Motivation theories have suggested that successful performance hinges on both having the needed skill and also the will to use the skill to achieve, but even motivated and skilled employees may fail to perform if they don’t have a personal certainty or belief that they can cope with what needs to be done. It would seem that confidence, too, is important. Alex Stajkovic, (Development of a Core Confidence-Higher Order Construct, Journal of Applied Psychology 2006), argues that all three – skill, will and confidence – are needed for action to unfold. Belief in one’s abilities to perform an activity comes through successful experience and may add to, or consolidate, a general sense of self-confidence. It follows then that the creation of meaningful experiences by managers where employees can succeed could be really helpful and could possibly lead to greater productivity, innovation and more positive results.

Managers have a role to play in boosting employee confidence and therefore should avoid the following:

  • Being an “answer-provider” – rather solicit solutions from employees
  • Saying: “You need to become more confident” – rather find practical situations where employee confidence can grow
  • Criticism and disparaging comments – constructive feedback is a far better approach
  • Over-boosting with meaningless phrases (like: “You are my go-to man”) – insincerity is picked up quickly and respect will be lost

A genuine approach to boosting employee confidence is needed – an approach that could include some or all of the following actions:

  1. Creating situations where employees can practise – giving them time and support to become an expert. Increase the level of difficulty as the employee gains confidence.
  2. Appointing a coach/mentor for new employees – this “roadside assistance” (on the job) encourages employees and they don’t feel as if thrown in the deep end.
  3. Offering communication opportunities – communication is a malleable skill and research shows that it is one of the easiest abilities to develop. Communicating clearly and providing others with clear direction builds confidence quickly.
  4. Providing clear stretch goals – confidence increases substantially when people achieve what they initially thought to be impossible.
  5. Facilitating opportunities to lead – leading team meetings or representing the team in a presentation or meeting can be challenging for some employees, but it also sends a message that they are trusted and respected and subsequently builds confidence.
  6. Supplying needed resources and removing obstacles to success – this avoids potential frustration and exemplifies care.
  7. Appointing employees as coaches for new recruits – helping others to learn new skills reinforces the importance of their own knowledge and skills. They also learn when they teach.

Boosting employee confidence requires real conversations and face-time (presence), not surface accolades. It commences by understanding what is really going on – it requires digging beneath the presenting issues and obvious insecurity to grasp what scares them. It then progresses to an agreed development plan and the provision of support. It concludes with enablement – providing opportunity, empowerment and leadership. Therein rests productivity and performance.

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