Monday is a big day at my workplace. It’s the day where the different countries (I work for “Asia Pacific”) submit their revised quarterly forecasts, and get quizzed by the regional managers on the accuracy and details. There are definitely three different types of people who attend these calls – the knowledgeable and confident, the knowledgeable and not confident, and the faux confident.
I don’t envy the managers who are not confident. Every week they get ripped to pieces because while they understand their numbers they are not confident to commit to a thing. And in the business that I’m in, you have to commit and keep your promise. I’ve had to attend these meetings in both the scribe (which is basically what I do now) capacity and also in the number giver capacity and I can safely say that behind closed doors I’m a knowledgeable and not confident type! But I’ve learned the supreme benefits of faking your confidence.
Faking it is a contentious topic in my house. The Husband believes in being straight up truthful – if you’re not confident about something, you should certainly not promise it. I think it’s why he fails so miserably to understand the political mindset that he needs when working with the upper levels of management the large organisation that he works in. On the other hand, after being ripped to shreds mercilessly for about 6 months when I started attending these “review” calls, I learned that while you don’t lie, you certainly don’t “um” and “ah”. Even if you have bad news, it’s better to convey an aura of supreme confidence.
So how do you do this?
- Remove the “ums” and the “ahs” from your range of speech. I’ve listened to a few people present to the room. It’s nor a formal presentation, but it’s a presentation no doubt – and when the speech is peppered with “um” and “ah”, it conveys a complete lack of confidence. Not only in yourself and your presentation skills, but in what you’re talking about.
- Slow down. I notice that when people start to waffle (and demonstrate that they’re losing confidence) their speech patterns start to vary more – they mumble or they speak much more quickly than normal. So slow down.
- If you’re in person, make eye contact. If you’re on a phone conference, you know how on America’s Next Top Model, Tyra Banks talks about how to “smize“? You can do that with your voice as well. Infact, it’s both easier and harder over the phone because people can’t see your facial expression. So learn to convey confidence with the tone of your voice by speaking clearly and audibly.
- OWN the shortcomings in your message, but don’t focus on them. Find one thing that is positive to bring to the discussion and make sure you mention it on its own – not as a defensive move to some negative feedback.
I had a manager who was awful. This manager was so bad that the whole team was demoralised and quitting. The sales numbers didn’t meet the targets in the slightest, the support staff weren’t helping because they were too confused (and unhappy also). But this manager was AMAZING at instilling confidence in her senior managers. I hated working with her, but I learned so much by watching her work. She spoke with so much confidence. When the news was bad, someone you walked away from a discussion with her feeling like you’d won something. And she was a master at deflecting the bad news and shining a mirror on the good news. I know that this is one of the key reasons why she succeeded so well in her job – despite the failing numbers!
So you might hate the political game. You might want to stay true to yourself to the bitter end. But why does it have to be bitter or untrue? Fake the confidence and you can turn it around until one day you’ll wake up and you’ll realise it’s not fake anymore. Not only that, you will have a brand new audience of people who trust what you’re saying and who will follow YOUR lead.