Ask the Career Doctor: Building Confidence in the Workplace

Talent managers can help women build self-confidence by providing self-assessment tools, facilitating conversations with influential leaders and prioritizing their visibility.

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Q: In your opinion, how can talent managers assist women in building their self-confidence and assertiveness to help them overcome any barriers and succeed in leadership roles? What resources or programs can be utilized to support this process? I have several women in my organization that fit this description and I want to be able to guide and support them.

A: Much of the research states that for women to advance they need to be more confident. What we see in the work we do at WOMEN Unlimited is that women gain this confidence when they have clarity about how their skills and abilities create impact for their customers and company. Unfortunately, there’s no “confidence wand” managers can use to anoint women on their teams – but there is a way to support them as they build that internal understanding of how they can add value to the organization.

By building systems and processes that equip women with insight and clarity, you can empower them to own the process, which will in turn, spur their growth. While it’s not a quick fix by any means, it is a corporate investment to ensure that the women in your organization have accountability for their career progression. In the process, they will develop confidence rooted in a clear understanding of what they bring to the corporate table.

Offer self-assessment tools

The first step to building career confidence is self-reflection. There are so many things each of us can do extremely well and being able to consider those skills and how they may be used to grow a career is important. That said, many people often need help figuring out where to start, and providing women with a self-assessment can be the springboard that gets them thinking about the value they can add to their workplace. This becomes a vital first step in building self-confidence.

At our company, we leverage 360 assessments and other tools throughout our programs; these are specifically deployed to help women identify the concrete skills, competencies and training they can use as they chart their career paths.

Give women tools to gain insight into their skills – and how they benefit the organization

As much as this kind of self-reflective work is personally guided, it’s just as essential that you do not leave women to their own devices after they’ve completed assessments and identified their competencies. Once they have the framework to build their career around their skills and talents, it’s likely that a sea change will often occur, empowering them to seek out the insight, guidance and support of their organization’s leaders.

It is critical that women don’t fall into the trap of thinking this is individual work. They need other perspectives, especially those of leaders in the organization, to identify potential opportunities. This will enable them to hear from external perspectives and will also aid them in planning their career trajectories. Organizational leaders at the high- and mid-levels may know more about what’s around the corner for the company, and sharing that information can help women refine the career plan without going it alone.

Most importantly, by creating space for women to speak with these influential leaders, you’re giving them the opportunity to build allyship and create connections that could lead to mentorship and increased organizational visibility. While building assertiveness and self-confidence is still a personal journey, bringing other perspectives into the conversation helps broaden the scope of both their career development and personal growth possibilities.

Ensure managers know how to help women maintain momentum

I often tell women in our programs that the leaders in their organizations are always assessing the capabilities of their team’s talent to consistently marshal the resources to solve their company’s issues. If the women within your organization aren’t talking to the right people or advocating for themselves now, they won’t be considered for promotions or leadership opportunities that may solve key problems later.

Even after those initial assessments and leadership meetings, managers can continue supporting the women on their teams in building self-confidence in their abilities by prioritizing their visibility. Ensure that team leaders understand the value behind putting women in positions where they can present their work and underscore the value they add to their teams. It is also important to let managers and their team members know that your organization’s leadership is supportive of these efforts.

Ultimately, the onus is on each woman to understand what they enjoy doing, where their skills and talents lie, and how that can help their company succeed. Although self-reflection and personal development are both ongoing processes, talent managers should facilitate these approaches and arrange conversations with high-level leaders and managers to help women build the confidence that will ultimately lead to career progression – and organizational success.


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