There's so much written these days about self-confidence and how it helps us in life. In fact, you can even find a list of the 9 Best New Self-Confidence Books to Read in 2020. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other books on the subject. Self-confidence gives us the courage to try new things. Self-confidence helps us put our failures into perspective and keep moving forward. Self-confidence propels us to give back to the people and communities around us. Self-confidence is most certainly a wonderful tool in the Managers' toolkit, for all of these reasons.
When I look back on the times in my life when I was most effective as a Manager, it was often during a time when I lacked confidence. When I knew the least. When I was in uncharted waters. When I joined my Dad in the family business at 30 years old, my first job was to lead a project team in a search for a replacement to 30 year old manufacturing equipment. The equipment was a block machine. Despite the fact our family dinner conversations had often involved block-making (heaven help me if I called a block a brick...), I essentially knew absolutely nothing about how to make one, and even less about what kind of equipment might do it best.
Here I was, leading a team of 4 guys who had been in the business for a combined 105 years and had been running this equipment for most of it. They had made every size and shape of block there is, and fixed pretty much every part on our current machines that could be fixed. I was 30 years old, the owner's daughter, uneducated (in this), and leading the pack. Insecure? Yes. Imposter? 100%. Lacking self-confidence? Entirely.
It was precisely my lack of confidence that made this work. There was no way I could pretend I knew something about what the right solution might be. I had no choice but to rely 100% on the input, observations, instincts and opinions of these 4 people. I had no choice but to listen intently and ask millions of questions. I had no choice but to take everything they had to say and consider it all before making one of the biggest decisions in the life of our business.
It wasn't my intention to empower these 4 Managers.
It wasn't my intention to encourage them or validate them. It wasn't my intention to make them feel important or appreciated or heard. My only intention was to learn - to understand. The side effect ended up being all these other things, and for years my relationship with these Managers in particular was resilient. I could get the cold hard truth from them anytime I needed it. I could ask for their help on almost anything, and they would step up. I trusted them completely. Little did I know at the time, how much that would come to matter.
I will also tell you that I never once managed an Accounting Manager or Controller as well as I managed this group of Plant Managers. Why? Because I'm a CPA. Accounting is my sandbox.
And it's a lot harder to have a posture of curiosity when we're playing in our own sandbox.
When we're working in an area where have loads of confidence, sometimes our people suffer for it. Genuine curiousity is one of the greatest tools for your Management toolkit. If you've got a few insecurities in a few areas? If you're lacking some knowledge that the people you lead possess? This is your opportunity. Your opportunity to manage at your best.
Get curious. Seek understanding. Enjoy the ripple effect.