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Someone I consider to be extremely confident asked me if her behavior was “cocky” or “confident”? There is a difference, though I would offer that those WITHOUT real confidence come across as being cocky and those WITH real confidence usually don’t ask the question. So how do you develop that unbeatable sense of Contagious Confidence as a leader of others? Here are seven secrets that will get you started:

Secret #1: Confidence is Situational

Just because you are completely confident in teaching someONE how to work with an Excel Spreadsheet, that does NOT mean you are going to be equally as confident explaining it on a stage in front of 50 people. Having confidence is not a one time flip you switch. Confidence in you and your abilities and actions depends on what abilities you are demonstrating and actions you are taking at the time.

Secret #2 Confidence and Self Esteem are Different

Developing Confidence, which is the belief that you “Can Do This!”, is different than developing Self Esteem. Self Esteem is the belief that you are worth the effort that it will take to appear fearless, do what needs to be done even if you don’t know how, or take a risk. You can be confident in your ability to fire that person. You know the steps: the verbal, the verbal written, the written, and the “free up meeting”. Yet, you put it off because you don’t feel like you are valuable enough or what you need is valuable enough or important enough to stand up for and risk being wrong about in choosing to let this person go, or you don’t value yourself enough and think enough others like you to not worry about this person, who CHOSE to not do the job, not liking you when you let him or her go.

Secret #3: Faking It Til You Make It is… well, FAKE

Can I just tell you how much I struggle with this whole “fake it” idea?? In 7 Steps to Confident Leadership, Monica Wofford says "fake it til you make it" is wrong.I get it, but I don’t like it. Yes, putting a smile on your face will make you feel better. Yep, true. But if you stop there and just walk around with pom-poms attached to your body all the time, then the faking it becomes a habit not a gateway to feeling better. If what you are doing is saying “I’m great!” or “business if great!” or “things couldn’t be better!” or that you are “finer than frog hairs!”, but inside your head you say life sucks, then the voices in your head will win every time and what ends up coming out is some mixed message of silliness that people pick up on, but won’t tell you about. Stop faking it and find a way to truly feel better.

Secret #4: Work on It

Sounds simple, but consider how we are trained. We went to school and took pass fail tests. We had teachers who taught us things that we don’t use today, so why learn more stuff we’re not going to use. Why try to work on our confidence when there is really no reward or gold star that tells us we passed or made an A on something that only we are truly grading. Not so simple when you consider how we have been accustomed to working on things. This requires paying attention to the voices in your head. What garbage are they spewing at you and are you just believing everything you think? Hmmm… work on it.

Secret #5 Stop Saying You Know That Already

When I teach executive level leaders, occasionally I will get accused of saying things that are somewhat simplistic. But sure enough, every single time, a high level executive will then chime in and say something like “Well, if you know that Bob (or Suzie) then why aren’t you doing it and teaching your employees how to do the same thing?” It works better when they say it, though I am usually thinking it. Yes, we know to drink 8 glasses of water a day. Do we? Yes, we know that our confidence is important to our leadership. Do we do anything about it or just call it fluffy. I get that you know it intellectually, but knowing and doing are two different things.

Secret #6: Be Your Own Best Motivator

Whether you say things like “I feel the Need for Speed!” and mimic Tom Cruise’s bravado in Top Gun or you play “Simply the Best” by Tina Turner of “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky, to pump you up, just do that: pump YOU up. Instead of being the best and most talented and breaking yourself down or beating yourself up, install your own motivational speech or coach in your head. Don’t know what that sounds like, call us and we can give you some pointers. After all, we speakers have to do it for ourselves before every engagement, too! Remind yourself what you do well, how good you are, how much talent you have, and even if you have to find a microscope to see it… all the things that you have done right up to this point. Enough already with the “my own worst critic”, like that’s a label we should strive to uphold!

Secret #7: Remember They Are Watching You

If you have children this is not a new concept, but even if you do have children, we often forget to apply this to our job. Those you lead are watching every move you make and every move you make, everything you say, do, believe and perceive, rubs off on them. Employees are like impressionable children in some respects and everything you do is Contagious. They catch it and then give it to others, such as your customers. As you develop your own sense of Contagious Confidence, those you lead will watch your actions, your development, and your improvement so you’ll actually be developing you and others simultaneously.

You can do this and those you lead, including the voices in your head, will be ever so glad you did. Stay Contagious!

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