A little over a year ago my former company’s employee resource group brought Grace Killelea to the office to speak with a group of employees during a lunch and learn. She was coming to talk to us about her book, “The Confidence Effect” – Every Woman’s Guide to the Attitude That Attracts Success. I have to say that she was very motivating and I thought her message was important and spot on, however I don’t think the message was appropriate for me at the time. I was going through a rough spot at work – I had a couple of curve balls thrown my way at the time that were really stretching me as a professional and was helping me frame where I thought I needed to go next in my career. In all honesty, when I grabbed her book on my way out of the session with her, I tried to read it on the way home on the train that night and just couldn’t open my mind enough to absorb it. So, I shelved it and thought I would get back to it eventually.
Well, fast forward to about a month ago. I decided to pick it up, and wouldn’t you know…many things about my professional life had changed. I was in a different role – same company, but I was also in the process of interviewing with a new company for a position that would grow my experience exponentially. So, when I picked up the book to finally read it, while I had a lot going on (more than when I tried to pick it up the first time), my head space was somewhere very different.
I have enjoyed reading the book so much, and again found myself actively reading Killelea’s book, highlighting up a storm! So, similarly to how I reviewed All the Single Ladies, I will review the Confidence Effect by Grace Killelea – and have broken it into separate blog posts. Essentially, what The Confidence Effect aims to do is, “shatter this “good girl” conditioning, and provide the practical tools you need to showcase your qualities and skills – without being cocky or annoying. Instead, you’ll draw from your core of competence to build a professional brand that attracts attention, resources, and promotions.”
Killelea starts the book by discussing the idea of moving from competence to confidence. I think this is so important. As women we may have more competence than any other person in the room, but do you have the confidence that is just as important? According to Killelea, “In order to be truly confident, it’s critical to understand the delicate relationship between competence and confidence as they apply to your workplace brand as well as your leadership potential.” She emphasizes that both are equally important, but for too long women have relied on competence rather than confidence to show off their kills. This is important to think about because, similarly to my previous book review I did, we find ourselves at a point in time when there are more women in the workforce than ever, yet we remain woefully underrepresented in leadership positions at the top, or for that matter even NEAR the top. To reinforce this, according to the Center for American Progress, “Women…hold almost 52 percent of all professional-level jobs…and since 2002, have outnumbered men in earning undergraduate business degrees. And yet, women have not moved up to positions of prominence and power in America at anywhere near the rate that they have based on their representation and early success in higher education and in the entry-level workforce.” This should not be news to any of you, and I have to say I have been fortunate enough to have strong, powerful women leaders that I have reported to or who have run the company or organization I was working in, but still we see this under representation year after year.
According to Killelea, what she has discovered along her own personal journey to authenticity, leadership, and career satisfaction is that competence is absolutely critical to success. You must be good at what you do. You must exceed expectations. I couldn’t agree with this more. If you can show someone you are competent and capable of doing a good job, that is the one thing that could end up mattering more to your boss than anything else. However, according to Killelea, competence is only half the equation. You need to combine it with confidence to truly crack the code.
So, what is confidence in this case? The definition is different to many people, but one of the best definitions Killelea shares is one that Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of the book Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know (Harper-Business, 2014), provide a definition of confidence. “Confidence is not, as we once believed, just feeling good about yourself,” they write, “If women simply needed a few words of reassurance, they’d have commandeered the corner office a long time ago. Perhaps the clearest and most useful definition of confidence we came across was the one supplied by Richard Petty, a Psychology professor at Ohio State University, who has spent decades focused on the subject. ‘Confidence’ he told us, ‘is the stuff that turns thoughts into action.'”
So what does it mean to possess the Confidence Effect? I mean, it is the title of Killelea’s book after all. According to Killelea, it means confidence to the core – the place where we’re the most powerful, the most authentic, the most self-reliant, and the most connected to our skills and abilities. This is striking, because as she says, it is the place where you are the most powerful. I love this. Of course possessing the confidence effect is the place where you are the most powerful – when you are confident in your convictions and who you are there is no stopping you. It also means you are the most authentic (love this). Authenticity is so very important and in my experience it is the one characteristic you can detect in someone immediately, which I also believe connects directly to whether you can trust someone.
Killelea developed the Confidence Effect over more than 30 years of experience working with women and found that we often question our own competence, feel like we are under a microscope, and perhaps even feel unable to meet the demands of leadership positions. I feel like this is equivalent to the way some of us look at ourselves in the mirror – criticizing and not confident about your hair, weight, skin etc. It’s unnecessary and can become completely debilitating in some ways. As a result, according to Killelea, we miss out on building the relationships and workplace brand that can put us where we want to go and give us the confidence we need to take risks, believe in ourselves and perform to our potential. However, confidence is not enough. You also have to have gravitas.
