Building Confidence

Recently, I had a telling experience in building confidence when I visited a coffee shop to get my standard black coffee with two espresso shots. While waiting in line to place my order, it appeared the employee who was helping the customers was having a rough day.

She accidentally knocked over a customer’s cup of steaming coffee, which fortunately did not get on anyone. On her very next customer, there was a problem with the credit card machine that would not allow her to make a charge.

The customer she was helping was becoming visibly impatient. After the employee swiped the customer’s card for the fifth time, it accepted the payment. As the line started to grow, her manager noticed and opened up another register to speed up the service. She then looked over at her employee and said “The day will get better; I have confidence in your ability.” The employee turned towards her boss, smiled warmly and said, “Thank you.”

Both the manager’s and employee’s comments started me thinking. As leaders, when we notice our employees having a rough time, or when we simply want to help them grow personally or professionally, what can we do to give them encouragement and show our confidence in them?

Building Confidence in Those You Lead


  • Treat Employees With Dignity and Respect

    This will foster self-confidence and character in your employees. I once had a mentor in the Army who expressed the belief that leadership is not a position, but a behavior. He also instilled in me that as leaders we  must remember that someone is always watching you on how to act; don’t let them down.

  • Give Them Challenging Assignments

    This shows that you have faith in their abilities. It allows them to have more ownership in the organization, and feel as though they are valued and are contributing. Coach their performance and act as a supporter who asks powerful questions and avoids taking over and solving their problems when they are stuck.

  • Providing Encouraging Words

    Letting the employee know that he or she is important and plays a big part in the success of the business goes along way. It builds commitment, loyalty, and confidence. The example shown above illustrates this point.

  • Inspire Them to Maintain Self Confidence

    Speak to them with a purpose that encourages them and gets them to buy in to the organizational vision. Share your insecurities or the challenges during your career with them. Your ability to communicate effectively and confidently will only make them feel more confident and inspired by your example.

  • Listen and listen more.

    When building a person’s confidence, listening to their story is crucial. Allow them to communicate openly and honestly about their strengths, weakness, fears, accomplishments, and career goals. Listening validates what they are feeling and lets them know that they have someone in their corner who will listen and listen more.

    Practice active listening skills such as nodding while they are talking, paraphrasing back what they are saying to them, and avoiding distractions such as reading emails or texting during your conversation.

When I think about listening and building a person’s confidence, a quote by Theodore Roosevelt, comes to mind. It goes: “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Roosevelt was right. The power of praise builds confidence. When I am praised for something, I feel a sense of pride and it confirms that what I am doing is working. Make it a point to assure that your praise is timely, specific, and sincere.

When those we lead hear the words “good job,” it goes in one ear and out the other. They feel like it’s a cookie cutter form of praise and has no real meaning. When leaders do offer praise, we often forget to make it specific.

Examples that Demonstrate Making Praise Specific

  • “John, great job on that presentation you did today for the Board. It was very engaging, factual and kept the attendees’ attention. Thank you for the time and effort you put into the proposal.It made us look good.
  • “Susan, I just received a call from a customer who you helped with an order last week. The customer shared with me her dilemma and felt that you really listened and provided her with good suggestions to help solve her shipping problem. Job well done, Susan and thank you.”

Make it a point to identify the ways that your employees like to be acknowledged for positive performance, rather than how you think they should want to be recognized. This can be done by simply individually asking your direct reports.

I’m sure a majority of us have had days just like the employee at the coffee counter. However, some of us may not have ever had a supervisor, manager, or leader show confidence in our abilities. I encourage you to use these five tips and witness the way that you can build a person up.

How Are You Building Confidence in Those You Lead?

If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Greg Martin
Greg works for Sedgwick County Department of Corrections and owns Martin Leadership & Management Development. He is a U.S. Army veteran & holds a MS in Leadership and Management from Friends University.