Karin’s Leadership Articles

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.

See Also: 5 Ways To Build Service Rep Confidence

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Alli Polin

    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!

    • Karin Hurt

      Alli, Thanks so much. Yeah, a deep breath goes a long way.

  2. Terri Klass

    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!

    • Karin Hurt

      Terri, thanks. I’ve learned that the hard way.

  3. Steve Borek

    Put them in position to win.

    p.s. This will inspire a future post. ;-p

    • Karin Hurt

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

  4. David Tumbarello

    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.

    • Karin Hurt

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

    • Karin Hurt

      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.

  5. Bill

    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.

    • Karin Hurt

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

  6. LaRae Quy

    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…

    • Karin Hurt

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

  7. Pedro Enrique Chanta Ugaz

    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.

    • Karin Hurt

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

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