Today is American Business Women’s Day and while there’s no better time to shine a spotlight on the important role women play in business, I believe that these contributions are worthy of being celebrated on more than just a single day. But getting to that point of celebration isn’t always easy, and some might argue that women have a harder time reaching the pinnacle of success in a business world that, while certainly moving in the right direction, is still largely dominated by our male counterparts.
From my perspective, the key for any woman to reach the highest level of success desired – whether it’s to become the CEO of a billion-dollar company or perhaps open the doors of your own small business – is to display confidence. Everything else stems from there. Sounds pretty simple, right?
Some people seem naturally confident. For others, like me, confidence is something we need to work at. This got me thinking, what is confidence and why don’t many women have enough of it?
The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self Assurance – What Every Woman Should Know by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman reinforced one of the most valuable lessons for women leaders. If you aren’t confident, pretend that you are. That’s right. Confidence can be faked – or perhaps better explained, confidence can be learned, practiced, and built. The more you do it, the better you’ll be.
Displaying confidence is critical for women to get ahead and advance their careers. The following suggestions can help you display more confidence, which over time will actually build your confidence:
Take a seat at the table. This is probably the easiest thing you can do, but it will send an immediate message. In meetings, sit in a prominent seat where you will be seen and heard.
Do your homework. Be prepared to contribute and ask relevant questions. The more knowledgeable you are about the business, the more relevant and valuable you will be.
Speak up! And have a point of view. Don’t use minimizing phrases like “I was just thinking …” or “I could be wrong, but …” Make statements rather than asking questions. Cut all of that self-deprecating language out of your vocabulary and simply say what you want to say – and do it with confidence. Even if you are faking it.
Look the part. Whether it’s your body language or what you are wearing, make sure you look confident. Sit and stand tall. Wear business appropriate clothing. Make eye contact. Smile confidently and have a firm handshake. These actions all seem pretty simple, but physical impressions are more important than you may realize.
Practicing being confident is a great starting point. And the more you do it, the better you will get at it. Rely on your peers, your mentors, and your leaders to give you constructive feedback as you hone this skill. Confidence will turn your thoughts into action, and that action will advance your career.
Laurie Zaucha is the vice president of human resources and organizational development for Paychex.