The numbers are in, and people lack confidence. Not all people, but enough of them to slow consumer spending and business investment.
Lack of confidence changes behavior. Confident consumers spend more money because they believe the future will be positive. Confident sales people make more sales because they trust their ability and the value of their product. Confident companies invest in innovation, talent development, and new equipment because they believe that they will be rewarded for their investment.
What does a lack of confidence look like? Just look around.
Hiring is non-existent. Spending is anemic. Words like malaise and funk are used to describe the mood of individuals, companies, and the country. Consumer confidence statistics support the reality that we have lost our swagger.
Who’s Responsible for Confidence?
Building and sustaining confidence is a function of leadership – personal, organizational, and institutional.
It doesn’t matter if you are leading a country, a company, a team, a family, or just yourself. There are things you can do to build your personal confidence and that of those you lead. Here are five ideas for generating the confidence you need to grow and achieve results:
1. Look the part. My college tennis coach drilled a saying into us every day: “If you look sharp, you feel sharp. If you feel sharp, you play sharp. And if you play sharp, you are sharp.” If you lead an organization, don’t allow the facilities to go unattended. If you lead a team, maintain the look and feel of success in your meetings. If you are an individual, don’t spend every day in your bathrobe and PJ’s. Put yourself in the best position to perform your best.
2. Change your language. Words matter and self-talk changes the way you perform. I get it if you aren’t comfortable with a daily mantra. At least focus on the desired positive outcome rather than the potential risk of failure. Performance moves toward the mind’s most dominant thought so put yourself in the best position for success.
3. Set specific goals; create plans to achieve them; and measure success. Bold, specific goals that generate enthusiasm have a profound ability to inspire confidence and action. President John F. Kennedy galvanized the United States with his statement that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” Compare that to the general goal of creating more jobs or generating more sales. Specificity breeds focus, and focus creates the opportunity for confidence.
4. Constantly upgrade your knowledge and skills. Imagine waking up tomorrow knowing that there was no need for your job. How would that make you feel? Now imagine an entire company realizing that its product or service is irrelevant. Multiply that by an entire industry. Finally, multiply that by ten percent of the entire country. That is what is happening in the United States today. The failure to invest in continuous education sets us on a path toward a perpetual lack of confidence fed by the despair of irrelevance.
5. Celebrate successes – both large and small. At its core, confidence is the trust in one’s ability to be in control of their destiny. We should celebrate and learn from our successes – regardless of their size – just as we should acknowledge and learn from our shortcomings. A total focus on the negative creates feelings of helplessness. Celebrating success inspires confidence in the potential for the future.
A “Morning Again” Moment
President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 “Morning in America” campaign commercial marked a re-birth of confidence in a country that had suffered for too long under the malaise of mediocrity. It changed the language. It celebrated our successes, and it reinforced that the United States still knew how to succeed.
It is time for that message again in our country, our companies, and our individual lives. We can’t stop with a commercial, however. We have to support the vision with specific goals and measures. We must prepare for it with new knowledge and skills, and we must celebrate successes rather than failure.