When it comes to performing your best, confidence is king. Most of us know, inherently, that confidence is critical to optimal performance. What we are less familiar with is how to build it in ourselves and our teams.
What is confidence?
For starters, confidence refers to a person’s realistic belief and expectation in his/her ability to achieve success at a given task. Confidence comes from how we think and how we interpret our abilities to successfully complete a task, face an opponent or overcome a challenge.
Does confidence actually effect performance?
Research confirms the notion that the more confident someone is, the better they perform. More specifically, confidence is tied to three other cornerstones of optimal performance: motivation, anxiety and focus.
- Confident performers tend toward more autonomous forms of motivation. This means they have a strong desire to hone their skills and do what is necessary to get better. Overconfident performers trust their talent to carry them through and usually end up hitting a plateau before their peak.
- Confident performers experience lower levels of anxiety. Confident performers have fewer worries, doubts and fears and are more likely to see signs of nervousness as excitement, indicating they’re primed for a good performance. The reverse is also true. Less confident performers experience more anxiety.
- Confident performers are better able to focus on the task at hand, blocking out distractions. This enables them to develop greater automaticity (effortlessly performing the basics and freeing up cognitive resources for strategy and decision making). Those less confident tend to second guess themselves and over-analyze, which disrupts their flow.
How coaches can build confidence in their team
As a USPTA certified tennis instructor, I fought hard to increase the confidence and performance of my players. As leaders and coaches, you probably have used some of these techniques yourself. In practice, I demonstrated proper technique and had them watch their peers. I crafted drills for them to gain personal experience and foster their success. I had them set goals for practice and matches. I provided tons of feedback, cue phrases and encouragement at every opportunity. I even helped them understand the benefits of pre-performance jitters (yes, benefits).
According to the research, each of these common coaching behaviors helps to build the confidence of your team members. While much of this is grounded in sports, you can easily apply these same techniques in business and life.
Include these 4 strategies in your coaching to grow confidence in your team and spur them to greater success.
It is no mystery why highlight reels are so widely used. They build confidence by illustrating a growing pattern of success. When athletes attribute successes to hard work, effort and mindset, their confidence grows with each accomplishment. Highlight films, victory boards or personal accomplishment lists help athletes keep their achievements top of mind.
Lead By Example
Many of the best coaches model the physical, technical and tactical skills necessary for improvement and success. Watching someone else correctly perform a skill or strategy can significantly boost one’s confidence. The same can be said for watching teammates execute successfully. In this way, confidence and success can be contagious. Visualization is another phenomenal tool to grow confidence because you see yourself be successful.
Teach Them to Think
Most coaches know words matter. You’ve seen team members psych themselves out, shut down, lose their minds and otherwise self-distruct. These are all symptoms of counterproductive thinking, thoughts that hinder performance. I have found it immensely helpful to teach athletes to replace their distracting, deflating and otherwise damaging thoughts with more productive thoughts. Here’s how. With repetition, new thought patterns literally retrain the brain.
Performance and competition tend to go hand-in-hand with feelings of nervousness and anxiety. However, the symptoms of nervousness such as a fast heart beat, shallow breathing, sweating and butterflies aren’t bad. These are signs that the body is preparing for the upcoming demands of performance.
How these symptoms are interpreted makes all the difference. If the butterflies in an athlete’s stomach are seen as a threat to success, they often make him feel under-prepared. Confident athletes are more likely to interpret the same nervous symptoms as excitement which improves performance. Help your team understand their physical reactions and teach them to embrace their nervous jitters.
If you want to see results in your team’s performance and stack up the wins, grow their confidence. Whether your team consists of professional athletes, sales people, volunteers or your own children, they all need confidence to succeed. Each of these 4 techniques (highlight success, lead by example, teach them to think, and embrace nervousness) are proven to do just that.
- Article: Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review,84, 191-215.
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