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Authors: Helene Lerner

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BOOK: The Confidence Myth
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Power tools

Fear can be your ally.

Take the initiative to speak up, even if you are shaky. What you're advocating for is more important than your fear. Come from a position of service. Act as if you can do it and you will be able to. Remember our new take on confidence: acknowledging fear and moving forward anyway.

Leadership presence is attainable.

Pay attention to what women at higher levels say and do—adapt their styles to what works for you. Dress the part, be self-aware, understand your audience, artfully listen, and maintain composure.

The truth will catapult your growth.

Feedback helps you advance. Use your intuition to discriminate between what is useful and what is not. Ask for feedback if you're not getting it.

Saying no can be a good thing.

Create power parameters to keep you focused on important tasks. Protect your time, set boundaries, and make your no someone else's yes.

Alliances with power players are mutually beneficial.

Take every opportunity to make yourself visible to the power players around you. Be strategic and see how your skills and expertise can be useful to a higher-up you want to work with. Build a relationship with a sponsor based on mutual benefit and trust.

Intuition is your edge.

When you follow your inner compass, you feel more confident taking the smart risks necessary to advance professionally. Listen to your inner voice and use it to help you make better business decisions that benefit you, the people you serve, and your company.

Appendix A
Thirty Days of Confidence Sparks

This bonus section contains thirty Confidence Sparks to help you strengthen your ability to move forward even when shaky. Some are reflections; some are calls to action. Read one each morning for the next thirty days. You don't need to go in order, and you can repeat a Confidence Spark. Pick the one that seems most appropriate for any given day. Sit in a comfortable chair where you will not be disturbed, and if you feel like it, write down your insights in your journal.

• Think of a challenging situation in which you would really like to speak up but haven't yet. Imagine how you would act. What would you say? Role-play with a friend if needed, and set a time to address the issue with the appropriate person.

• Don't pay attention to those who don't have your best interests at heart. If a disparaging comment comes your way today, keep focused on your goals.

• Zero in on your priorities. Even though you have a lot do, do you find yourself gravitating to the low-impact items on your to-do list? What are you avoiding and why?

• Choose a women leader you admire. What qualities does she possess? Of those, which do you already have and which do you need to develop? Get suggestions from an advisor on how to chart a course of action.

• Think of a higher-up in your corporation who would be a good contact for you. How can you meet him? Do you know someone who can introduce you? Do your homework before you meet. How can you help advance one of his goals?

• Picture your professional life in a bigger way. Think of the position you eventually want to have and the skills that will be required. Write down the skills you already possess and the ones you need to strengthen. Talk to an advisor about your goal—what does she think you need to work on?

• Don't let self-doubt get the best of you. If you are in a position of power and responsibility, know that you have what it takes to be there. Others believe in you— prove them right.

• Think of a challenging person in your life and jot down things about him that you know are definitely true. Recognize the assumptions you might be projecting onto him. Do new insights come to mind?

• Own your strengths as well as your weaknesses. Reflect on how you can turn one of your weaknesses into a strength. Ask a coach or mentor for suggestions on how you can improve. Start doing the work to make this happen—one small action at a time.

• Leave some room in your day to recharge. Make sure you take a lunch break. When you treat yourself right,
you are better able to accomplish the work-related priorities on your list.

• The unease you feel when you step out in a new way is natural—discomfort equals growth. Try something beyond the scope of what you've done, whether that means making a pitch in a meeting or approaching a higher-up at a business function.

• Take stock of all you do. Jot down the highlights of your accomplishments in a given week. Slip one of your achievements into a conversation with a supervisor. Remember, humble pie doesn't work in business.

• Are you having a difficult time assessing some feedback that you've received? Run the matter by a trusted advisor who knows you. Work with her to take what fits and discard the rest.

• What do you need to deal with that you've been ignoring? To address your fear, examine the worst-case scenario if you were to take action. That scenario probably won't happen, so commit to taking one action toward handling the situation.

• Think of someone you have just met. What motivates him? What is his agenda? Try practicing artful listening to find out. Listen to what he says, but also observe his gestures and tone of voice. What is your intuition saying about him and where he stands? You'll know whether or not to make him an ally.

• Are you putting an unrealistic demand on yourself? Adjust your expectations, whether that means changing your timetable or recruiting others to help. Be kind to yourself.

• Give up guilt. Guilt only serves to keep you stuck. You will never be able to please everyone, so don't second-guess yourself about your choices.

• What do you think should be your next big step? Advancing is impossible without taking some calculated risks. Even if your decision turns out not to be the best choice, you will learn some valuable lessons that will help you.

• Do you get defensive when you receive unexpected negative feedback? Be aware of what you are feeling and what you are telling yourself when it happens. Try to pause rather than react. Processing it later on, when you have some distance from the comment, is better.

