Confidence makes the world go ‘round, and it’s not easy to recover when our confidence takes a hit.
This is where I found myself earlier in my career—four weeks after I moved across the country, from New York City to San Francisco, for a failed startup. As I began the search for a new opportunity, I was feeling pretty down and it definitely showed.
I had an interview with a woman who ran B2B globally for a tech and media company. We instantly clicked when I contributed some ideas for packaging that she was actively working on.
It was around 5:30 pm when she lit up and said, “How about we finish this interview over a glass of wine?” We did, and she ended up hiring me as a product marketer. She also quickly became my professional hero, and I still feel incredibly fortunate to have worked for her.
Here are the top four things she taught me about leadership, as she helped restore my confidence and grow both personally and professionally.
Show up early and take your seat at the table
When I first started working for the tech and media company, I would sneak into the massive sales meetings and hide in a corner, hoping no one would ask me questions. I was also hoping no one would notice, but my boss did, and she asked me to start coming early and sitting at the main table.
This felt like a tall order, especially since my confidence was still shot—but she told me she knew I had the answers and wouldn’t let me fail. This was a major turning point for me, and helped me gain a lot of respect with our sales team.
Work doesn’t define your employees
My former boss is kind and inclusive all the time, even with team members who are struggling with performance or at odds with her. She taught me that just because someone’s not a top performer, it doesn’t mean they’re a bad person.
I am still so impressed that she can have a stern conversation or disagreement with someone (even ones she put on a PIP) and then invite them over for dinner, go out of her way to include them in team events, and continue to make sure they know they’re valued.
When I asked her how she could put aside the frustrating performance or conflict, she would say, “Work doesn’t define them. They’re still a good person.”
When you feel your worst, look your best
After late nights out, she said this to all the women in the office: look your best when you feel your worst. It was so much easier and more comfortable to wear sweats, but she would encourage us to put on a dress or our best work clothes, show up, and not miss a beat.
She also never let us off the hook for the quality of our work after a big night out, and held herself to the same standard.
Be happy and sad when employees leave—and let them know
I left this tech and media company after 18 months because it was tough to have an impact at such a massive organization, despite having an amazing boss.
When I resigned, I took her to lunch to tell her. She hugged me, we cried, and she said, “I’m happy for you, but sad for us. I know you moved to New York to work in startups, and this wasn’t exactly what you wanted. I will always support you—no matter what.”
We’ve remained very close friends ever since.
It’s often a tough, emotional decision to leave a job. Your team members pour so much of themselves into their work, both intellectually and emotionally, and create meaningful connections that can make it hard to leave.
But when it’s time, what they want most is to hear you say that you’re happy for them, as they pursue the next step in their professional journey, but you’re also sad to lose them. The latter is so important so they know they’re valued and will be missed.
Lift up women in the way you lead
Women have a unique opportunity to see, understand, and empower other women through the way we lead. We all know how it feels when our confidence is at an all-time low, and we also know how much this impacts every area of our lives.
Showing up and earning our seat at the table is just as important as making every single one of our coworkers and team members feel important and valued. Pay attention to the women you interact with throughout the workday, and seek out opportunities to lift them up.
Build unshakeable confidence
One of the more effective ways to boost or help other women restore their confidence is to maintain a healthy level of confidence yourself. To do this, it’s essential to understand that true confidence comes from deep within us, and it’s unshakeable.
The way we perceive ourselves shapes our reality. If we don’t believe we can do something, there’s a good chance we will prove that thought to be true.
Our fears can be the most damaging thing that gets in our own way, holding us back and making sure we don’t even try. What we focus on determines how we feel, and a dramatic shift takes place when we change that focus from our fears to our strengths.
I love this quote from Athena Singh: “Never trust your fears. They don’t know your strengths.”
Read this blog next to learn how to support women’s mental health and create a culture where everyone can thrive.