A funny thing happened when I was out for a bike ride the other day. I was riding on a trail near our house when I saw what appeared to be a woman and her daughter walking toward me from the other direction. They were both walking dogs, so they had their hands full. The woman was walking in front and her daughter, who I am guessing to be 11 or 12 years old.
As we got closer, the mother and I made polite eye contact, exchanged a quick head nod and a smile. Since I was looking in that direction anyway, I figured I would extend the same courtesy to her daughter. What I got in return was not what I expected.
The young girl glared at me, with all the defensiveness she could muster. There was no smile, no nod, just a squinty-eyed stare and a quick look away.
So what was the difference? To me I think this came down to confidence. The woman knew that merely saying hello to a passing stranger was nothing to worry about. In fact, she probably thought it was the polite thing to do. The young girl, on the other hand, didn’t have that experience. In fact, she may have been thinking of something the woman walking four feet in front of her told her many times – don’t talk to strangers. Because of this, she didn’t know what would happen in this situation. She lacked the confidence to say hello.
We see this in little kids all the time. Put them around someone they don’t know very well, and mom or dad become their shield. Does this happen to us at work? You bet.
Think about your service or hospitality expectations. When you get down to it, we are really asking our employees to treat perfect strangers as if they are old friends. Smile, ask them how they are doing, see what you can do to help. Especially for inexperienced and less confident employees, this behavior is usually reserved for people they know, and know well.
So what do we do? I think a good overarching approach is to think about how to not only train your employees on how to do their tasks, but also figure out how to build their confidence at the same time.
And what builds confidence? Think of the things you do well or have a particular aptitude for. You have probably been doing them for awhile, you may have even made some mistakes along the way, and I would bet dollars to donuts that someone along the way gave you feedback or guidance. Is that what we are doing for our employees, or do we simply give them a once over of the procedures and call it good? (I’m being dramatic about that last point, but you get the idea). Building confidence is so important that it should be built into your training and onboarding process.
I’ll just leave you with a confidence coincidence. I got an email from a friend the other day who was talking about some challenging experiences she had recently, and how she now felt more confident for having gone through them. This is someone who is established in her career, not a twelve-year-old walking her dog.
Experience gives us all the confidence to face challenges and know that we’ll be alright on the other side. What are you doing to ensure your employees have the right experience to build their confidence?
Thanks for reading!