The First Rule of Management

If you could choose only one quality that your boss could have which would help you to perform better, what would it be?
– to be a good coach and mentor?
– to give you regular feedback in a constructive manner?
– to support your initiatives?

All of these are qualities that anyone would love to infuse into their boss. They are good qualities but they’re not enough. They all beg the question “And then what?”

For example, say my boss has suddenly become a great coach and mentor. I may now have a better understanding of what stands in the way of my success, and may even have solutions to my problems. This may help me to improve my performance, but I still may not necessarily be inspired to put my very best effort into my work.

A Manager’s Most Important Job is to Help Their Employees Feel Confident.

Confidence is the ultimate performance enhancer. It’s believing that you can get the job done. Confidence is what separated our early ancestors who took on the wooly mammoth and won, from those who faded out of the human gene pool. And it’s what separates good performers from all-stars.

I frequently give a keynote presentation on how to motivate people. At one point in the presentation I ask the audience which of the following two people they think will perform better. I then show a picture of a businessman with a subtle, confident smile and natural quality about him. I then show a picture of a business man cowering behind his desk chair, obviously afraid of his boss. The audience usually gets a bit of a kick out of it simply because we all know it’s true. We’ve all seen examples of how timidity and insecurity affect people. Because such people tend to be less assertive, they are indecisive and uncertain about what to do. This hurts their credibility with their peers and superiors which further damages their confidence, perpetuating the vicious cycle of insecurity.

As managers, it’s worth asking ourselves what we may be doing to cause this type of behaviour in those around us. If you need some help in assessing whether you have this effect on your employees, feel free to take the Management Blind Spots Self-Evaluation. Only after you have examined what you may be doing to hurt people’s confidence should you turn your attention to what you can do to build their confidence. See the aforementioned Self-Evaluation for the reason.

Confidence is Key to High Performance In All Areas of Life

I was recently backpacking in the backcountry with my good friend and his wife. The hike was more strenuous than we anticipated, and my friend’s wife was struggling in spite of being relatively fit. Both were a little annoyed at the other – my friend’s wife was annoyed that he chose a very challenging hike, and he was annoyed that she wasn’t paying as close attention to the trail as he felt she ought to. In a moment of frustration, he made a sarcastic remark which only assisted to increase tensions. In a private moment with him, I took occasion to describe the “which of these people will perform better” scenario from my keynote presentation. In an instant, he got it: a husband’s most important job is to make his wife feel confident, and vice versa.

Parents don’t need a PowerPoint presentation to understand that one of their most crucial and fundamental jobs is to help their child gain genuine self-esteem (as opposed to artificially inflating their ego by lavishing them with undeserved praise). None of the many life skills and values a parent can teach their child can be effectively employed without that child having a strong foundation of confidence. Even developing the attribute of humility requires having self-confidence.

A Leader Is Only As Good As Their Team

As you increase the confidence of your team members you will be amazed at how their performance improves, which in turn will improve your own performance.


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