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June 2024
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Build Your Confidence

4 ways to practice this key leadership trait.

By Jill J. Johnson

Woman with muscles

To anyone hoping to grow as a leader, one characteristic is sure to help: confidence. Whether you are taking on a leadership role during club meetings or building leadership skills at work, coming across as confident can increase your influence. If you weren’t born the confident leader you’d like to be (and who was?), don’t fret. Confidence can be practiced and improved upon.

You don’t need to make huge leaps or take big risks; even the smallest efforts will help build your confidence over time. Strategies include focusing each day’s activities, refining your skills before they are needed, leveraging volunteer roles to practice new skills and working through challenges. Toastmasters provides an ideal environment to work on all four of these confidence-building strategies.

1 Make daily efforts.

If you aspire to leadership in any arena,
it must be a daily effort. Breaking down your skill development into smaller ­components and practicing in more ­manageable chunks is essential. What do you need to do to advance to the next level? Take on various leadership roles within Toastmasters to learn which aspects of leadership most appeal to you. Then take those skills and work on them outside of Toastmasters each day.

As you progress to higher leadership levels in the professional arena, opportunities for advancement may diminish. To gain the confidence you will need to keep pushing ahead, it is important to practice and prepare every day. Those who progress to higher rungs of success figure out a path to get there.

2 Build skills before you need them.

The Roman philosopher Seneca is credited with saying, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” If you’re not prepared, you won’t have confidence in yourself when a new opportunity presents itself. To be prepared to progress to a higher level, you need to look ahead. Pay attention to what others at that level are doing. Ask yourself, “What else is going to be needed from me as I move up to my next level of success?” Develop your skills before you need them. Take advantage of every opportunity available in Toastmasters. Once you’ve taken on club leadership roles, consider taking on a district leadership role. The more involved you are, the more confident you will become in yourself and your leadership abilities.

Preparation is essential to growing more confident, no matter the setting. Preparing will build your confidence when you are in high-pressure situations such as interviewing for a job, giving a speech, making a sale or communicating with someone in a position of authority. You can practice your skills anywhere—at home, at school, in your job or in a club setting.

“Confidence comes to you faster when you practice in a low-risk volunteer environment.”

It is also important to have an ongoing focus as you practice. Do you need to build your confidence in presenting critical information at work? Do you need to learn how to give your team members feedback to improve their performance? Do you need to effectively lead meetings? By having specific skills to target, you will not be scattered in your efforts.

3 Practice new skills and prepare for success through volunteering.

You may think you are too busy to take on a leadership role in Toastmasters, or within another organization. Work and family responsibilities may leave little room in your schedule for taking on
any kind of outside leadership role, but volunteering can have an exceptional impact on your career.

“You cannot take big leaps toward success unless you first take small steps to build your confidence.”

Toastmasters is filled with volunteer opportunities designed to help you grow your confidence. By volunteering for officer roles, you gain the opportunity to practice skills you need for your job or career. Confidence comes to you faster when you practice in a low-risk volunteer environment. You may wish to practice an element of a skill you will need to prepare for your next promotion. Or you could practice speaking with confidence in settings beyond your club meetings, including at Toastmasters competitions. Your confidence will compound because you will have multiple opportunities to develop your expertise. Volunteering also allows you to learn to work more effectively with diverse groups of people. You will expand your network of contacts as well.

4 Work through learning curves.

As you build your skills, you will inevitably experience failure. That’s OK. Chalk it up to experience and resolve to do better next time. The experience you gain in those small steps compounds over time.

The ongoing feedback Toastmasters offers will help you identify where you need to grow and how to do it. By repeatedly testing yourself at each club meeting and preparing yourself for your next opportunity, you’ll be ready for greater success because you’re practicing and progressing in your confidence and skill development.

It takes time to build your skills to a deep level of mastery. It does not happen overnight. With practice, you will build deeper awareness of yourself. You will develop greater confidence. You will demonstrate your emerging growth in mastering your new skill. This will prepare you to maximize your opportunities for success.

Consider how you are preparing for
your next level of success. To consistently move forward, you need to intentionally develop new skills and probe for deeper understanding as the issues you address become more complex. The search to under­stand what it will take to propel you toward your next leadership challenge never stops.

Make the effort to find people who can provide you with new insights about possibilities you may not have considered. As you see the greater possibilities for your life, you will begin searching for opportunities to make them real. As you practice and prepare for your future, you will build more confidence, and the sky can be your limit. Your sky. Your limit. Anything is possible.

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