Step Out to Close the 'Confidence Gap'

Did you read the recent article "The Confidence Gap" in The Atlantic? The authors, broadcast journalists Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, explore the disparity in confidence between men and women and how that affects women's success in the workplace.  "Compared with men, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions, they predict they’ll do worse on tests, and they generally underestimate their abilities," Shipman and Kay write.   And they add, "A growing body of evidence shows just how devastating this lack of confidence can be. Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence."   But there is good news: Confidence can be learned, Shipman and Kay write.   A confidence makeover doesn't happen overnight. Instead, I believe that you start to build confidence as soon as you take just one small action to "put yourself out there" more than you have in the past.   Are you ready to take that first step toward more confidence? Here are a few ideas:

  • Ask for something you want.

  • Make a suggestion that you believe in, and that might meet with resistance.

  • Speak up in a setting that’s less comfortable for you, such as meeting with senior leaders.

  • Volunteer for an assignment that will require you to stretch beyond your comfort zone.

  • Reach out to a leader you admire and respect but have hesitated to contact before.

After you've decided on what your action will be, try to get to the heart of what makes it challenging for you. What has held you back from actions like this in the past? Maybe you've worried you might lose credibility or even fail on that "stretch" assignment, or that you were wasting a senior leader's time by asking her for advice.   Once you clarify what's held you back in the past, consider the kind of support you need to make your bold move this time. What words of encouragement would you need to hear? Who do those words need to come from? You or someone else, such as a mentor or a former boss?   Finally, find a way to hold yourself accountable for your confidence-building move. What do you need to do to make sure you carry out your plan for putting yourself out there? Perhaps it's just scheduling time in your calendar to take action, or a follow-up call from someone you trust.   This week, identify the first step you want to take toward "stepping out" in a more visible way. Each small step will help you close that "confidence gap". And remember, small steps lead to big results.