GNcareers, from Gulf News

Find out how confidence is more than a state of mind

Find out how confidence is more than a state of mindImage Credit: Supplied

Confidence is something which can make a tremendous difference to your performance on the field of play or in the boardroom. Just like pressure, you can't touch it, hold it in your hand or perhaps, more helpfully, buy it from a psychology shop. I just wish it were the case.

In the GCC, confidence is a certainly a prized asset, as self-belief drives innovation, change and learning in this fast-moving market. You can feel and see confidence in a person or a team by way of their body language, the way they deliver under pressure and the general vibe within the group. Equally, you can see when confidence has gone.

One moment an individual or a team are winning and delivering high levels of performance, the next they can hardly do a thing right. Sailors call it the fever and many other sports and businesses have a name for that time where usually successful people lose all confidence and start to fail.

The sources of confidence are many and varied. Most often, it is in the subconscious and can be related back many years to a person's upbringing. Some may even argue it's in your gene.

Character plays a big role in confidence, self-confidence and team confidence.

If you are a leader in the Middle East and want people with confidence, especially under pressure, select people of good character, with strong values and an upbringing which supports confident attitudes and a drive for success. You can work at being confident and it is important, but even better to select on the basis of character, where it is hard wired.

So many teams and companies select on the basis of skills and try to deal with the character later — but it just does not work.

Ask yourself if you have the right characters around you. When you are building your team to respond to the challenges of working in the Gulf, are you focusing on skills and knowledge or are you paying attention to character? A star team will always beat a team of stars, and those who play for the front of the shirt will always beat those who play for the name on their back...

See it as a challenge and not a threat and one that should excite and not scare you. Bearing character in mind, here are ten simple areas to consider to build personal and team confidence.

1. Understand yourself

We are complex beings with different backgrounds and experiences. So, first of all understand yourself well, reflect upon who you really are, what excites you, what scares you, but most importantly seek the real you.

Psychometric assessments can help, but they really are only a guide. They could form the basis of a group discussion about the real you, the experiences that have brought you to where you are now and then, of course, the translation to what that means in terms of how confident you are likely to feel in different situations.

2. Develop good coping strategies

When you lack confidence the level of adrenalin increases, as you perceive events to be a threat. In other words, you do not feel that you have the skills and competencies to deal with the challenge. This may or may not be the case, but if you perceive it as a threat then your body will initiate a fight or flight response.

If you are struck with a lack of confidence, perhaps the result of many challenging events throughout the day or week, you will recover back to confidence much faster if you feel well, fit and strong.

3. Competences

Know what you are good at and where you might have a fatal flaw — something that could cause you to fail. If you want to improve your confidence, work first on the fatal flaws and get them to be OK. Then move onto your strengths and develop them. Time spent working on strengths is far better rewarded than working on minor weaknesses.

Remember that you were recruited for what you are good at, so get better at it. (But if you are constantly working on weaknesses, ask if you are in the right job!). Once you know what these strengths are, make them hard-wired so that even when you are under incredible pressure you know that they will not let you down.

4. Cognitate

Now I appreciate that this is not perhaps the right word — what is the verb which describes cognition? But the approach is clear. Quite often we react to what we perceive to be a situation rather than the facts. Our perceptions often let us down as they are often too fast and driven by personal bias.

Seek out the facts, ask questions and challenge your perceptions of both of yourself and the situation.

5. Confront

Self-awareness is critical and the root of confidence, but often we are willing to look at the elements of our personality which are ''positive''. The tougher approach is to look at ourselves as a whole and seek out ''negative'' elements, often referred to as the dark elements of our personality.

Those elements which we hide from others, but we know often come forward under pressure. Be brave, confront the dark side and then you are more likely to be able to do something about it before it lets you down. Only when you have accepted that you have a problem or a competence deficit will you be willing to make changes.

6. Keep it simple

A lack of confidence often arises because we do not understand what it is we are trying to do. A complex plan is great in the planning stage, but of little use when the pressure is on and we are less able to use our memory and think as clearly as we would like. It is often said that the nature of genius is to make the complex simple.

7. Celebrate wins and understand how and why

Very often after a failure there is a great deal of analysis and reflection. As a result we really understand what not to do and understand what mistakes to avoid. Hence the statement that we learn more from failure than we do from success. That statement only holds true if we only analyse failure with such emotional intensity. Emphasising the process and behaviours of success leads to confidence and as a result a greater likelihood of success in the future.

8. Reflective practice

One of the most significant skills in building confidence is the ability to reflect. As in the point above we need to reflect upon success as much if not more than failure. However, we can reflect more effectively by learning a system. After any event or experience worthy of reflection (often one which has emotional content) consider the following three areas:

— Fact — what happened here? (Record this in the third person)

— What can I learn from this that will make me better at what I do?

— How can I apply this going forward?

9. Support and talk

Confidence can be bred and can grow through the people around you and those you talk to. It can also be killed and destroyed. So choose who you talk you, consider the type of people who you want around you. Seek out a genius group of people with whom you can share ideas without being judged, who will encourage you to develop and become better.

Avoid the people who will constantly criticise and judge you, who are seeking self-worth by putting others down and simply those who are just miserable negative and dull!

10. Expect to be successful

Expectation plays a big role in confidence and you can choose how you wish to think. In the world of sport, especially, expecting to win or be successful can be helpful as it creates a type of confidence that enables people to do things which they are not really capable of achieving, based upon their training and preparation or their actual skills.

This approach may be the answer where you decide to be confident, even though you do not think you can do it, you act up and talk to yourself differently. This ''intelligent stupidity'' has worked for many sports people when they first enter the top level. They do not listen to all the intelligent people who have been there and done it, who know how hard it is and how difficult it will be.

As a result these people just get on with it, they do what they were good at, they do not hold back and they often achieve what the intelligent people thought was not possible.

Find out why nothing is debilitating as fear of failure

Source: John Neal and Alex Davda, Special to

John Neal is a member of faculty and director of the Sports Business Initiative at Ashridge Business School. Alex Davda is Business Psychologist and Consultant at Ashridge Business School, Middle East