How to build confidence in your business abilities

Karen Gill of everywoman gives some tips on how to overcome lack of self confidence in business.

Having worked with women in business for over 10 years everywoman have heard time and again that one of the key issues holding many women back in their working life is a lack of confidence. Whether you’re looking for promotion, want to gain respect from your peers or present a case for working flexibly to your boss, confidence is key.

We may be very confident in carrying out some tasks and absolutely terrified at doing others. The key to being confident is to learn how to gradually work through your fears and move out of your comfort zone.

Luckily confidence, like many other skills, is something that can be learned and here are some tips:

– Make a list of tasks or situations where you do not feel confident.

– Jot down the reasons why you don’t feel confident in these scenarios.

– Focus on the reasons you don’t feel confident; make a list of the common factors.

Having identified these common factors, write a list of strategies that could make you feel more confident in these situations. e.g. I don’t feel confident presenting because I worry I won’t be able to answer the questions I am asked. Strategy: I need to research the subject matter in advance and try to anticipate questions that may come up; I will also make time to practice in front of someone I trust at least a day before.

Now you have identified the areas you need help with, it’s a good time to get a mentor if you don’t have one, as they can support you to develop the skills you need to grow your confidence.

It’s easier to appear confident when you’re in a situation you feel comfortable in but communicating with confidence when dealing with difficult situations at work can be particularly tough – try these three things – they should help:

Label the situation, not the person

Try to avoid labelling anyone you deal with as ‘difficult’ in your mind. This can create a negative connotation in the brain that is difficult to dispel. Instead, think: “The decisions we need to make in this meeting will be tough, and there will be some challenging discussions.”

Banish negative self-talk

It is amazing how self-talk can lead us in to or out of a situation. If you can, take time to visualise the discussion or event going well rather than thinking of the things that may go wrong.

Question people without accusing them

Use open questions as much as possible to get a dialogue going. Try to avoid using ‘why’ unless it is absolutely the right thing to be asking. When we ask ‘why’, we can be seen as attacking the other person’s values and beliefs. Think about what is behind your question before saying it out loud.

No one else can build your confidence except you, so if you want to change you must be willing to give it a go. The most important thing to remember is that you don’t need to, and must not aspire to, change overnight. It takes time to become confident, both within yourself, and to seem confident to others. It is really worth it, so start on the road to increased confidence today.

*Karen Gill MBE is co-founder of everywoman, a membership organisation with a community of over 30,000 individuals and growing. It is for women in business looking to further their careers by focusing on leadership skills, self- confidence and other key areas of personal development. Working Mums and everywoman are teaming up to offer Working Mums readers a special discount on everywomanNetwork membership. For just £39.99 (+ VAT) for an annual membership you can access the everywomanNetwork online, which has a huge range of resources from workbooks and articles, to live webinars and networking. Covering topics from stepping into leadership for the first time, boosting your confidence, tackling critical situations and professional image and impact, there is something useful for every working women wanting to get ahead. Go to and enter the code WM2012 in the coupon code when you join.

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