According to Killelea, gravitas is the presence we feel deep down inside. Without an air of gravitas – which is the sense of weight and “grit” deep in our guts – it’s hard to feel the confidence we need to lead: to lead ourselves, our teams, our divisions, and ultimately, our organizations. It lends an air of credibility – of gravity – to our actions. It adds weight, depth, and character to our personalities, and it allows us to temper our emotions with data, analysis, and proven delivered results. So, according to Killelea, if women are not showing up confidently, proudly, and ready and willing to lead, if we’re not raising our hands or stepping forward with that grit and power behind us, then typically, the organization overlooks us and promotes men. You might ask why, and hopefully this doesn’t offend any of my male readers – but it also shouldn’t come as any surprise – men tend to exhibit those traits even if they’re not as competent. Men just generally show up, stand out, raise their hands, take charge – even take command – regardless of whether they possess the skills such leadership positions demand.
How many of you have seen this? The male counterpart who enters the company as an analyst, and within a year is promoted to senior analyst, a year from that supervisor, then maybe a year or two from that to manager etc.? We’ve all seen it. But, was he actually qualified for it? In some cases no. He just made sure to always add something to the meeting, especially if there was a member of leadership in attendance, he raises his hand and asks questions – whether a good question or not, he still asked it – and is always finding something to talk to your VP or Director about in the kitchen. This person may not even produce that much work but everyone knows him, thinks he is engaged because he always asks questions and takes the time to interact in the hallway. That guy gets promoted over the woman who keeps her head down and works ten hours a day, but isn’t known by name or face because she doesn’t ask questions or engage during meetings. I have to admit, I am at times guilty of this. I’m an observer by nature and I will never say something just to say something. I would rather have all of the information before I raise my hand or ask a question. It’s what makes me, me. BUT, occasionally you have to step out of that to be noticed.
To help with this hesitation that I know I’m not alone in possessing, is from Ines Temple, President and CEO of Lee Hecht Harrison, Peru, shares, “I learned some mantras years ago that I repeat to myself when I’m in certain situations. They are, ‘I am strong, I am able, and I am calm.'” This is spot on. Anything you can say to yourself or do that will reset or derail the negative train of thought or the hesitation of not feeling worthy enough is a must. Find a mantra, or borrow Ines’ and reset that train of thought.
According to Killelea, success is about striking the right balance between competence and confidence, and confidence alone won’t cut it. Bravado, bluster and popularity alone won’t get you where you want to go. So, remember that guy I mentioned earlier? He might begin climbing the ladder, but he won’t make it to the top. Those supremely confident men and women who, despite their gravitas, simply don’t execute. They don’t deliver, they don’t delegate, and most importantly they don’t meet deadlines. They use emotions rather than facts and logic and as a result, they are incompetent.
So, how do you “show up, stand out and take charge?” Killelea has the 4 Rs of success for this:
- Relationships: We can’t go it alone, nor should we try. Relationships are at the center of The Confidence Effect because they allow us to network in a way that accelerates both our personal and career growth.
- Reputation: How you perceive yourself has a huge influence on how others perceive you. Reputations, like respect are earned. The book shows you how to let what’s inside out so that you can show more of your true authentic self at work – and everyplace else.
- Results: If we are to believe in ourselves and allow others to believe in us, we must deliver results. Confidence is like a mirror we hold up to reflect our accomplishments; the more we deliver, the more confidence we have.
- Resilience: Finally, we must have the big picture in mind to weather the storms, rise to the challenges, and avoid the potholes and outright roadblocks that are part and parcel of our ultimate journey to success.
I want to break these down a tiny little bit because I agree with them so much. For example, relationships – this is so true. We really can’t do it alone because the ability to create and maintain relationships is at the heart of success. People who I have made good relationships and connections with, whether I consciously did or not, have proven to be beneficial in my career. If someone enjoys you and feels like they have a good connection with you, they will remember that forever and you will be the first person they think of when they need to fill a position or need a thought leader on a topic that maybe you know a lot about.
Reputation – isn’t this everything? Someone’s career can end because of a bad reputation, or in some cases not even start! Killelea says how you perceive yourself has a huge influence on how others perceive you. This is so true! If you respect yourself enough to be proud of who you are and what you do – i.e. your reputation – then that will radiate to your coworkers and leaders as well.
Results – I think this is important. I recently wrote a blog post for work on a topic that while I had a lot of notes on, I hadn’t quite become an expert on. But, my VP believed that I could write that blog post, she provided me feedback, and ultimately I was able to deliver a great result because she believed that I could deliver it. This meant everything to my confidence and my ability to jump feet first into a topic or project that I might not know EVERYTHING about.
Resilience – This is the part where you have to have the big picture in mind. If you can understand clearly what the end result of something is, you can get through the fire drills and roadblocks that might try to derail you. I think this is my biggest takeaway because sometimes we really can get bogged down in what we are trying to accomplish in the moment, and the things in the way of that, as opposed to looking at the big picture and realizing that despite the roadblocks you are still making progress toward the ultimate goal. This will help you rise to the challenge and ultimately succeed.
I hope you’ve enjoyed part one. The next installation will be about understanding and mastering relationships and how important that is to the confidence effect.