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How confident are you feeling right now?

My youngest niece Courtney was visiting last week and we took the horses out for a ride at the farm.  I love riding with Courtney because – although she’s only 14 – she’s just so confident on horseback.  Which is important because the horses absolutely sense this and they behave accordingly.  So whereas Courtney and I rode and rode for more than 2 hours, cantering up hills and down dale, it’s quite a different story when I take my nervous grown-up friends out with me.  Because as soon as a horse knows it’s rider lacks confidence, it’s more likely to push the boundaries that little bit more than usual and just see what it can get away with.

Take for instance the week before, when my good friend Ann was staying over.  We took the horses out then as well, only Ann isn’t as brazen as my niece so half way to our destination her horse stopped in his tracks and refused to take another step!  With his four feet planted firmly on the ground Ann did her best to convince Cricket to walk on.  But he knew the minute she mounted the saddle that he had the upper hand; and now no amount of pleading or kicking from Ann would convince Cricket to budge.

I reckon it’s a similar story in the boardroom or in any business negotiation for that matter.  The dominant alpha male walks into the room oozing confidence.  He believes in his way of doing things and so sure is he of himself, his skills and his capability that his confidence never falters.  From the outset he’s headstrong and sure he’ll come out on top that it’s no wonder he succeeds.

Rightly or wrongly, I believe that confidence is the single greatest predictor of success in business.  Perhaps you’ve experienced it yourself.  You’ve been in a meeting with colleagues or clients who are no more informed, educated or experienced than you.  There’s no substantial reason they should have an edge over you; but somehow they’re just that bit bolder or more certain or more self reliant than you are.  And because perceptions matter, they soon have everyone else convinced as well.

When it comes to getting more women into leadership roles and achieving their career goals, it’s no different.  Confidence has a huge role to play.  Women have been graduating in equal or greater proportions than men across most university disciplines for almost two decades, so we know that women are smart, business savvy and extremely capable.  It’s just that they’re not progressing through the ranks.  And I think a lot of this comes down to confidence.

Of course it’s not just the presence of the alpha male that impacts our confidence.  Women who lead face many challenges their male peers will never fully understand.  More often than not they’re outnumbered in meetings by men who think, behave and respond to situations differently to the way women do.  Women in general approach problem solving and leadership in a more collaborative way to men, and this is often interpreted as being less confident or self-assured.  And women face parenting decisions that men may be understanding of, but will seldom truly experience.

All of these situations may not be fully appreciated by women who enter the workforce full of confidence and – like my niece on horseback – prepared to give anything a shot.  Because they’re bright and ambitious they assume every opportunity will be as accessible to them as they are to the men in their workplace.  Yet over time they’ll come up against challenges and obstacles that slowly chip away at their confidence and career opportunities.

So I ask you: How are your confidence levels right now?  Are you as confident as you could be at work?  As confident as you should be, considering your skills, experience and expertise?

If you’re confidence if feeling a bit dented and you need a bit of a boost, there’s only one thing to do: get on the phone to one of your girlfriends and tell her all about it!  Chances are she’s going through the same thing as you, and just knowing that will give you a little boost.  She may have some ideas, suggestions or strategies for you to try.  Or just be a confidante you can share your frustrations with, without judgment or expectation and safe in the knowledge your secret’s safe with her.  We women may be up against a lot, but the secret weapon we have in our girlfriends is something the men around us can only dream of!

So the call to action this week is to give yourself a break, give a friend a call and give yourself a confidence boost in the process.

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