Confidence Gone Bad: You Can Overdose

Confidence is essential for becoming and remaining a high performer. You have to believe in yourself and your abilities, as well as in your team. Often our approach to maintaining confidence is to focus on all the things we do right, recalling our successes and building ourselves up. With such a focus, is there a danger that confidence will turn to overconfidence? How do we keep from crossing the line?

Confidence overdose

These questions came up in a recent training I conducted for a group of experienced leaders. As I discussed with the group, confidence fosters high quality performance, whereas overconfidence diminishes the quality of performance.

Overconfidence can be characterized by 2 distinct indicators.

1. Being lackadaisical. In other words, being careless and giving a halfhearted effort. After completing the task 1,000 times, it’s easy to stop attending to the details that distinguish excellence from good enough. When people become overconfident, they become less focused in the moment, pay less attention to details and are more likely to make mental mistakes. This often comes out in poor judgment, decision making and letting their guard down.

2. Lack of preparation. When you think you don’t need to prepare anymore, your hard-earned confidence has tipped the scale to overconfidence. You stop putting in the effort and doing your due diligence. You start to shoot from the hip and wing it, relying on “talent” rather than preparation and hard work. This is one reason I often refer to overconfidence as hollow; the person becomes smoke and mirrors. Under the overconfident exterior is an insecure person who is defensive about his or her abilities.

When I’m providing training to coaches or leaders, I need to be confident. But, if I want to provide them with an excellent experience and training I cannot allow overconfidence to sneak in and undercut my performance. Regardless of how many times I’ve delivered the same thing or how familiar I am with the material or group, I can’t become lackadaisical. I owe it to my clients to do my best to exceed their expectations every single time. So, how can we keep confidence from creeping to overconfidence?

Everyone can avoid the dangers of overconfidence by maintaining 2 practices.

Engagement: Remain engaged, stay vigilant and keep your wits about you. Confident people know they must keep their heads in the game to get the best results and they must stay alert to the situation at all times.

Preparation: “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure,” said Colin Powell. Nothing worth achieving ever came easy, thus we must put in the effort. That effort often comes before the big game or closing the deal. How can you expect to trust in your abilities if you aren’t continuing to train and maintain them? Doing so breeds true confidence.

I’ve heard story after story of great performers like Kobe Bryant, Payton Manning, Tom Hanks and countless others who never stopped preparing. Even in the height of their careers, they showed up early, worked hard, stayed late…preparing.

Be on the lookout for symptoms of overconfidence in both attitude and behavior. In order to guard yourself as well as your team and family, foster the 2 practices of engagement and preparation. These are the protectors of confidence, along with a growth mindset and a generous dose of humility.

Question for you: What is one thing you can do this week to grow a true sense of confidence?

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