• What do you see as your strengths? Choose one and reflect on how you can leverage it to step out in a bigger way. Make a list of actions to take and a timetable of when you will take them.

• Are you withholding feedback from a peer or mentee that would be valuable to him or her? If so, why? Know that you and the person will both be better off if you speak up.

• Nothing will ever go exactly as planned. Your friend will be running late, your colleague will misunderstand your instructions—whatever it is, let it go and move on.

• You have a whole lifetime of experiences and insights. Trust your gut reaction when you're faced with a challenging situation. Ask for input when you need it, and then take decisive action.

• Did you recently say yes to a request that you didn't really want to do? How did you feel afterward? Can
you go back to the requester and say no, and suggest someone else or another way of handling the situation?

• How can you stay calm when the stress of a project mounts? What can you tell yourself that would lessen your anxiety? Write down your answers while you're feeling clearheaded. Keep them in mind the next time you start feeling stressed.

• Reflect on a time when you negotiated successfully. Why do you think you were successful? What techniques did you use to make your goals something that the other person also wanted? Use these insights to help with your next negotiation.

• Strive to do your best, but let go of perfectionism. Think of a task that has been consuming your time. Know that what you've already done is good enough. Next!

• What steps can you take to build a stronger bond with a higher-up, like sending her an article of interest or connecting her with a useful contact? Commit to doing at least one of these things this week.

• Does your body language project confidence? Are you slouching or standing straight? Do you make eye contact or do you avoid it? If you felt more confident, what would that look like? Act as if you feel self-assured whether you do or not.

• Give yourself the credit you deserve. In what ways have you grown in the last six months, and how have you been able to change the lives of other people?

Appendix B
The Women and Confidence Survey: Methodology and Results

In my work, I am constantly asked how women can develop more confidence. Confidence is a hot topic on forums, at conferences, and in informal discussions among career women. This book mostly reflects my own advice and understandings, developed through years of work and thought on the question of confidence. However, knowing that I wanted to write a book on it, I decided to harness the good thinking and experience of other professional women.

Survey background

To capture data systematically, we established the Women and Confidence Survey, asking working women about confidence both at work and at home. We tapped our robust network, asking women to weigh in. We also publicized a link to the survey on social media outlets. With one of the groups on LinkedIn, Citi's Connect: Professional Women's Network, I asked, “What
does confidence mean to you? What enhances and inhibits it?” and gave the link to the survey. Our post was one of the group's top discussions at the time. Clearly, I had struck a nerve.

In consultation with researcher Susan Adams at Bentley University, we also sent the survey to some of the university's students and alumni. Bentley was an ideal research partner for this venture due to its strong graduate and undergraduate emphasis on business, and its focus on women's leadership, spearheaded by Bentley president Gloria Larson and Betsy Myers, founding director of the Center for Women and Business.

Survey methodology

The survey comprised twenty-one multiple-choice, open-ended, and demographic questions (reproduced below with basic answer statistics). We conducted the survey from April through June of 2013 by sending the link to the survey to our network, several LinkedIn professional groups, and our own social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) to capture data from those most interested in women's leadership and confidence. To ensure age diversity among respondents, we also sent the survey link to a select group of Bentley students and some alumni.

We deliberately chose not to try to recruit a nationally representative group of respondents. Instead, the sample represents data from a group of business-minded and professional people, mostly women, many of whom are at the managerial level. This group finds confidence to be a major issue on a daily basis. The women in this sample were, on the whole, more confident than women in the general population, were
generally older, and had achieved greater success. The goal, therefore, is not to represent women as a whole but to help all women learn from the wisdom, experiences, and lessons learned from this generally high-confidence group.

The survey recruitment was successful, and a total of 535 responses were received. Results were generally examined using a chi-squared test. A large enough sample was required to establish statistical differences at the 90 percent confidence level.

Survey instrument

The results for each question in the survey are presented below.

1. How do you define confidence?

520 responses (free-writing)

2. Where do you think confidence comes from?


Response percentages

You're born with it


You develop it over time


A combination of both




No responses


3. Which of the following sources have contributed to your confidence? (Check all that apply.)


Response percentages

Acknowledgment from my family, friends, peers, and superiors


A wealth of experience—educational, professional, and personal


A connection with my “higher self” that transcends challenging times




4. Which of the following behaviors have served to build your confidence? (Check all that apply.)


Response percentages

Acknowledging my strengths and how they serve others


Becoming more aware of negative self-talk and challenging it


Recalling past experiences when I've acted courageously




5. Confidence is connected to: (Check all that apply.)


Response percentages

Being motivated about your life


Feeling in sync with other people


Having the courage to try new things


The ability to demonstrate your strengths




6. Does confidence look different for men and women?

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