Building Confidence and Competence

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The more confident a person is at a given task, the more likely that person will succeed at satisfactorily completing that task. Without confidence, people tend to be more fearful and take less action, procrastinate, or fail to act at all. Confidence removes fear and leads to more success, which increases competence, which in turn also increases confidence. Leadership & Learning blogger Kevin Eikenberry calls this the confidence/competence loop.


Looking back at my personal history, I can see this loop in many of my past actions (or lack thereof). When I did not have the skill set to accomplish a task (or had little confidence in the skill set I did have),  I tended to fear attempting the task from the start. I can acknowledge that there are some people who live and thrive with that do-or-die, you-only-live-once mentality, who are quicker to jump right in and get their hands dirty for the sake of experience. However, this is not the case for most people, and to overcome the fear, you need confidence.


People tend to fear the unknown, but the more times people tackle the unknown, the more self-confidence they can gain. As confidence grows, so does competence, and as competence grows, so does more confidence. Eikenberry actually prefers to call this positive process an "upward spiral." Confidence and competence are connected, and combine to make growth.


In the world of customer service, confidence in a task often requires training, “hand-holding,” working on projecting self-confidence, and experience. “Self-confidence is extremely important in almost every aspect of our lives, yet so many people struggle to find it. Sadly, this can be a vicious circle: People who lack self-confidence can find it difficult to become successful,” states an article on Mind Tools. This same article gives many fine details on helping to build self-confidence.


When you are new to a job situation, and you're thrown into an unknown set of circumstances, it can lead to disastrous results. It's important that company leaders should spend time to instill in their employees the initial amount of confidence needed to jump-start the upward spiral. Eikenberry’s article closes with a five-point application which is a great summary of how leaders can facilitate confidence:


  1. Believe that people can ultimately succeed (and let them know you believe in them).
  2. Urge them to try (and give them a safety net to reduce the fear factor).
  3. Encourage the effort (spurring confidence).
  4. Give people resources to speed competence (training, coaching and more).
  5. Help them see their budding skills (and encourage them to loop it again).


Every customer’s situation is fairly unique, and it's important for customer service professionals to handle their customers with confidence. For those of us that need a little encouragement, remember: sometimes diving in, and remembering the process, will help your confidence drastically. Confidence is a process. Work on your upward spiral.


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