9 Top Tips for Women’s Confidence

What is it about Women’s Confidence? Career, Confidence and Charisma are all a must in today’s business world and yet women often find it hard to develop the confidence that often comes so naturally to men.

I interviewed 80 Chief Executives for my book ‘Fast Track to the Top’ and about a quarter were women. I asked what had made them successful so that I could distil that wisdom for the rest of us who aspire to be like them. Women always mentioned confidence, men rarely. When I explored the difference the men said that they took confidence for granted, the women said the struggle to achieve confidence had been pivotal.

The heart of this difference for me is that women are ‘intropunitive’ meaning we blame ourselves and men are ‘extrapunitive’, they blame everyone else. I am sure that strikes cords with most women reading this article. You could wait to the end of eternity for a man to admit to the red sock in the washing machine.

Of course this trait allows men to move on swiftly from mistakes without self chastising or even any self analysis. ‘Next’ is their philosophy. Lose a pert blonde wife – get another the same as soon as possible so that first wife will never see any hurt or loss. The same at work. Miss a promotion go for the next until they are successful

Meanwhile a woman would be feeling the acute failure of a marriage gone wrong and blaming herself entirely for the break up. The same with a missed promotion. I wish I had a pound for the number of times women have said they were so embarrassed when not getting a senior post that they would never put themselves forward again.

There are no rights or wrongs in these differences but it helps us understand what bits need to be worked upon to become successful as believe me confidence is crucial to success. Women need to move on from blame to action –men need to concentrate on the in between parts, what blame to accept and what to learn.

Why are we different? Apart from the obvious observation that it would be a boring life if we were all the same, it seems to be a mixture of nature and nurture. There is no doubt that we are neurologically wired differently but add in the learning component of man as action man woman as caring and nurturing and ‘vive la difference’.

I think we also like to hang on to the idea of being shy as a feminine trait that might be endearing to the opposite sex. There is a lingering sense of shy=sweet, confident=unattractive. Perhaps in the bedroom but definitely not at work. The shy are neither seen nor heard. In fact they tend to be ignored.

While women think they will be noticed for their good work and impressive output, the men are networking down the pub, talking up their latest project. While I am not suggesting we develop a taste for ale I am suggesting that we need to blow our trumpets occasionally and talk about our successes.

Optimistic thinking is a useful tool for success. I remember speaking to the Head of Competitions at Readers Digest. He said that winning even small amounts of money can change people profoundly as suddenly they see themselves as winners not just for Readers Digest competitions but life in general.

So how do you become an optimistic winner? So many women I meet are perfectionists. Everything has to be ‘just so’ from the report to the CEO to the cushions on the couch at home. Get over it! Adequacy for everyday things is fine. And delegate all cleaning, tidying, cooking to those at home. Who cares if it is not to your standards. For goodness sake don’t have your children thinking that women alone have domestic skills.

So when everything does not have to perfect you can pat yourself on the back more regularly for a job well done. You are usually better than you think you are.

And to be successful you should get into the habit of visualising success. Human beings have been given a fantastic capacity for imagination. So what do we use it for? Thinking about disasters in advance! Use this God given talent for seeing glorious events unfolding. Once you have rehearsed these events mentally they are much more likely to happen.

I used to believe that if I ever said that things were going well a large foot would come from the heavens and squash me to keep me humble. There was something in my mind about tempting fate. That was until I read the research. Martin Seligman carried out a long term study over some 25 years to show that optimistic people had more success in their lives, had less nasty life events happen to them and lived longer- more positive ones were alive at the end of the project. So there was no evidence for the big foot –in fact quite the reverse. So I replaced it with a smiling picture of health, happiness and success. Life has been so much easier with demise of the big foot.

I have coached many women when they go for promoted posts and one sticks in my mind. She was an interim head teacher in a famous all girls school in Belfast and she was being interviewed for the permanent post. Now this interview would be daunting to the most hardened interviewee. It was to be in front of 25 people one of whom was a judge. She was petrified.

I remember asking her over dinner what her views were about the current Irish situation. She said ‘oh I don’t have a view. I leave that to my husband’. The next day I asked her to prepare a 30 minute presentation with slides on politics in Northern Ireland and its impact on education. A leader in her community and no view- I don’t think so!

After that we worked on the interview and one of the major skills for her was visualising every stage of the process and seeing herself answering succinctly and fluently. We bought the interview outfit together as she had a tendency to look motherly in a long pleated skirt. So when she presented herself in her black silk fitted suit and took charge of the interview she told me she felt fabulous. Everything went according to what she had imagined and the panel said they had never seen her so confident. She of course got the job. Probably still has it.

So nobody is going to give you the great position with the corner office just for keeping your head down and delivering, however important that might  be. You must have ideas, volunteer for projects no one else wants and risk declaring views others may oppose.

Where does charisma fit into all of this? To be charismatic you have to be confident but it takes even more than that. It takes energy, an ability to influence others with your views and above all relaxation.

I saw Bill Clinton in the Albert Hall last year and whatever you may think of his shenanigans with Monica he was very charismatic. My main observation  was of comfort: ease with who he is and what he can accomplish. I have seen very few women with that aplomb.

It means that you may be juggling the children’s school run with writing a proposal for a multi million pound deal, decorating a new house with presenting a paper at the annual conference but somehow it must look relaxed and seamless not frantic and frazzled. That is always the female dilemma. But it can be done. And of course as more and more women become centre stage in business and politics women can help each other.

9 Top Tips for Women’s Confidence

  1. Change your thinking. If your thoughts revolve around doing yourself and others down then start to look for positives. Focus on them and the negatives will be squeezed out.
  2. Become an optimist and see yourself as a winner.
  3. Delegate everything you can at work and at home.
  4. Reward yourself for a job well done and tell people of your success.
  5. Visualise success in whatever you undertake.
  6. Have views and ideas that you declare openly. Become well informed.
  7. Learn the art of relaxation.
  8. Admit to being confident.
  9. Realise that confidence is an ongoing process – a journey to enjoy.

At Ros Taylor Company, we extol the irrefutable business case that workplaces and board rooms are greatly enhanced by the presence of motivated, focused and influential women.

Through a series of monthly sessions or a shorter programme of master classes, Our Women As Leaders ™ course empowers women within the corporate environment to build their own personal brand through increased confidence, develop their ability to identify big picture opportunities, seek advancement by taking on more responsibilities and ultimately gain earned promotion.