Tag Archives: confidence

“Why is My Organization Not Winning, Displaying Confidence!?!” – Part 1: What is Confidence?

Author: Emad Elias, MBA, PMP

This post is a part of a 4-part series on confidence by Emad Elias.

To be sure, as leaders, every one of us has done analysis time and time again on why our teams are not performing as we would expect.  We have all used multiple techniques and tools to try and determine what patterns lead to success and which ones do not.  A Harvard Business Professor by the name of Rosabeth Moss Kanter (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosabeth_Moss_Kanter) has posited that winning teams all display the following three things: Initiative, Collaboration, and Accountability.

Using examples such as Target, IBM, Seagate, Gillette, Continental Airlines, BBC, Verizon and sports teams such as the Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots, the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team (70 game winning streak), the University of North Carolina’s women’s soccer team, and De La Salle’s high school football team that won every single game for twelve years, Kanter shows that failure AND success are not episodes, they are trajectories.  They are tendencies, directions, and pathways.

So what is Confidence then? It’s the bridge connecting expectations and performance, investment and results.  Why is to so important to performance? Because it has tremendous influence on willingness to invest. This means to commit time, resources, reputation, or energy to something.  This investment shapes the ability to perform. But if people who must invest their time into something they believe is or will fail, they will withhold effort and investment and that deepens a state of decline.

As a simple example of what investment looks like, in your face investment like how a building is designed or maintained can deliver immeasurable results to boost peoples’ expectations of themselves and each other. If a building is bright, clean, and colorful and makes people proud of their workplace, it can also make them take the initiative to do work about which they are proud.  Kanter, in her book, offers the example of the difference between Target Corporation headquarters and Kmart headquarters.

What does confidence look like then as it relates to process improvement?  Take the example of Continental Airlines offered by Kanter.  They went from being in a major losing streak from 1989 to 1994 to winning numerous awards for customer service and workplace excellence ten years later.  What did this look like as people did their work?  From a process improvement perspective, this manifested itself in a transition from ad hoc processes and a culture of blame and disrespect to an environment where employees were reporting to management what they had done rather than asking permission to do things.  They had been empowered through years of collaboration, communication and responsibility.  This resulted in more standard processes that had become institutionalized and “everyone just knew their job and went to work”.

According to Kanter, there are four hierarchical levels of confidence when a team wins:

1) Self Confidence: an emotional climate of high expectations

2) Confidence in one another: positive, supportive, team oriented behavior

3) Confidence in the system: organizational structures and routines reinforcing accountability, collaboration, and innovation

4) External confidence: a network to provide resources



To learn more on the next part of this topic read Part 2: What does losing look like?