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Your Confidence Matters as Much as Your Competence

"At what point in a woman’s career does she own her success with confidence?"

By Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock
By Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

“Expert.”

I notice he includes the word in his title as well as his marketing, and when needed, I’m willing to bet it shows up strategically during conversation. This may not seem major in the eyes of some, but I mention it for this simple, yet painful reason: Women don’t own their expertise, nor their power.

It’s no secret that I’m in awe of my clients; their accolades, accomplishments, and contributions to companies and communities are definitely impressive. Unfortunately, when I pose the following question during coaching sessions, there’s hesitation, uncertainty, and sometimes a pause prior to their explanation. That question is:

Do you consider yourself an expert?

Evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men — and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence. With this in mind, I am convinced that when a woman doesn’t leverage expert power, it is directly related to her lack of confidence.

According to the article “The Confidence Gap” by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, there’s a force (also known as confidence) that clearly holds women back. I can’t help but ponder this thought: What will it take for women to move beyond doubts and negative self-worth in their careers? One answer remains the same – women must embrace their expertise.

34% of women surveyed with KPMG state they weren’t taught to share their point of view growing up, and 39% say they weren’t taught to master a skill. Although these women weren’t taught a couple of critical components of career success, these stats beg the question: At what point in a woman’s career does she own her success with confidence?

The sad fact is that oftentimes, she doesn’t. She’ll do the work but unfortunately won’t reap the benefits associated with it – mainly because she’ll choose silence over self-advocacy.

The phenomenal news is that women can maximize expert power. By definition, expert power is a form of personal power. It’s based on perception that an individual such as yourself has a high level of knowledge or a specialized skillset that other employees do not possess. It can come from your reputation and qualifications, as well as those observing your results. In other words, demonstrating expert power is a choice.

Kay and Shipman state:

Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence. The natural result of low confidence is inaction. When women hesitate because we aren’t sure, we hold ourselves back.

The negative preconceived notions a woman has regarding her ability are silent career-killers, and we have to stop toting the “professional smoking gun.” While there’s a wide range of solutions geared toward confidence, how we show up at work, and how this impacts expert power, I recommend the following steps.

1) Realize you don’t have to be perfect.

No one else is, so why place the unnecessary pressure on yourself? Instead, consider the fact that expert power is a confidence booster that ultimately shines a light on your strengths and can result in:

  • Increased visibility.
  • Positioning for “higher profile” career opportunities, including promotion.

2) Impart your knowledge to rectify organizational challenges.

Why? Because doing so builds instant credibility.

To start, identify an organizational problem or opportunity. Next, gather information by consulting others, assessing trends, and reviewing facts/data. Once your fact-finding mission is complete, confidently present your resolution.

In summary:

  • State the issue, including the root cause.
  • Communicate its impact (include facts and data).
  • Using your knowledge, skills, and expertise, present a solution to the problem.

3) Reposition yourself in the “workplace gender war.”

Neena Dasgupta said it best:

The fact is men and women work side by side, walk the same hallways, and tackle the same business challenges. Yet, they inevitably experience the workplace differently in some ways. Though organizations have begun to take steps to support and treat women equally, women too need to own their place in the organization. They need to proactively step up, turn every experience into an opportunity, maximize their access to leadership positions, and never, ever doubt their abilities.

Although 62% of the women KPMG surveyed allow gender to limit their view of what they can accomplish, you can certainly opt out of this mindset and choose expert power instead. The time is now for you to connect with your competencies, embrace your expertise, and own your power.

Originally published on Ellevate.

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