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Show Confidence Noticing - Main

Many leaders that I work with would like to be able to show confidence at work.

I enjoy working with people to build confidence, because it’s a valuable trait that can make a real difference.

Some people appear as naturally confident, while others need to work harder at it.

I’m in the latter category. I was never confident growing up, and it took me a while to build it.

In this post, I’ll take a look at a simple way to start your journey toward showing confidence.

The Difference Between Being Confident and Showing Confidence

In leadership, confidence doesn’t matter. Being able to show confidence matters.

I make the distinction between being confident and showing confidence because you cannot control one of them, but you can control the other.

I like to focus on the things that we can control, rather than those we can’t. It’s a good way to feel empowered.

You can control your ability to show confidence, because it’s all about body language and behaviour.

Remember the iceberg model? You probably do, because I harp on about it a lot as it’s one of my favourites!

Iceberg model components to build empathy

Confidence sits below the waterline of your iceberg. People can’t tell whether you are confident or not just by looking at you.

They make a judgement about whether you are confident by the things that you do, say and based on your appearance.

You will go into many situations where you are worried or anxious, but you can still show confidence.

We don’t need to feel confident to do things – we tend to feel confident after doing them.

Learn More:  Want to Build Empathy? Use the Iceberg Model.

Why Being Able to Show Confidence Matters

Showing confidence while leading helps people to follow you.

You don’t need to have all the answers, but being able to show confidence helps people believe that you’ll work it out.

Leaders who show confidence tend to receive more opportunities, respect and have greater input.


Because people believe in them. Senior leaders believe that “they’ve got this” and that they won’t need to worry.

Confident people

Senior leaders don’t want to worry whether their people are going to succeed or fail. They can feel more comfortable when they observe confidence.

In some ways it is a shame. There are very capable leaders out there who don’t appear confident, and I believe they miss out on opportunities for this reason.

But, it is the way of the world. People want to feel good following or depending on someone, and showing confidence is one way to help that happen.

Learn More:  Thoughtful Leader Podcast #219: 4 Steps to Grow Your Leadership Confidence.

Let’s Begin to Show Confidence by Noticing

So let’s begin. The aim of this post is to help you kick start your journey to showing confidence.

You might feel as if you lack confidence most of the time. Or you may already feel pretty confident, and just want to get a little better.

Whatever the case, I find “noticing” to be a great starting point.

I encourage my coaching clients to start noticing things so they can make a change. You can do it too.

What is This Noticing You’re Talking About?

Noticing is just what it sounds like.

It means simply paying attention to your body language and behaviour and making an effort to notice it.

I believe the start of building confidence is raising awareness of our behaviour and how we respond to different situations.

For this post, I’ve chosen three stereotypical behaviours that are generally associated with confident people.

Of course, you can notice whatever behaviours you like, if you think others may be more relevant for you.

Notice: Apologising

Apologising is not necessarily a bad thing. Except when you do it by habit, when you haven’t done anything wrong.

“Sorry to disturb you”

“Sorry, I left early to do <something important to me>”

“Sorry, can I just check <this thing>?”

It’s a very common phenomenon. Over the years, I have worked on this myself. I noticed a while ago that I have a tendency to start sentences with “sorry” when I am not really sorry and have no need to apologise!

This is simple. Notice how many times you apologise. 

Apologising is not wrong, if you feel you have good reason to say “sorry”.

But when you do it instinctively and too often, people may have the perception that you don’t believe in yourself, or are overly submissive.

Notice: Withheld Opinions

The next behaviour to notice is how many times you stop yourself from speaking up.

This could be regarding an idea, a suggestion or simply an opinion.

Notice how many times you hold back from offering an opinion, idea or a suggestion. 

Holding back opinion

People who speak up, provide their opinion and contribute to the conversation appear as more confident than others who don’t.

It demonstrates that they feel they have something of value to say.

Learn More:  Why You Need to Speak Up at Work (and Why You Don’t).

Notice: Softening Your Message

How many times do you find yourself softening your message.

This could mean either being tentative in your phrasing, saying “maybe” or “just” a lot, or simply not telling people what’s actually on your mind.

We soften our message to reduce the perceived threat that we offer to others. This makes us smaller, and less of a target.

In our minds, this means nobody will attack us.

But it also can have the impact of making us seem less confident and self-assured.

You can read more about “softening” language in the link below.

Learn More:  Want to Be More Assertive? Watch Your Words.

Set Yourself a Noticing Challenge

Here’s what I want you to do:

Gratitude JournalTry to notice each of these three simple behaviours over the next 2 weeks.

You may find that at first, in the moment you don’t notice anything.

But on reflection, you may think back and realise “I apologised when I shouldn’t have!”

That’s OK – make your best effort to notice, even if it’s after the fact.

Keep a tally of the times you notice each of these behaviours. For some extra detail, you can also note when they happened, and what the event was.

What is the Benefit of Noticing?

Over time, you’ll start to see how often you demonstrate these submissive or low-confidence behaviours.

But what you are really noticing here are decision points.

For example, when you start to notice the times when you hold back your opinion, you are noticing a decision point.

The decision is, “Should I speak up, or not?”

Over time, you will notice more of these decision points and you can look into them more deeply.

You can ask yourself “Did I decide not to speak up for a good reason, or just because I was fearful or lacking conviction?”

Over time, you will start to notice these decision-points in real time and you can make the call in the moment.

From there, you can decide whether what you notice is OK, or if you’d like to improve.

But the first step is simple. It’s just to notice.

Set yourself a noticing challenge. What did you notice? Join the chat in the comments below!

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