4 Powerful Ways to Build Your Team’s Confidence and Rule The World

“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be.  If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it.  On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

As those of you who have read Lead From The Heart already know, throughout my entire childhood, I had the perverse experience of routinely being told I would end up a failure in life.

Through repeated and profoundly destructive interactions with my father, I was taught to believe that I fundamentally lacked.

My father’s influence, of course, had the effect of deeply undermining my self-confidence.  It made me doubt my capabilities and talents, and fearfully approach most new things.

How I overcame my great deficiency in self-belief had much to do with other people who came into my life – friends, teachers and coaches – who saw things differently and made a distinct point of insisting that I actually had much to offer.   In the context of all I was hearing at home, these words of encouragement gave me far more empowering views of myself, ones that inspired me to reach, to pursue greater challenges and to overcome my feelings of inadequacy.

When I later entered business and first became a manager of people, I made a surprising observation: the far majority of employees working for me had self-defeating doubts about how talented and capable they truly were.   Many consistently underestimated their full human potential.

Guessing that few of them had anything close to the upbringing I had – and that their parents likely did all they could to build up their self-esteem – I soon came to understand that fear and doubt are a part of the human condition.

In a peculiar way, I also realized I’d been groomed to help people transcend their unfounded limitations.  I knew instinctively that if I took on the role of being my teams’ chief confidence builder, great achievements would assuredly follow.  And, they did.

What I know for certain is that people have far greater potential than they often see in themselves.  Leaders who not only understand this, but seek out ways to draw it out, will be the ones who will rule the world.

If you’d like to get started building up the confidence of your team, here are four great ways to get started:

  1. Treat Your Employees Like Winners (Even If They’re Not Yet Winning)

As Rosabeth Moss Kanter wrote in her book, Confidence: How Winning Streaks & Losing Streaks Begin And End, “there’s a well-documented relationship between expectations and performance that’s at the heart of self-confidence.”  In other words, you can elevate an entire team’s performance simply by setting the same high expectations for everyone.

In repeated studies where teachers were told their class was filled with “gifted” students (and, unbeknownst to them, all had been randomly selected), the kids’ academic performance soared.

According to Kanter, “thinking that someone is a potential high-performer encourages leaders and colleagues to look more closely at them, to invest more time and to find the positives in them.

  1. Ensure You Routinely Convey The Importance Of The Work Your Team Does

When people fully understand how their efforts affect the success of the organization – and that their work is inherently important and significant – they will stretch themselves to excel.  Deep down, every human alive wants and needs to know the job they perform matters.   Consequently, leaders who routinely take time to explain how employees individually make a difference consistently produce highly confident and motivated teams.

  1.    Re-express Your Confidence When Results Aren’t There

The expression “sales beating,” as a description of a sales meeting they just attended, was coined by some poor employee whose boss panicked under the stress of underperformance and let everyone on the team have it.

We’ve all worked for managers who freaked out under pressure and unwittingly decimated the spirits of the very people whose motivation he or she desperately needed.

The test of a leader’s true character, therefore, is whether they’re capable of sustaining the self-confidence and demeanor of a winning team even when the scoreboard suggests otherwise.

When things get rough, double down on the disciplines and practices you know have led to great success in the past.  But, most importantly, make sure your team fully internalizes how much you believe in them and their abilities.  When your people are convinced you have complete confidence in them, they’ll reward that trust.

  1.   Find Out What Others Are Doing To Succeed

When Jeffrie Lurie bought the Philadelphia Eagles several years ago, the football team was greatly underperforming.   Tied to an intense desire to turn the Eagles into consistent winners, he traveled to San Francisco and visited the owners of the 49’ers – a team that already had won several recent Super Bowls.

Lurie returned to Philadelphia with a long list of best practices he immediately introduced to his team.   Taking immediate action on bringing the same winner’s environment to the Eagles, the players quickly saw the positive changes and instinctively interpreted that Lurie was taking the steps that would help them start winning. And, of course, they did. (The Eagles won their division six times, and placed second three more times from 2001-2010).

If your ambition is to have a wildly productive team next year, allow the words of Rosabeth Moss Kanter to be your mantra, “Leadership is not about the leader, it is about how he or she builds the confidence of everyone else.”

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Why You Need To Lead With Your Heart

If you think your brain makes you a great leader, you better check your head.

According to the Conference Board, job satisfaction in America has been on a steep and steady decline for an entire generation. The century-old research organization reported this summer that more than half of all US employees are unhappy in their jobs today–effectively an all-time low.

Recent Gallup studies not only validate that people feel worse about their work, bosses and organizations than ever before, they reveal a remarkable 71 percent of American workers are either not engaged in their jobs–or have become actively disengaged.

