Building a Culture of Confidence

Confident Woman Talking

Confidence and competence: Two invaluable characteristics to possess in today’s professional environment. While these traits have different meanings, they are inextricably linked. Consistent research findings show men tend to overestimate their competence while women underestimate it, yet research has also shown that women tend to be more effective, and more competent, leaders.

The recent Oracle HCM Users Group (OHUG) Global Conference brought together hundreds of men and women in human resources technology for a workshop about how confidence can influence success within the industry. Among the topics discussed was how leaders, both male and female, can create an environment that brings out the best in others, and foster confidence across the board.

Make confidence an organizational goal

Inspiring change across organizations requires reinforcement from the top down. Offering trainings and forums for self-reflection, like the workshop held last month at OHUG, can help employees identify areas for development in how they portray themselves, speak publicly, or interact with others – and to address any growth opportunities accordingly. Fostering a culture of inclusion and facilitating new and innovative ways for leadership to invest in the development of top talent will ultimately lead to a much more productive, much more engaged (and happier!) workforce. At PwC, we often rely on Katty Kay and Claire Shipman’s The Confidence Code as inspiration for our workshop trainings and discussions.

Help all employees, regardless of gender, understand how to foster and affect confidence

It’s crucial that both men and women contribute to the conversation — help female employees understand how to stand up for themselves and make their voices heard, but also coach male employees to understand not only how they can support their female peers but also the benefit of doing so.

At a recent leadership meeting, microphones had been set up throughout the room for staff members to ask questions. So I was initially confused when I saw a senior leader step up to the microphone, but that feeling quickly gave way to inspiration. He said, “I’m up here for someone that would like to ask a question, but isn’t 100 percent comfortable in front of a large audience. I’d like everyone to welcome her to the microphone and recognize the courage it takes to ask a question.”

To me, that was a perfect example of something so simple that can have a profound impact. By bringing out the best in ourselves, we can bring out the best in others and benefit the organization as a whole.

Create a community to build confidence through mentorship

Every level within an organization’s hierarchy can contribute to confidence-building in the workplace. Mentors are invaluable resources who can not only motivate and coach, but can also help employees recognize in real-time the behaviors that undermine the appearance of confidence. Companies with structured mentorship programs are seeing strong interest and participation from the workforce. For example, PwC’s Women in Technology (WIT) initiative empowers more than 1,400 members throughout PwC’s global network of firms through a variety of avenues, including mentorship.

Programs like WIT and the conversation at OHUG demonstrate why the argument of competence vs. confidence is so important. There are so many talented, motivated professionals in the workforce, but it’s our responsibility as leaders to provide them with the tools and resources they need to make their voices heard. A recent survey of WIT members found that more than 90 percent of respondents wanted to continue their mentorship relationship, found it effective and would recommend the program to others. By providing mentorship opportunities and continuing to grow confidence, create workplaces where employees feel valued and respected, and improve outcomes for technology employees across the board.

About the Author

Lisa Feigen Dugal

Lisa Feigen Dugal currently serves as a member of the US Advisory Leadership Team in the role of US Chief Diversity Officer, and is the Global Executive Partner for a large, global CPG company. Lisa also served as the Advisory Retail and Consumer (R&C) Leader from 2006 to 2013, expanding the size of the practice by tenfold.

As Advisory CDO, Lisa has changed the conversation across all dimensions of diversity and has given the topic of diversity a seat at the table. After assuming this role in 2013, Lisa integrated D&I objectives into the business imperatives and day to day decision making. She also has tied diversity to growth agenda of the practice. Areas of focus include: increasing cultural dexterity, identifying development and advancement opportunities for female and minority professionals, designing and executing Leadership Development programs, enhancing recruiting processes and creating new sources of talent, and engaging multi-generations in the workplace. Lisa has spearheaded numerous initiatives that attract, grow and retain top female talent such as co-founding community of interest, PwC Women in Technology, with more than 850 women and men actively making a difference at PwC and in the marketplace. As a recognized speaker on Diversity & Inclusion’s link to business growth, Lisa also serves as a strategic thought partner to PwC’s clients on the topic of D&I best practices.

As a Retail and Consumer leader, her team of over 2,600 R&C professionals works with clients to address their most complex and interesting business issues and opportunities from strategy to execution. Lisa is also a well-known thought leader in the industry and is regularly consulted by The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Chicago Tribune, MediaPost Marketing Daily, Progressive Grocer, Drug Store News, among others to offer industry expertise.

Lisa earned her B.S. with High Honors from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA.


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