To be successful in this profession, and in life, it is important to be perceived as confident. From my observations and experiences, it appears that others are more likely to ignore, question or even challenge the decisions of someone who appears less than certain of his or her own course of action. Do not doubt your ability to be a contributing member of your team. Instead, take a serious look at what you can do to influence how others perceive you. The HTM profession is full of people who are analytical, maybe even cynical, and looking for anything they can question to begin with. Don’t give them any added ammunition for making you the target, especially if you are in, or aspiring to move to, a management role.
Notice I used the word “management” there instead of “leadership” when referring to a formal position description or job title. This distinction goes back to my belief that leadership is a characteristic of an individual, and therefore may be found in anyone, in any position, in any organization. I have an expectation that “managers” of all levels are also leaders. Now that I think about it, though, that must be an unrealistic expectation. I am an optimist and I keep expecting the best of people and situations, but there is a difference between being optimistic and being in denial … that may have to be a topic for a future article. I want to get back to the subject of confidence.
Here are a few different examples of the meaning of “confidence” as it may relate to the HTM profession: 1) Self-assuredness, or your perception of your ability to perform to a certain standard; 2) Belief in the ability of other people, expecting others to behave in a trustworthy and competent manner; 3) Keeping certain information secret or restricted, sharing only between a few people.
When I researched the term confidence as it relates to engineering, there were articles about reliability engineering, confidence intervals, confidence bounds, and I even discovered one article that used the terms “forward confidence” and “reverse confidence.” That was intriguing. Not the article – it was boring – but I liked the whole concept of forward and reverse confidence. The article refers to the most common engineering type application of the term, the assurance that specific sequences of actions will repeatedly result in the same outcomes, as “forward confidence.” For example, if you are playing a video game and you achieve the desired result, you can repeat exactly those same actions and win at that level every time. Reverse confidence, however, would be more like the way I play. Every time I die, I can look back and see that there was some different decision or action that caused it each time, but the end result was still the same. I have confidence that if I play a video game, regardless of the decisions I make during the game, the little video dude will die. Reverse confidence is determined to exist when the same outcome (death in the video game) is analyzed and some consistent contributing factor (I am horrible at video games) is identified from the results.
Reverse confidence seems a little bit like the old saying that “hindsight is always 20-20 vision.” When dealing with human nature, though, forward confidence is a little more difficult. In general, it is natural for people to be a little nervous about making decisions that can have significant impact on themselves or others. It is important, in most situations, to not let that nervousness, or uncertainty, prevent you from arriving at a conclusion.
Also, it is important to be aware of how others perceive you, during and after your decision making process. If you are hesitant with follow-through, allowing yourself to be substantially distracted or persuaded by questions or comments from other people, you will generally not be viewed as having confidence, or a position of authority in that situation.
It is appropriate to be respectful of the ideas from members of your team, and to allow questions for the purpose of clarification and shared understanding as you are in the process of making decisions. Failure to allow bidirectional communication, in many situations, will lead to the perception of arrogance. It is a great skill to be able to maintain some kind of outward representation of assurance based on knowledge and experience, without allowing it to be perceived as arrogance. People will be drawn to confidence, whereas arrogance will drive people away.
Self-respect is a prerequisite for earning the respect of others. Likewise, having confidence in others will increase their own self-confidence. For a group of people to work well as a team, it is necessary for everyone to feel they have something to contribute as well as something to gain from the experience.
If you want to do some light and easy reading on this whole concept of believing in yourself, check out “Building Self-Confidence for Dummies” by Kate Burton and Brinley Platts. From within the HTM profession, A. Ray Dalton has written a great book called “Proceed with Confidence.” If you feel you are ready for a more intense message, perhaps “Quiet Strength” by Tony Dungy is more your style.
It’s never wrong to keep looking for more information on any topic. Along with that, however, it is important to be able to make decisions as needed to function effectively in your career, as well as in your personal life. There are many situations where we are required to make decisions in a timely manner, with whatever information we possess at the time. If you are successful in being confident without being arrogant, you won’t ever eliminate all of the internal doubt, but you will have asked yourself enough questions to get the key answers and be able to keep moving forward.
Disclaimer Notice: All comments, ideas, opinions or suggestions expressed herein are those of the author and are not in any way representative of the author’s employer or of any organization in which the author may be associated.
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