their perspectives so you are both on the same page. As I wrote in this blog post, as a manager, your words matter. You can use them to “praise or curse” your colleagues.
  5. Lead via influence, not command and control. Treat your colleagues as human beings and not machines or resources. Build relationships with them, so they feel they matter. While ordering your colleagues to perform tasks may yield short-term results, the command and control approach can result in a workforce that will not go above and beyond what is expected. This approach could also lead to unhappy employees and, worse, emotional and physical ailments. However, by leading through influence, you can build a work environment that is more positive and sustainable in the long run. You have a workforce that will go above and beyond what is asked of them because they feel a sense of autonomy, growth and a sense that they are respected.
  6. Model confidence. As a leader/manager, your co-workers watch your actions and words. You play the role of the victim/complainer, and soon, they will adapt your attitudes and behaviors. Work is not always ideal, and we are all presented with challenges from time to time. While I’m not suggesting that we always look and feel invincible, we must display the attitude of solution seekers and optimism, even in the lowest moments.

What other methods have you used to build the confidence of your colleagues?