Are you confident? Everywhere? Of course not. Where don’t you feel confident? One of the reasons people trust leaders is the sense of confidence they instill in others. To be clear—this doesn’t mean leaders don’t have doubts. What they do have is confidence in their area of expertise and know they can figure out what to do and what needs to be done.
So what is confidence and how can you project it – even if there are times when you don’t feel it? Merriam-Webster defines it as “a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance on one’s circumstance.” There are two key words in this definition. “Feeling” implies an emotional quality. “Power” in this sense about abilities tied to an inner awareness.
How you feel about a given situation can affect your self-confidence. When you are nervous or entering an unfamiliar one, you might not feel confident. A change of mindset can shift you from being uncertain to believing you have the ability to successfully handle the experience. You can read my February 5th blog, Leading a Great Meeting which discussed 5 “P’s” for success: Purpose, Preparation, People, Process, and Progress. These 5 are applicable in those situations as well.
Taking confidence a step further, John Garfunkel offers his 5 Ways to Exude Confidence in Meetings, Even If You Aren’t.
1. DO: Sit in the front of the room or head of the table – This can feel challenging when we’re not sure of our place, but, according to Garfunkel, this shows that you care about what is going on, what is being said and that you want to contribute and be heard. Being in the front shows others you value this meeting and ready to be a part of things.
AVOID: Sitting outside the focus area of discussion – Garfunkel notes, “if you are on the fringe leaves you exactly that.” The people in the back rarely speak up. They have chosen their seat because they are unsure of themselves. In a job interview, move your chair into a better position. You may have multiple people interviewing you, and you want to see each one – and have them see you.
2. DO: Treat Senior Executives as Equals – In education, this would refer to administrators and other district personnel such as the head of IT when you are on a technology committee. You have knowledge to bring to the table. Don’t be hesitant. Demonstrate your value to this meeting and to the educational community. Be aware of your intonation, and don’t end sentences with the raise in tone suggesting uncertainty.
AVOID: Looking Down and Not Making Eye Contact – This conveys insecurity in the situation. You want to show you are a full, contributing member of the team no matter who is present. Garfunkel says to “go for full engagement — listening, speaking, body language and eye contact.” This is equally true in a job interview. You want interviewers to see you will be a valuable addition to the staff.
3. DO: Project Your Voice – Own that you are an expert in your area and have an important point to make, even if what you’re saying may be unpopular. Be clear, don’t end your sentences on a lifted voice (which makes your words sound like a question and unsure). Be confident and clear.
AVOID: Apologizing or second-guessing yourself – Again, be mindful of your intonation. Put your ideas forward, knowing they are based on your competence and knowledge. Your conviction will go a long way in helping others to feel and accept your confidence.
4. DO: Use your body position to convey confidence – Garfunkel recommends you lean forward. It shows you are fully engaged. The act of physically engaging will send a strong message and boost your own positivity.
AVOID: Slumping, Slouching or Angling Away from the Conversation – Sitting this way sends a strong message that you have tuned-out and can insult or upset the person who is speaking. Show engagement whenever possible.
5. DO: Engage Before the Meeting Starts – This is an excellent time for you to become more comfortable with the others in attendance and they with you. It will make it easier for you to engage and for others to engage with you once the meeting begins because you will have already connected casually.
AVOID: Lowering the Height of Your Chair – Remain at eye levels as others in the meeting so that you are not visually defining yourself as less. You are there to contribute equally and show the expertise you bring.
Something to remember, confidence is not the same as arrogance. Arrogance is when someone has an exaggerated sense of their own importance or abilities. That’s not confidence or leadership. Too often, arrogance is used as a form of bullying, a use of Power Over others, and a good leader is never a bully instead of relying on their Power Within.
How you present yourself not only allows you to look confident, it will help you tap into your true confidence, which comes from the value and expertise you bring to a meeting. Be aware of the subtle messages you send with your body language, and you will project more self-assurance and show you are a confident leader.