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It seems that confidence is a word used in increasing aspects of everyday life. We are all acquainted with the term consumer confidence and its importance in our fragile economy; the notion that if consumers believe in a product, brand or company/organisation that they are more likely to purchase or to engage in some way. Confident people always seem to be the most alluring. A confident attitude is undoubtedly a positive factor in attracting a partner. And whatever you feel about American politics, Donald Trump’s continued success is due in part to his uninhibited confidence. In the run up to the Olympics in Rio athletes are already speaking about confidence and its part in peak performance. Confidence affects the performing arts too. I have had the fortunate opportunity to work with student dancers in some of the world’s leading dance schools, namely the English National Ballet School and Central School of Ballet. Being accepted into a dance training organisation like these is akin to being part of an elite football training academy in the Premier League. Getting through the training is the route to a job with a top international ballet company or contemporary dance organisation. You quickly see at first-hand how performance can be affected by injury – a real hazard in sports and dance/ballet. Take two dancers with the same ankle injury for example, and their future will be determined by much more than the physical healing process. Dancers at this level, like top sports people, work with psychologists to overcome anxiety or a traumatic experience – such as injury – that can affect confidence and thus performance. Much is talked about confidence in the workplace and women’s progress to meet promotional goals. Over the past three years I have spent a great deal of time talking with women about the challenges that affect their performance at work. And at the same time I have been speaking with business and organisational leaders – both men and women – about how we achieve this. The most enlightened leaders know it’s not about “fixing the women” or giving them traditional male attributes. All agree that change is necessary on the organisation/business side and that building women’s resilience and confidence is imperative. One communications agency boss expressed this as wanting women in his company to have more courage, to take more risks at work. I know from running coaching and training programmes for women in recent years that building confidence takes a combination of self-belief, tools and practice. It’s a blend of skills and self-awareness that can be learned through coaching and training. Without the understanding – the self-awareness or belief – acquiring the requisite skills will not be as effective. Changing behaviour takes understanding, knowledge/skills and motivation. Many people who appear confident in front of the camera, on stage or in everyday working life have achieved this through sheer hard work and analysis of techniques to overcome anxiety or other limiting factors. People often assume that communication skills are just preparation for media interviews. In fact most of the women I meet will rarely, if ever, have to face a grilling on the Today programme or a TV news camera (although there’s excellent training available all over for just such scenarios, and it’s always worth proper advance preparation). Being an effective communicator, having the ability to communicate your competence helps to build self-belief. I am convinced that the combination of key skills, building blocks if you like, especially communication skills, alongside motivation, self-belief and the right attitude provide together a good foundation to build confidence and help women make the progress that so many aspire to. Anita Hamilton works with the leadership consultancy and executive coaching firm White Water Group to deliver courses for women to build confidence through key communications skills and behavioural awareness. The next course “From Boardroom to Question Time” is on 5th July in central London. Click here to find out more https://whitewatergroup.eu/WOMEN/B2QT/       

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