My grandmother liked to say, “Everything in moderation” and while this usually came up in terms of physical attributes (what you were eating, wearing or doing), I think it also applies to our behaviors and finding balance in them. Balance and projecting confidence is becoming something I am talking about more and more with clients and in speaking engagements.
Think of a scale with two weights on it: one for supporting others and one for self-assertion. When we have these in balance, we are caring for others while caring for ourselves. How does this apply to projecting confidence? And in this article, let’s focus on what this means for those who struggle with promoting themselves confidently, with a focus on women in particular.
It’s startling to remember we haven’t yet reached the 100th anniversary of women being able to vote in the United States. Currently, less than 25 Fortune 500 companies are led by female CEO’s. We are still figuring out how we can be projecting confidence in way that shows self-assurance not self-importance.
Many women have been brought up to value and emphasize behaviors of compassion, camaraderie and concern. And those attributes are all good things. However, when your scale is tipped towards supporting others, your behaviors in the workplace may be geared towards always trying to gain group consensus or excessive consideration about how you or your decisions will be perceived. The way you project yourself – and the way you feel inside – may be very driven towards what will make others feel supported and content.
Asserting yourself means saying what you think, being ready to make decisions that may be unpopular, promoting your talents and your work. One of my former colleagues, a very talented woman, launched an initiative that took hold across a division of her Fortune 100 company. Colleagues from other offices saw what she was implementing and asked if they could get her training materials and use it too. Being a sharing, collaborative person, she was happy to have others use her methodology. Her approach got implemented in a grass-roots way, taking hold in several offices.
The problem is her scale is tipped towards supporting others. Caring more about the end result, she doesn’t like to promote her own work… not even to her boss. Even though he saw the methodology with her first, as others who are much more geared towards self-assertion started using it, the fact that she created it was lost. When she finally broached the subject with her manager, he said, “Did you really start this? Did you really create this on your own?” As a result of her modesty and desire to support people, she got absolutely no soft or monetary recognition for changing the way several offices did business.
Striking a Balance
My friend learned a big lesson from what happened. She realized that she couldn’t count on her work to speak for itself; she had to speak for it while projecting confidence. But wisely, rather than just tipping the scale completely the other way, she began to find her own way of projecting confidence… one that took the best of both supporting others and caring deeply about how the team does while forging a more assertive identity where she shares more of her opinions and more of her achievements. She began to interact more frequently with her manager and with his manager in sharing her daily successes. Not in a boastful way, but as a matter of celebration (“Something wonderful happened today!”) As a result, her review improved dramatically the next year and she was promoted to backfill her manager when he left the company.
Projecting Confidence is a Balancing Act
One where you stand up for both others and for yourself; one where you know when to listen and when to speak; one where you both give and take credit for quality work; one where you know when group consensus is right and one where you know when you need to make the decision to do what’s right for you or the company. When you attain this type of balanced integrity, your confidence is an asset, a display of knowing and trusting yourself to do what’s right.