#13Percent: The Confidence Code

Posted on November 24, 2015

By Linda Kelly, Windsor, CA, Town Manager, (LinkedIn)
Thank you City of Palo Alto – The Confidence Code Proceed as if
In September, I had the pleasure of taking 10 of our female staff members to the 2015 Palo Alto Women’s Career Resources Lunch. It was about a two-hour, 100-mile drive each way, so the ability for all of us to go together in a Town van added to the networking and teambuilding experience. The luncheon featured some remarkable and inspirational speakers, and we were all provided with a hardcover book, The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.
The authors provide sound advice and encouragement to women based on scientific research and social study of men and women.
Think Less
“The thoroughly accomplished twenty-first-century woman should spend less time worrying about whether she’s competent enough and more time focused on self-belief and action. Competence she has plenty of.” Women are not only hard-wired to being more prone to dwell on things and worry (the authors present DNA testing results and brain studies to support this), we are also socialized at young ages to be pleasers and follow the rules. On the contrary, studies found that men consistently overestimated their abilities and “simply spend less time thinking about the possible consequences of failure.” When things do go wrong for men, they simply shrug it off, or blame circumstances, and move onto the next thing.
TO DO: Interrupt the negative soundtrack playing in your mind, and don’t “overthink.” Even if we are working against years of socialization and to some extent, our genes, we can make new life choices, including behaviors that strengthen our confidence.
Take Action
We do not need perfection to make a decision, to take action. Men are more likely to take action with less than optimal preparation or information. The authors encourage female leaders that it’s OK to admit to your nerves, but don’t let them stop you from pursuing your goals and ambitions. Furthermore, we need to cultivate self-compassion and allow ourselves to accept some failure and learn from it. “Confidence is linked to doing” – to taking action, to stepping out of your comfort zone and not be ruled by self-doubt.
TO DO: Don’t demand perfection of yourself before you take action. If you fail, learn from it and pick yourself right back up again. Have a growth mind-set, and give new things a try, go beyond your comfort zone.
Be Authenticthe confidence code
So is the answer to act more like a man? Unfortunately, the authors note that “we pay a heavy social and even professional penalty when we act as aggressively as men do.” Acting like someone you are not is not necessary and people will see through it – instead, take action and the confidence will build as you learn from small actions. The traditional, testosterone-driven model of confidence (commanding a room, making quick decisions, speaking loudly and authoritatively) still is prevalent but this is not the only model for success. Women can still be authentic while leading, displaying a more collaborative model that may come more naturally to them, and may work better in today’s diverse and dynamic work environment. Approachability, vulnerability and a sense of humor are qualities that women often bring to leadership roles that add value.
TO DO: Don’t abandon your true self for the sake of being what you think a leader is supposed to be. Bring your best self to the table and utilize the strengths of your natural style.
Proceed as if success is inevitable
When I applied for my first city manager position 10 years ago, I definitely took a risk but felt that I was ready, even if I had not managed a city before. Even if I did not feel perfect nor 100% confident, I had the preparation, the skills and the drive, and I got the job. In my case, it was my passion for community service and the prospect of the challenge and opportunity presented that outweighed my doubts and worries.
We need to be reminded daily that thinking small and ruminating over every perceived imperfection will not help us reach our goals. Even if you don’t feel you’ve reached the level of perfection you demand of yourself to make that next move, try. Men are more likely to proceed in their careers as if success is inevitable – why shouldn’t we?
Smile at your “even ifs” and still march ahead, risk, learn, repeat, and succeed.

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