Someone asked me earlier this week about how to develop confidence at work.
I was reflecting on this, and at the time, I happened to be sitting in a quiet corner at the restaurant that I co-own in Taman Tun Dr Ismail. As I was thinking about this, I noticed the interactions of one of the floor staff as he was attending to the needs of a group of customers.
I observed that he was very confident. He was attentive and recommended some food, and he even managed to get the patrons to laugh heartily at something he said. More importantly, I saw that he was self-assured about directing other floor staff.
I was so encouraged. I truly believe the hallmark of any good establishment is its excellent customer service. And, Izabul Haque was expertly translating my passion to the customers. In the food and beverage industry, the gold-standard is satisfied customers.
But, I was also perplexed. Usually, this particular floor staff always looks worried, like the weight of the world rested on his shoulders. In my personal interactions with him, I sometimes find myself anxious because I feel that he does not understand what I am saying. And it concerns me that he falls short of the service standards that I have come to expect in my restaurant.
But that day, he was doing a fabulous job of managing the expectations of the customers on that table. They eventually left the restaurant looking very happy, and even wrote a glowing review on our social media page.
So, I decided to investigate what seemed like Izabul’s anomalous behavior.
I chatted with my head of operations, Kanagalingam Yogaretnam. Kana is a veteran in the industry with over 20-years of experience managing and training teams. I hired him because he shares the same passion I have for proper service standards.
I asked him if Izabul was usually hesitant. And also if this display of excellent service was an exception to his general performance. Kana smiled wryly and corrected me. It turns out that he was only timid when I was in the restaurant. Normally, he was excellent at the job.
So, we joked that it was probably best, if I came less to my restaurant.
This episode gave me an insight into how confidence can affect your personal performance. It also helped me answer the question that my coachee had asked of me.
I have found that people who successfully reach great heights in their careers or in managing their businesses, often exhibit remarkable self-belief.
But how do you get this?
Let me share some ideas that I have figured out through my work. These suggestions will help you develop the confidence you need, in your careers.
First, prepare yourself to be confident. Modern life is complicated and you are expected to do many things daily. If you are unprepared, your confidence will be severely dented.
I get nervous before running a training programme. But, if I am prepared, I organize my thoughts better. This calms me down immediately. And, calmness is a prerequisite for confidence.
Being short of money will make you anxious. But, knowing the date when your salary will be credited into your account, gives you a sense of confidence. On the other hand, if you were broke and had no idea when you will have money, you nervousness will definitely get worse. And, your confidence takes a nose dive.
When you are prepared, you will be confident.
Next, you need to be equipped with knowledge. Being knowledgeable or becoming an expert in your field will elevate your personal confidence. When you know what to do or say, you become less hesitant.
I have a radio show every month in a leading business radio station in Malaysia. And I know that the best shows I make, are the ones where I speak from a bank of knowledge.
My expertise actually serves to boost my confidence.
The third, and perhaps most important way to get confident, is to understand fear.
I refer to the example I cited earlier. I saw my staff Izabul being nervous all the time. Upon deeper reflection, I realise that it was just performance-anxiety, because he did not want to fail in front of me. Fear of failure leads to tremendous self-doubt. But when he was not worried about failure, he was outstanding at work.
Recognise that failure can be part of your growth trajectory. Once you do this, you will begin to learn from each setback, and you will not become debilitated by fear. Remind yourself to turn failure into a source of motivation, rather than allowing it to make you fearful.
So, if you want to be confident at work; be prepared, fortify your knowledge, and learn to manage your fear.
SHANKAR R. SANTHIRAM is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”