7 Ways to Build Confidence in Your Employees

You see her talent and potential. She’s not convinced. She has great ideas, but seldom shares. She could be contributing so much more, you know it. But for reasons you don’t understand, she’s not ready. It’s crushing you to see her shying away from possibilities. But building confidence is complicated. You’re not a psychologist and this stuff can get messy.

Yes, building confidence takes time and energy. Trust me, it’s worth it. Turning around confidence will rank high on your personal lifetime leadership achievement awards. No one will call it out, but you’ll know, and so will they. You may find out years later. Building confidence creates long-term impact for the employee, for the team, and for your company.

Game on.

7 Ways to Build Confidence in Your Employee

1. Treat her with deep respect.

She can’t feel like a project. No Henry Higgins stuff here.  Have her at “hello” by treating her as the rock star you know she is capable of becoming.

2. Be specific about what’s right

“You’ve got potential” will fall on deaf ears to someone who doesn’t buy it. Be as clear as possible with examples when giving praise. “When you said X, did you see the conversation change? You are making a difference.”

3. Have her teach what she knows best

Find her gifts and have her share. Start one-on-one, then evolve to bigger gigs. Nothing instills confidence more than teaching.

4. Help her prepare

Nothing builds confidence more than being the “smartest” guy in the room. 9 times out of 10, the “smartest” guy in the room, is really the most prepared. Help her do her homework and role play the scenarios she’s most likely to face. The next time, it will be easier.

5. Celebrate incremental improvements

I’m a HUGE believer in Confidence Bursts. Try this and let me know how it goes.

6. Scaffold her achievements

Give her more than she thinks she can do, but don’t leave her hanging. Scaffold her well with mentors and advice, which will help her win, without interference.

7. Encourage through mistakes

If she lacks confidence, even the smallest mistake will affirm her feelings of inadequacy. Help her learn from mistakes, but also reassure her that mistakes are all part of learning. Try your best to not freak out.

Confidence leads to creativity, productivity, excellence, and engagement. Invest deeply. It matters.

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Posted in Authenticity & Transparency, Career & Learning, Communication and tagged , , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.


  1. All excellent ways to build confidence, Karin! What really sticks out to me is your last bit of advice on #6 – try not to freak out. You see the potential, you know they can do it and you don’t hold them back but put them in the mix where they belong. Hard not to have a moment of freaking out when things go awry. What’s critical is not to direct the freak out at the individual or complain about them to peers or superiors. Instead, go back to #1 and keep on going.

    Great insights as always!

  2. Terrific points Karin! I love your idea of having “her teach what she knows best” because when we have to present something we really have to understand and own it. That will automatically empower confidence as we learn how to master skills.

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Steve,. Excellent. I love it when that happens. That’s what this is all about. I lookf forward to reading it.

  3. I am in total agreement with your #2 about feedback. It’s like in sports when a parent says, “Way to go” when there is so much more that could be said: “Way to keep your elbows up!” or “Great job catching the runner in red, now see if you can get the runner in yellow.” These are specific and measurable feedback statements. Of course, sometimes it is best to say “Way to go,” but just be aware it is so unspecific it doesn’t require person to check-off an accomplishment.

    Finally, can you elaborate what you mean by ~ Have her at ‘hello’ ? This phrase is new to me.

    • Bill, Totally with you. Assigning and walking away just feels like a set up.

    • David, Oh boy do I know that from watching my kids. They want REAL feedback, not just praise. And then again, I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes you just need to encourage if they’re not ready for much more.

  4. This is a great list, Karin.

    I have found assigning a project that gets someone out of their comfort zone is a great confidence builder too. However, you cannot just assign and walk away. The leader needs to be there for guidance and coaching.

    • Bill, Yes! Stretch assignments with great support. So important. Being available is key.

  5. I have that lack of confidence is the number 1 reason people become stuck or stalled in their careers or life.

    It’s hard because many of those fears evolve from childhood so it’s a matter of stopping that negative loop from playing again and again in their head.

    Love your list of suggestions! It’s so sad when you see the potential in a team member but they can’t see it in themselves…

    • LaRae, If I had a magic wand… true confidence is what I would fix first at work. I agree…. it all starts so early.

  6. La confianza y el respeto empiezan por uno mismo, de tal manera que se pueda transmitir a los demás, y es posible con el buen ejemplo,la experiencia, el grado de madurez y aceptación de nuestros aciertos y errores. Equivocarse es parte de nuestra naturaleza como seres humanos, aceptarlos, aprender de ellos y evolucionar es lo ideal. Enseñar a nuestros semejantes a reconocerlos es nuestro deber, para lograr mejores personas.

    • Sí, sí, sí. La confianza y la verdad comienzan temprano. Me alegro de que están aquí.

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