Confidence and self-esteem are critical to your success as an entrepreneur, or any business role. As a mentor, I’m regularly frustrated by people who try to cover their lack of confidence with ego and arrogance, rather than working on the base issue. Every business leader and investor I know quickly sees through the façade, and tags you as a high risk and difficult person to work with.
On the other hand, most business professionals and the customers we all need in business recognize that professionals with a healthy self-esteem will always be more resilient, creative, listen better, and treat others with respect. Fortunately, the skills and behaviors required to demonstrate the confidence you need can all be learned by focusing on the following strategies:
- Capitalize on your strengths and never stop learning. We all have strengths and weaknesses, so pick an initial role that highlights your strength, build a team around you that can fill in for weaknesses, and trust them to help you, until you have filled the gap. Trying to “fake it until you make it” is a losing strategy in today’s complex world.
- Prioritize your passions in improving competence. Some of us are proud to be technologists, while others love marketing or team building. As you look at your own idea of fun and success, self-esteem and support will come from greater competence in these areas. You can’t be all things, and attracting good people around you is the ultimate skill.
- Show how your interests lead to long-term success. Your self-worth will be improved and more credible if you can paint the bigger picture of long-term value and success. Ego and arrogance must never be perceived as covering shortcomings in the plan. In addition, you will be motivated to learn and communicate a broader view of your project.
- Show that others are an inspiration, not competition. Never degrade others, including competitors. Give them full credit for what they have accomplished, but use their context to highlight your skills and innovations. This makes you and your solution the baseline, rather than an angry contender. Your image will be improved in the minds of everyone.
- Admit that you have learned from past mistakes. No one fully trusts someone who claims to have never failed, or continues to repeat an approach that doesn’t work. We all gain confidence and self-esteem when we learn new things, and see progress as a result. Everyone sees your energy applied more productively, and has the urge to help.
- Avoid making excuses and putting blame on others. People often use ego and arrogance to avoid taking full accountability for actions within their control, and this lowers their own self-esteem in everyone’s eyes, including their own. A better alternative is to acknowledge your shortcomings, and use these to incent new skills and new behavior.
- Develop a mindset of self-worth and ability to adapt. A positive mindset of being able to add value is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and is seen by others as leadership, rather than giving orders. It allows you to change and learn as the market evolves, and your business needs change. The people you need will be quicker to engage with and support you.
- Recognize relationships as the real key to success. You can never succeed alone in business, no matter how much you learn and adapt. Requiring other people for things outside your control is not a shortcoming. The ability to anticipate market changes, and build strong relationships is itself a key skill and mindset that every leader needs. Even the most proven and recognized business leaders today, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, give credit to their relationships and mentoring. There is no down-side to having the humility to acknowledge that you can always learn from others around you.
In my experience, in the long-run, ego and arrogance normally fail to fool anyone, including yourself, into believing that you are a leader and can achieve success, despite your passion and demeanor. Therefore, the sooner that you adopt the strategies outlined here, the better will be your odds of really changing the world, and having fun and satisfaction while doing it.