Some employees come with more self-confidence and self-reliance than others. Some seek constant reassurance from their manager, checking in more frequently than necessary for guidance. How can you, the manager, boost timid employees’ confidence so that they become more productive and assured?
When faced with an employee who lacks self-confidence, it’s time to reach for these leadership techniques:
1. Build momentum upon existing accomplishments
Think about the things your timid employees already do well. Then, help them transfer those skills to a new project, preferably one that will give them a quick win.
Here’s an example of how this might work: Luis, a new supervisor, brings a project in before deadline and under budget, but required more hand-holding than you feel was necessary. You think he could have achieved the same results with less of your input.
For his next project, choose a similar assignment with a bigger budget or tighter timeline, then prepare Luis with a conversation. “Luis, you did a great job managing the XYZ project. I believe you’re ready to stretch your wings a bit with this next one. Just so long as you meet the budget and the timeline, feel free to make this one your own.”
2. Provide more details and tools when presenting new tasks
Be mindful of how you present new tasks to employees who lack self-confidence. Rather than saying, “I need you to develop next year’s department budget,” prepare to provide additional guidance.
Instead, offer some decision-making tools and parameters for the project.
“Candace, you’re the most detail-oriented person on our team (building momentum), so I’d like you to develop next year’s budget. Please set it up in Excel, and follow last year’s budget for how you should word the headers, columns and line items. Be sure to check with Sheryl in purchasing about what price increases we can expect from our vendors (providing detail).”
3. Assign a mentor
It also can be helpful to assign the unconfident employee to a more experienced or accomplished fellow employee. “James is an expert in this area, so I want you to shadow him through the next sales meeting. When it’s over, we’ll talk about what you learned, if you have any questions, and what you might change in how we do things.”
It’s key you make sure the mentor has time to devote to this extra task. You also must follow up soon after the shadow to reinforce lessons learned. Make sure the employee knows you don’t expect her to mimic James the mentor, but to apply what she’s learned and make it her own, while meeting set goals.
4. Make feedback timely
Nothing improves performance like timely feedback. As with any effective feedback, remember to be specific about what the employee did well as well as what you’d like to see change. An example might sound like this:
“Randy, I really appreciate the way you handled that customer issue yesterday (timely and building confidence). The only change I’d request is that next time you check with me before offering a discount of more than 10 percent. It wasn’t a problem this time because we had room in our budget, but that’s not always the case. Just remember to check with me next time.”
If you aren’t sure what to say when giving feedback, use the STAR method to shape your conversation.
5. Show appreciation for a job well done
Remember how your parents taught you to say “thank you” when you were a kid? Well, don’t forget those old lessons in civility.
Lack of appreciation diminishes confidence and morale, and leads to frustration. That’s why it’s critical for managers to consistently express thanks for work already being done well. Employees crave positive feedback and those who feel like they’re performing well tend to be more confident.
Even better, deliver your praise in front of others in order to build confidence in the timid employee. Make sure your praise follows the rules of SMART, the go-to tool for managers who want to praise with aplomb.
For even more tips on building employee self-confidence, download the magazine, The Insperity Guide to Employee Engagement, Issue 1.