This morning I went for a walk along Oriental Parade, breathing in the salty air, and staring out at the sea.

One of the things that fascinate me about the ocean is its myriad dimensions: shifting colours, textures, moods, sometimes all in the space of a day.

Confidence is oceanic like that. It’s a blanket word we use to describe a quality that feels different depending on the day and impacts us differently depending on where and how it shows up.

In their ground-breaking book, The Confidence Code, authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman detailed the myriad ways in which a lack of confidence holds women back relative to men.

We apply for promotions later, we communicate more tentatively, we sometimes avoid taking career-shaping risks.

Building confidence is critical for all wāhine, leaders and emerging leaders alike, especially if they want a successful outcome such as getting accepted into a university programme, getting a job offer or a promotion or even being elected onto the Board of Trustees.

I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’ve read about the connection between confidence and success.

In fact, “build confidence” is a recurring refrain in almost every conversation I’ve had wāhine that I’ve been working with lately.

But the problem with the “build confidence” advice is that a) you can be highly confident in certain areas of your life and less confident in others, and b) not all types of confidence result in success.

The key question, which most people never ask, by the way, is this: In which areas do I most need to build confidence in order to take my business, career or life to the next level?

In my research and discussion with high-performers, I’ve identified three core areas where your confidence translates into high impact ROI for you and your mahi.


1. The confidence to ask for blunt feedback.

One of the most insidious, and rarely discussed, forms of unconscious gender bias is the tendency for people to hold back on delivering tough feedback to women so as not to upset them.

Feedback is a critical ingredient for success and women must cultivate the confidence to ask for it as often as possible.

Challenge yourself to instruct your advisors, team, and confidants to give you their direct, blunt feedback. It might sting in the beginning, but in the end, you will be better for their honesty.


2. The confidence to admit you don’t have all the answers.

I don’t know anyone who has all the answers to everything all the time.

When I start a new project or job I set out on a path of humbly seeking advice, “asking the dumb questions”, and surrounding myself with as many brilliant subject matter experts as possible. You can’t grow if you feel like you need to have all the answers.

Observe the sense of insecurity or inadequacy that might come up when you don’t have the information or know-how you need in a particular area. Replace the insecurity with curiosity and the confidence to ask for help.


3. The confidence to shun “work-life balance.”

Work-life balance: three words which, when strung together consecutively can elicit both longing and guilt in the hearts and minds of hard-working wāhine.

I’ve been watching “Being Serena” and I can recall the constant over guilt for not being there enough for my children when they were small.

In the end, I found the confidence to drop the superwoman cape.

I chose the things most important to me, gave them my full attention and ignored everything else.

Let me tell you housework wasn’t one of them or home-cooked meals every single night.

So, identify two or three critical priorities for you at this time in your life.

Focus on these areas and give yourself permission to let other areas of your life take a backseat.

By cultivating these three types of confidence, you’ll give yourself a foundation of resilience that will enable you to continue to be successful.