Projecting Confidence

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.


Leading a Great Meeting

Did the title confuse you? Are you thinking, “Why do I need to know this? I don’t lead meetings. I go to them?” That might seem true, but you may be leading more meetings than you are aware of. Or are you thinking, “There’s no such thing as a great meeting?” That, sadly, is true all too often, but you can set a different tone.

The first thing to keep in mind is not every meeting is called a “meeting.” Do you have a training session for library volunteers? Perhaps you do a 10-minute talk for a grade level when they come into your library or a subject area review. In many aspects, these are meetings and how your deliver them is important. The more focused you are, the more impact you will have, and the more you will be seen as a leader in your community.

Even if you don’t do any of the above, you attend meetings. Are you aware that there’s a way of leading from the middle? I do it all the time. It is also a great way to get your feet wet as a leader on a larger stage.

Lolly Daskal proposes 5 “P’s” in explaining How to Lead More Effective Meetings and Get Better Results. When you are leading from the middle, these P’s will help you recognize why a meeting goes well or poorly. You can also use them to quietly steer that meeting in a more productive direction.

Here are the 5 P’s to keep in mind:

Purpose – What’s the agenda? How many faculty meetings have you attended where the agenda is “This is our time for a faculty meeting”? Remember Purpose = Mission. In other words, it is what drives what is to happen. Everyone should know this in advance. If you are leading the faculty meeting from the middle, restate what seems to be the purpose. Be succinct. Ask it as a clarifying question.

When actually leading a meeting, be sure to inform all attendees of the purpose and do your best to send the agenda well in advance. Ask for any additions. When the meeting starts everyone will be prepared, but you should also restate the purpose as you begin.

Preparation –When leading from the middle, take time to review the agenda in advance . If one isn’t sent, try to anticipate the topics most likely to be raised. What do you have to contribute? Do remember that at most faculty meetings, the dominating purpose of attendees is to get out fast, so be succinct and don’t talk too often.

You would never be unprepared for a meeting you lead, but knowing the content of what you want to present is not enough. Think of why it is important for those coming. What should they do as a result? Also, where might you expect pushback? If so, how will you manage it? Knowing how people feel about meetings, consider Daskal’s question, “Is this meeting necessary?” You might be able to handle it another way.

People – Who is coming? Are they the ones who should be there? Obviously, in a faculty meeting, the principal wants everyone there, but is that why people tune out during parts (or all) of it?

Knowing who to invite is particularly important if you are setting up a library advisory board. In this climate, having one is an important source of strength and builds advocates. You want a broad cross-section but not an unwieldy board. Community members, business owners, parents, teachers, and students are all potential members, but which ones will best serve your purpose?

Process – Daskal advises thinking of the “specifics of how things will get done.” In the faculty meeting you are attending, does the principal make clear what is to follow as a result of the meeting? Are there any tasks to get done? Is there a date when they are do? When appropriate, ask for clarity to help you and the rest of the faculty.

When you are leading, follow Daskal’s advice about keeping track of what is discussed. Send it to all attendees afterwards. Be clear who has taken on what task. Where will they report on it? If you are using Google Docs or some other format, be sure all attendees know how to access and use the technology. Not everyone does.

Progress – All too often, there is no connection from one faculty meeting to the next. If there were any accomplishments or changes, they are not presented. Whatever the original purpose, if there was one has been totally lost. Completion needs celebration.

For your meetings, find ways to celebrate and acknowledge what was achieved. Give credit to participants – and don’t take credit for yourself. Your work will be recognized by others, and those who get credit will be willing to work with you in the future.

Although not a “P,” Daskal says in conclusion, “Lead from Within.”  I completely agree. Trust yourself and your knowledge.