As a leader, you need to cultivate your team’s confidence. Your team should have confidence in themselves as well as confidence in your leadership skills. The best way to create confidence is through a series of victories. In general, people will judge the probability of future success based on past performance. As you work with your team you will build a history. If you maintain a good track record of success, you will create a sense of optimism that future, proposed projects will also be successful. If you have a record of failure, your team will probably view any new projects as having a high chance of failing.
To be effective, you need a team that is very confident in their abilities to achieve success and in your ability to choose projects that will be successful. If an individual doesn’t feel like what they are working on is going to be successful, it is very unlikely that they will invest themselves entirely in the project. Sometimes, they will even start trying to plan ahead in order to have a good excuse for the project’s demise. At times, this means ignoring obvious obstacles that will provide an excuse for their failure.
When an individual believes a project will be successful, they are able to put themselves behind it 100%. Instead of looking for obstacles that can function as excuses in the future, they are proactive in eliminating obstacles that would cause a failure of the project. A team full of people looking for solutions will have a much higher success rate than a team of people looking for things to use as excuses later on.
It is the job of the leader to select projects that will contribute to an overall sense of success within his team. By starting with projects that the entire team believes will be successful, a leader is able to raise the level of confidence for the next project. Over time, the confidence of a team can be built to a point that it can easily complete a project that would have been a failure previously. A series of projects can be completed easily and successfully when they are arranged in order to build confidence, while the same projects can all be complete failures when done in a different order.
When you need to develop confidence, you should arrange projects in an order that is similar to the way questions are asked on the game show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.” The first project should very easy. So easy that no one will have any doubts that it can be completed successfully.
Historically, nations have built monuments in memory of their success. When the Israelites crossed the Jordan river into Canaan, they took 12 large stones from the river and stacked them on top of each other to remember their success in leaving Egypt.
The world is full of triumphal arches that were built to remind people of a war victory. These were built to remind people of their success in the past and encourage them in future endeavors.
When Yahoo completed a groundbreaking version of their web mail system, an artist was commissioned to create a sculpture celebrating the success of the developers who worked on the project. The statue is on display at the Yahoo headquarters.
While it might not be appropriate to create a sculpture or triumphal arch for every project, some projects serve as trophies themselves. The visibility of a project doesn’t always correspond with its difficulty. By picking a project that is easy to complete, but is also very visible, you will create a “war trophy” for your team—something that will regularly remind them of their success.
Once a team has had some success, the difficulty of their projects can increase dramatically. To continue the momentum, a leader should be careful not to break momentum by having a failure. However, a proactive leader should be able to turn an occasional failure into a positive learning experience. It is important to admit when something went wrong. When leadership attempts to cover a failure as if it were really a success or just ignore it completely, it often amplifies the failure instead of minimizing it.
There was a large organization that was beginning to saturate the market for its services at a particular location. The leadership decided that expanding to a branch office was the right decision. They leased a building, renovated it and began operations. It was soon apparent that there was a problem with the cost structure at the branch office. Many of the methods of doing business at the main headquarters were very inefficient when scaled down to the size of the branch office. To make matters worse, the branch office didn’t attract many new customers. Most of the clients were existing customers who had previously done business at the headquarters building.
After a few years, the main headquarters built a bigger building and the branch office was shut down. However, the organization told people that the plan had always been to shut it down once a larger headquarters was built, while much of the staff knew that this wasn’t the case. By trying to hide the fact that the branch office had been a failure, they were unable to learn from the failure in a way that could help enable successes in the future. Without this opportunity to learn, it is very likely that any future branch offices will suffer a similar demise–assuming that the organization even attempts another expansion.
Many of the team members who worked on creating the branch office left the organization. Others that stayed on staff carried the sense of failure with them as a lack of confidence on future projects.
Dealing with failure is one of the key skills a leader needs to develop. Failure does not have to be a big deal, but most people’s natural tendencies are the opposite of what needs to happen in order to turn a failure into a learning experience and not a confidence breaker.
A high level of confidence isn’t something that just happens naturally. It is something that develops over time. With a little care and planning, your team can grow in confidence. This leads to a momentum of success that will carry them over the inevitable rough places and occasional failures.
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