Clearly, all this discontent is bad for business. Gallup estimates that it’s costing $300 billion in lost productivity every year.

Given all that’s at stake, and with all the great business minds presumably attacking the crisis, we’re left to wonder why we’ve yet to stem the tide? How is it that we haven’t yet identified what it will take to re-inspire our nation’s workforce?

Drawing upon recent scientific discoveries, it appears it’s because the solution contradicts one of the most widely accepted and long-enduring paradigms in business. We now know that the path to engaging workers is through their hearts.

What We All Were Taught: “Keep The Heart And Emotions Out Of Leadership.”

The idea of bringing the heart into workplace leadership widely is seen as being a soft and weak approach that inherently undermines productivity and profitability. Traditional leadership theory assures us the best managers are the brainiest and most analytical–intentionally insulated from emotions.

But according to research conducted by the Institute of HeartMath, organizations that will endure and even thrive will be those that reject flat-earth attitudes about heart and leadership, and accept that both feelings and emotions play an enormous role in driving employee (human) behavior.

If your desire is to be a leader who attracts and retains the best people all-the-while producing truly uncommon and sustainable performance, here are two things you must know about the power and influence of the human heart:

The Heart is the Primary Driver of Optimal Human Performance

HeartMath’s research largely has been focused on the physiology of optimal human performance–what has to go on inside of a person’s brain, body and nervous system to be able to think clearly, maintain composure, and perform to one’s full potential.

According to Dr. Rollin McCraty, HeartMath’s Director of Research, they’ve discovered the heart, as “an organ of perception and intelligence,” is a huge part of the equation.

“We now know that the heart and the brain are in a constant two-way communication and that the heart sends more information to the brain than vice versa. The signals the heart sends affect the brain centers involved in our decision-making and in our ability to perceive. In other words, each beat reflects our current emotional state. If we’re angry, irritated or frustrated, the heart beats out a very chaotic message. Conversely, more positive emotions create harmony in our nervous system and the heart rhythm pattern we have when we’re in our most optimal state.”

Coincidentally, a Towers Watson study recently showed that the greatest driver of employee engagement worldwide is whether or not people feel their managers and organizations have genuine concern for their well-being. Heartmath’s corresponding insight: More caring leaders set off the neural machinery that produces optimal workplace performance.”

Emotions Drive Performance

The prevailing belief in leadership is that emotions undermine good decision-making and other cognitive tasks and have no place in the workplace. But the new research is very clear that the repression of them greatly inhibits human functioning.

“While it’s obvious that certain kinds of emotions drain our energy and thereby negatively affect our performance,” McCraty says, “we now know it’s our emotions that drive our biochemistry–not the other way around. Feelings and emotions, therefore, determine our level of engagement in life, what motivates us and what we care about.”

Initial cynicism toward this information is something McCraty routinely experiences firsthand. The US military has contracted with HeartMath to teach its soon-to-be deployed personnel how to maintain psychological composure when enduring the most stressful wartime circumstances.

Here’s how McCraty successfully persuades a room full of sceptical soldiers that feelings and emotions are the driving force in their lives:

“Some of you joined the military for the paycheck, but I’ll bet it’s not the majority of you. I’ll bet you’re here because you care about the country and its way of life, right? Raise your hands.”

All hands go up.

“And you have the courage to stand up and do something about it.”

Everyone nods their heads.

“You have the integrity and dignity to stand up for America.”

McCraty then hammers home the point: “Are these not emotions?”

“Yes, they’re the strongest emotions we have. Courage gives you the power to do things others wouldn’t or couldn’t. Dignity is doing the right thing when no one is looking–that kind of integrity. These are all the emotions that really motivate us and determine what we care about in life…why we choose to do the things we do in life.”

The Bottom Line

It’s long been believed that a job and a paycheck was sufficient motivation for workers to perform. But pay in all of its manifestations now ranks no higher than fifth in importance globally as the reason why people excel in their jobs.

While the idea of managing people with greater care may strike some as intrinsically wimpy, the Conference Board’s ongoing employee engagement research has proved that workplace leadership cannot succeed without it.

What matters most to people is how they are made to feel by the organizations that employ them, and by the bosses who manage them. So, demonstrate to your employees that they’re authentically valued. Provide them with opportunities to grow and to contribute at a higher level. Appreciate their work. Make people feel they matter. Do all these things and more–knowing it’s rarely an appeal to our minds that inspires any of our greatest achievements.

Mark C. Crowley is the author of Lead From The Heart: Transformational Leadership For The 21st Century. Reach him on Twitter @markccrowley or via his website.

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