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5 effective ways to boost employee confidence


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 employee confidence so that every member of your team is more productive and less insecure?

Oftentimes, timid employees don’t really know their own strengths or the specific skillsets at which they thrive. Before managers can boost employee confidence, it’s a good idea to start with a strengths assessment to help answer the big question (“What are you really good at?”) using prompts like:

  • Of all the tasks that you do every day in your job, which ones give you energy?
  • And the follow-up question to that: Which tasks take away your energy?
  • Of all the things that you do well in your job, what can people really count on you for? (Bonus: This is a good question to try as a team exercise, bringing awareness to each person’s unique strengths. It can also help the timid team member voice their place on the team.)
  • Describe a day at work that flew by and was over before you knew it.

These exploratory prompts can help a person identify their real strengths and natural abilities, and provide the framework for an effective conversation that builds trust, confidence and leads to a more solid relationship between manager and employee.

Getting your timid employee to own their strengths is the first step toward helping them take accountability and credit for their individual contributions. Once that’s established, use these leadership techniques with an employee who lacks self-confidence to bring out the best in them going forward:

1. Leverage 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 you can empower someone while providing constructive feedback:

Luis, a new supervisor, brings a project in before deadline and under budget, but requires more handholding than you feel was necessary. You think he could have achieved the same results with less of your input.

For his next project, you can push Luis out of his comfort zone and build up his self-esteem. 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. Empower employees to complete their best work

Be mindful of how you present new tasks to employees who lack self-confidence. Rather than flatly saying, “I need you to develop next year’s department budget,” prepare to provide additional guidance.

Offer some decision-making tools and parameters for the project. You will not only set them up for success from the beginning, but you will also be empowering them to have confidence that they can do the best job possible with the given task.

Here’s an example of how this can play out:

“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 create 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 and direction).”

3. Assign team members to be a mentor

It also can be helpful to assign a more experienced team member to an employee who lacks confidence. They can be a role model and helpful resource generally or on a specific project.

“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, answer any questions you have and discuss what you might change in how we do things.”

It’s key that you make sure the mentor has time to devote to this extra task. You also must follow up soon after the shadowing to reinforce lessons learned. Make sure the employee knows you don’t expect them to mimic James, the mentor, but to apply what they have learned and make it their own, while meeting set goals.

4. Provide timely feedback

You can argue that nothing improves performance and produces confident employees like timely feedback. As with any effective feedback, remember to be specific about what the employee did well and what you’d like to see change. An example of performance feedback 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%. 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 both constructive and positive feedback, use the STAR method to shape the format of 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 prioritize employee confidence, which leads to employee growth.

For even more tips on building employee self-confidence, download the magazine, The Insperity Guide to Employee Engagement.