How to Build Confidence in Your Direct Reports

A strong team is essential to your success. 

Building one requires time, investment, and empathy. In return, as your business grows, you’ll have dedicated and effective direct reports who continue to grow their skills and confidence.

In this article, we’ll discuss what confidence is, why it’s essential, and the three things you can do to build your direct reports’ confidence.

What is confidence?

Confidence is the belief in the effectiveness of one’s abilities based on a proven track record of doing work, building projects, winning work, and building a team or company.

Don’t mistake true confidence with cockiness. 

Cockiness is believing all those things are true without a track record to speak of—or if you have one, it’s a poor one.

Why is confidence important for you and your reports?

Confident direct reports are able to represent the best interests of your organization without compromising the relationships with customers and project partners. 

Even within internal teams—your peers, your direct reports, and even the people you report to—confidence can make a massive difference in how you’re perceived and how you communicate.

A lack of confidence creates dependency, which is based in fear. Always asking questions, never being quite sure of yourself, looking to your manager for a smile or a nod or assurance—that all comes from insecurity or fear.

How can you build confidence in your direct reports?

Confidence comes from competence. You build confidence in your direct reports by building their competence.

You can do that with the following three specific actions.

Ask them for solutions.

When your direct reports come across an obstacle or an issue, their first instinct will likely be to ask you how to fix it.

Your first instinct might be just to give them an immediate solution. Instead, take advantage of the opportunity to build their competence.

Ask them what they would do in the situation. By giving them the opportunity to present a solution to you, you can allow them to make that call if it’s a good solution or direct them appropriately if the presented solution is off-base or potentially damaging.

Commend them for doing things well.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of providing feedback to your direct reports when they’ve done something wrong or ‌that needs correcting, and forget them doing things well.

A bit of positive reinforcement can go a long way. Tell them well done and give a “why” behind it, so they know how to repeat that action in the future. The sense of impact and contribution adds to their confidence.

Hold consistent weekly meetings with a set agenda.

For your weekly meetings with your direct reports, ask them to identify one item that exhibits good decision-making and one that exhibits bad decision-making.

Start the meeting with the decisions they chose and help them think through the decisions they make.

Be sure to listen carefully and understand the way they think and feel. Ask them:

  • What was your thinking process like?
  • What worked for you as you were going through this process?
  • What didn’t work for you?
  • If you could decide again, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?

If you don’t think you can meet with all of your direct reports every week, I suggest you look at your calendar and strongly consider calendar management and blocking out time to meet with everyone.

At an absolute minimum, meet with your direct reports every other week.

It’s on you as a leader to create a healthy working relationship between you and your direct reports where they feel comfortable coming to you with their questions, successes, and failures. As they do that, over time, your job will become much easier as you work with them to build their competence and their confidence.

Learn more insights about being an effective leader on my podcast, Construction Genius.