Stop Killing Your Employees’ Confidence
The following is adapted from The Problem Isn’t Their Paycheck.
As your team works every day, every week, and every month, they’re wondering, “Am I doing this right? Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?” At the end of the day, your employees want to know how they’re doing—especially the high achievers.
Too often, as leaders, we leave our employees in the dark. Worse, we purposely create the impression that they are not performing as well as they should be. Following traditional advice, we set goals that are just outside of what is possible for them, to encourage them to strive for more.
These tactics can kill your employees’ confidence, which will have a direct impact on their performance—and your bottom line. In this article, I’ll share my own story of making this mistake with my employee Mike and explain how you can avoid doing the same.
When I performed employee reviews with Mike, I looked at his average performance. He could typically close x number of loans in a month when he was performing at his peak, so I set a goal for him to close y number of loans—more than he had ever reached before—and I told him that if he hit the goal, he would get a financial incentive.
The next month, he closed x number of loans again, which was actually a great number, but I still had to tell him that he didn’t hit his goal. Month after month, no matter how well he did and how much I profited, his goal was set up to be just out of his reach. Every time we got together to do performance reviews, he took it on the chin. “You had this goal, but you didn’t meet it—again.”
Even though I was completely thrilled with his performance, Mike thought, “I’m not good at my job. I’m terrible at closing loans. I suck!”
And, effectively, that’s what I was telling him. The only information I gave him was, “Here’s this goal that I know you can’t meet, but I’m going to put it on paper anyway, because that’s what everybody tells us to do in management school.”
Next thing I know, Mike came into the office with his head down. He dressed differently, barely tucking his shirt in because he had no confidence. When he talked with people, he hesitated and even sounded different because every word was infused with the feeling that he just wasn’t good at his job.
In my employee reviews with Mike, I was a terrible leader. I knew what I was doing setting those goals outside of his reach—I was doing what all the management books said—but I didn’t even realize what I wasn’t doing to give value to my employee: I didn’t affirm him in any way.
To eliminate your employees’ uncertainty about how they’re doing and build their confidence, there is a simple tool you can use: affirmation.
We have two words in the English language that, when put together, become extremely important: “I am.” The words after that, when we say, “I am this,” are called self-talk, and our self-talk becomes what we believe about ourselves.
As an employer, you want your team’s self-talk to give them confidence: “I am great at this. I am loved. I am helpful. I am important. I am valuable.” When they say those things, they’ll perform better. Ultimately, you want them to say, “I am really good at my job.” When they believe that, you’ll see your employees act with confidence and kick butt because of it.
But you’re not in your employees’ heads, so how can you affect their self-talk, confidence, and performance? By using the two words that are even more important than “I am”—“You are.”
Affirmations are what you say after the words “You are.” A leader who says, “You are missing your goals again for the third straight month because you did things the wrong way,” is going to have a completely different team from a leader who says, “You are important; you just made x amount of revenue for the company.” Or, “You are good at your job; you just helped us meet our unified purpose in y way.”
The words you use to tell your team how they’re doing can bolster their own self-talk, making it more cohesive and helping it stick around longer in their heads. By using affirmations, you can build your employees’ confidence, which will improve their performance.
A study performed by Harvard Business Review shows that optimistic employees outperform their peers by 66 percent. Is this because of their sunny, “look on the bright side” attitude? No. It’s because those employees have confidence, which is one of the biggest commodities of high-performing employees. In this study, high-stress environments were created, and the people who were able to perform at a high level—not just do the job but exceed expectations—all had confidence.
Don’t think that study is accurate? Evaluate your current team. I bet that your highest-producing employees have higher levels of confidence. Conversely, lower-producing employees have lower levels of confidence. Now think of yourself. When you have achieved high results, did you have confidence? Of course. And the better results you got, the more confidence followed—allowing you to continue to achieve more and more.
If you want your employees’ performance to rise, you must stop killing their confidence. Stop setting unattainable goals, and instead, start affirming your employees’ value.
For more advice on building employee confidence and using affirmations, you can find The Problem Isn’t Their Paycheck on Amazon.
Grant Botma is the founder of Stewardship and the leader of its nationally ranked team of top producers. Thanks to a thriving company culture, Grant’s team has won numerous awards, including national performance rankings like “Top 1%” and “Top 100.” Grant’s leadership has also grown Stewardship to be an Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Company In America. He lives in Arizona with his wife, Jodie and their three children, Cambria, Parker, and Ellenie. To learn more about Stewardship, visit moneywellrooted.com.