Generating success: How to build a culture of confidence

Written on the 12 June 2013 by Paul Brewerton

Generating success: How to build a
culture of confidence
Posted by Paul Brewerton, co
founder and director of the Strengths
Partnership in
Managing people
Business lifestyle
on Fri, 18/01/2013
Confidence is at the heart of effective
But the media continuously bombards us with
very public examples of people in every
sphere of life buckling under pressure.
In terms of the performing arts, think of the
ontestants on
Britain's Got Talent!
or the
. A botched performance can either make or break them. In sport,
the England football squad springs to mind when it comes to c
‘gaps’ that result in lacklustre performance and failure.
For HR directors, it is just as important to understand how they can go
about building a culture of confidence and success, however. Professor
Rosabeth Moss Kanter from
Harvard Business School
believes, for one,
that confidence comprises “positive expectations for favourable outcomes”.
Rather than simply being an element of an individual’s personal
psychology, she maintains that confidence needs to
become embedded in
everyday interactions and, from there, into company culture.
“On the way up, success creates positive momentum. People who believe
they are likely to win are also likely to put in the extra effort at difficult
moments to ensure that vi
ctory,” Moss Kanter explains.
On the way down, however, failure also feeds off itself in the same way.
“As performance starts running on a positive or negative path, the
momentum can be hard to stop. Growth cycles produce optimism, decline
produces pessi
mism,” she points out.
So, how can HR directors build and maintain a culture in which ‘success
cycles’ are encouraged and ‘failure cycles’ minimised? Here are five
1. Help employees to build up awareness of their strengths
The average in
dividual doesn’t get much feedback about their strengths
during either their personal life or career. As a result, they often don’t
understand what those strengths, or weaknesses, are.
Some people even feel anxious, uncomfortable and embarrassed when
king about their strengths as they have learned to fear complacency,
failure or being different from the rest of the ‘pack’.
But there are lots of ways to help build their self
awareness, which
includes encouraging them to reflect on their conscious expe
rience, obtain
feedback from colleagues and other stakeholders, and keep a journal or
diary of tasks that energise them.
Objective strengths profiling tools such as
’s are also useful
and focus o
n relevant opportunities to apply them more fully.
2. Ensure that line managers encourage positive ways of working
While self
awareness is crucial, it is not enough. As part of an ongoing
dialogue about performance, managers should work with staff to e
how to make their strengths more productive, not only in their current
role but in tasks and projects that are outside of that role.
Like professional athletes, employees need to build and practice positive
ways of doing their work, which reflect
who they really are and what
comes most naturally to them. This approach results in successes which,
in turn, help to reinforce confidence.
3. Recognise and celebrate success at all levels
If people feel that they have been successful and their efforts
achievements have been recognised, they will, in turn, feel positive. This
kind of positive emotion becomes contagious and boosts energy levels,
morale and discretionary effort, fuelling a success cycle.
Therefore, by helping senior executives and
line managers to understand
the significance of sharing and celebrating success and putting in place
wide mechanisms and processes to facilitate such sharing, a
more positive performance culture will prevail.
It is important that such activity
takes place across organisational
boundaries, however, as an individual’s success can make others feel
more energised and positive, provided that it is communicated and
celebrated in an appropriate manner.
Authentic and frequent recognition by line mana
gers as well as praise for
a job well done is just as essential in creating a culture in which those
who put in the effort and work hard will be seen to flourish.
4. Ensure that senior executives lead by example
The “shadow of the leader” effect is stron
g at work. This means that
leaders and managers need to understand the impact that their values,
attitudes and actions will have on the workforce.
As a result, they should be invited to consider what type of “shadow” that
they cast now and how it could b
e strengthened in future. Too many
leaders still cast a long, negative shadow, which saps their organisation’s
energy and life.
But developing and educating them to become aware of their own
strengths and to use positive psychology will help

although a
ll learning
in this area should be practical, relevant and ideally be supported by on
job coaching to ensure maximum benefit.
Investing in their future should also create the added advantage of
making managers and leaders more likely to stay with
the organisation.
And improved retention rates and leadership stability should, in turn,
should kick
start a success cycle of its own.
5. Provide personnel with balanced feedback
Success generates positive feedback from customers and other external
stakeholders, while failure generates the opposite.
However, employees often only receive any input when problems occur or
performance falls below expectations (for example, when customers
complain or shareholders are unhappy with the company’s performan
But in order to build confidence and encourage a more appreciative
atmosphere, it is important to ensure that negative feedback is always
balanced with positive input.
One way to do this is to invite teams to interview their own customers
l or external) and stakeholders using an appreciative inquiry
interview process. Once the data has been analysed, it can be fed back
during a team meeting in order to explore successes, strengths,
weaknesses and opportunities for improvement and growth.
Boosting relationships
Positive emotions generated through success boost relationships and
encourage better collaboration, creative problem
solving and wellbeing
among both individuals and teams.
If people are in a positive frame of mind, they are more
likely to be
generous, supportive and tolerant of one another, which improves
teamwork and commitment. It also means that they will be more willing
to acknowledge their concerns and fears and to admit mistakes and learn
from them.
Turning around a failu
re cycle can be tough, particularly in the case of
successive failures, which tend to sap a team’s, or even an organisation’s,
morale and energy.
However, with the right attitude, approach and techniques, leaders, if
suitably supported by their HR practi
tioners, will be in a position to take
responsibility for cultural change. The secret is in taking the initiative and
focusing on the small ‘wins’ to start rebuilding confidence in order to
inspire people to make the most of their strengths.
Paul Brewert
on is co
founder and director of management consultancy,
Strengths Partnership

Author:Paul Brewerton
About: Co-founer and director of the Strengths Partnership, UK. Co-creator of Strengthscope