The Resilient Auditor, Part 7: 'As is our confidence, so is our capacity' (W Hazlitt)
'Having feelings of competence, effectiveness in coping with stressful situations and strong self-esteem are inherent to being resilient' (Ivan Robertson and Cary Cooper)
If you haven't undertaken it already, now is opportune to remind you of our recommended diagnostic, the i-resilience questionnaire. Accessible for free via the RobertsonCooper website, this personality questionnaire will reveal which of the four key components you naturally draw on for resilience - confidence, adaptability, purposefulness and social support.
This month we look at confidence: what it is and why it matters, and how it is integral to your personal and professional resilience.
Confidence: what it is and what it's not
Self-confidence can best be described as a mindset which provides you with a positive but realistic view of yourself and the situations in which you find yourself. Characterised by self-belief, acceptance and self-regard, it gives expression to natural ability and expertise. Truly confident people are not afraid of being proved wrong or showing ignorance; they will admit, and own, failure and mistakes, and they aren't afraid of looking silly. As a result they will be willing to take a risk, able to bounce back when faced with adversity and consequently develop, personally and professionally, from life's setbacks.
We are not talking conceit, arrogance or posturing. Crucially, the self confident have a realistic view of themselves and their abilities; they have sound expectations both in terms of what they can, and what they cannot, do. If confidence is recognising what you are good at and conveying it to others, then arrogance over-values, and low self esteem, under values, ability and contribution.
Are you a confident auditor?
In fact you could be professionally confident in your auditing role but lack confidence in social situations. Self-confidence is not necessarily an all-pervading characteristic which you either have or haven't got. Typically, we will have some areas of our lives where we are confident and others where we are less so. Do be wary of generalised labelling. The link between confidence and resilience is strong but both are multi-dimensional; resilience, just like confidence, is not an all or nothing competency. If you decide that you are a confident auditor, then dig down to determine the 'where' and 'why'. Pinpoint the specifics of where your confidence comes from - which areas of achievement, ability, or potential? Where do you feel inspired to cope with the unexpected, to operate outside your comfort zone or bounce back after a setback? This is likely to give you a good indication of your personal resilience and as well as the contrary - your potential development needs in the areas of both resilience and self confidence.
'Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new', Albert Einstein
It goes without saying that self confidence is a fundamental building block, important in virtually every aspect of our lives. But the converse is also true. Lacking confidence can hold you back from taking measured risks, asserting yourself and taking advantage of opportunity. A vicious circle ensues: a deficient of experience and recognition reduces opportunity, intensifying lack of self belief which diminishes confidence.
The good news is that self confidence can be learned and developed and we'll get started by considering your self-efficacy and self esteem.
Self efficacy and self esteem - the twin pillars of self-confidence
Whenever I think about self-efficacy that infamous Henry Ford quote 'whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right' comes to mind. Self efficacy is about self belief - a measure of your own ability to do something. Clearly a crucial component of resilience.
Self-esteem is more about a personal sense of worthiness. It encompasses beliefs (for example, 'I am smart', 'I have good communication skills') and emotions such as pride, dignity and guilt. Of course the two overlap and there are numerous different slants on the definitions, but taken together they give us a good lead in to what confidence is all about.
There's no quick fix to building confidence - think of it as a journey, but there are certainly some practical things that you can be doing to get started.
Step one: take stock of your assets
This is almost like doing a CV, but a multi-dimensional one where you record successes, skills and achievements - big and small - from all aspects of your personal and professional life. Your college degree or professional qualification goes down, as well as your latest promotion or current audit role. Similarly, mastering double entry book-keeping might figure or equally getting through the first week of giving up smoking. This is a way of nailing all your personally significant little triumphs - pinning them down so you can boost your morale and bask in their success when the need arises.
Another way to take stock is to do the 'values-in-action test'. This is another completely free, scientifically validated self-assessment tool that will help you take an inventory of your personal strengths. Having identified your assets you can then really leverage them at home and at work. The VIA Institute emphasises that knowing and using your strengths can improve your confidence in many ways: better relationships, increased performance, achieving life goals and overall happiness. And of course, even better use of your inherent personal resources will contribute to your resilience.
Step two: where are you going?
Having invested in a strengths' audit, you now need to go back to your ambitions and goals (remember purpose and vision in Part 2) and make a plan to hit these targets, leveraging those strengths and achievements but also planning to mitigate against any weaker areas. Achieving your goals (big and small) is fundamental to building self confidence. But think about it: if you haven't specifically set them then you can't achieve them, so don't underestimate the importance of objective setting.
Step three: 'managing the mind'
In other words going back to all that good stuff on thinking patterns and self talk that we discussed in Part 4. Work on the negative stuff that holds you back. Watch out for generalisations, catastrophizing and 'all or nothing' thinking. And of course, court a growth mindset!
Don't expect any quick fixes for building your self confidence but do try some of these exercises and also consider keeping a journal on your experiences so you can reference and reflect on your progress - you'll be surprised at how far you'll come, even month by month.
One final word. Sometimes lack of strong self-esteem can be deeply rooted, having its origins in childhood. If you think this could apply to you then you might want to look at therapy or counselling to enable you to talk about such experiences and to try to come to terms with them. Check out the Mind website for further resources.
Too much of a good thing?
Beware, self confidence is about balance. If lacking confidence equates to under stretch, then over confidence can mean taking too much risk, extending beyond ability and alienating others for want of empathy or common connection. In the context of resilience, self confidence is about bouncing back, learning from failure and crucially about being able to ask for help and recognising a need for support - which is precisely what we will be looking in The Resilient Auditor, Part 8!
Carol McLachlan FCA
Carol McLachlan, theaccountantscoach, is a qualified accountant, NLP Practitioner and professionally qualified coach. Her 18 year career at Ernst and Young in Audit and Assurance as a client handler and as Director of Resources has equipped her with a real understanding of the professional and personal issues that auditors face.
As theaccountantscoach she works in partnership with individuals and organisations - quite simply - helping them to be the very best they can be. She has helped accountants and auditors move from employment to entrepreneurial pursuits, prepare for their next promotion, become inspiring leaders and engaging presenters and manage their work life balance. Carol writes and lectures extensively on a wide range of professional development topics and is currently researching 'CPD in accountancy' for her master's degree.
For the agony aunt service on career issues, contact Carol here