The right tools build confidence

It snowed the other day.  Not a snowmageddon that has impacted other parts of the country, but even a little snow (with the accompanying ice) can have a crippling effect on transportation here in Western North Carolina.  Exhibit A: our driveway.

Top of the driveway, looking down

Bottom of the driveway, looking up. Yes, that is Irving the Gnome to the right! #irventures

The next day, I went out to clear the snow off the pavement so the sun could do it’s job and melt the ice underneath.  It may be hard to tell just how steep the driveway is from the pictures, but remember this is what our neighbors call “The Beast”!

As I was shoveling, I was also slipping and sliding down the driveway because of the ice.  Then it hit me.  We have clamp-on spikes for our shoes!!  We hadn’t needed them yet since we got them 2 years ago, but now by golly I was going to put them to use!

I went back up to the garage, slipped on the spikes and walked back down the driveway… confident that I wasn’t going to fall. I was still careful, but every step I took was solid and stable, even on the steepest, iciest patches.  I finished off the driveway with relative ease, and thought about how this experience relates to leadership.

Having the right tools and knowing how to use them makes us more confident.  With the spikes, I could concentrate more on my shoveling, instead of trying to avoid toppling down the hill.

Think about a leader who is unsure of how to handle a situation.  Maybe there is bad news to deliver to the team, and they are ill-equipped to convey the right message in the right way.  The leader fumbles, stammers, and conveys little assurance that they know what’s going on, or that they have the teams’ back.

Their team gets confused, upset, rebels or shuts down, and the leader is left picking up the pieces and wondering what went wrong.  All because they didn’t have the right tools.

In this case, a tool might be information… maybe the leader didn’t truly understand the message, so they weren’t sure what to say.

Another tool could be a communication technique… as things spiraled out of control in this meeting, you can almost hear the inexperienced leader say, “I know, I agree with you. I don’t know why we have to do this, either.”  Knowing, from experience or though guidance, mentoring or coaching, that this is not the right approach, could have driven this leader to more diligently prepare, which would have built up their confidence so that the out-of-control spiral would have never started.

One last tool in this situation that could have bolstered confidence could have been meeting management techniques.  Setting the right mood and expectation through pre-work, your agenda and overall demeanor before and during the meeting can go a long way in preventing the above derailment.

So the questions you have to ask yourself are:

  • What tools do I need?
    • For example: Communication strategies, delegation, managing up, time management, admin/tech skills, planning, etc.
  • How can I learn to use these tools?
    • For example: Talk to your boss or peers, a coach/mentor, books, articles, videos, online courses, in-person courses, podcasts, etc.

Related: Nothing Happens Without Confidence

A few weeks ago, a Guest Services Manager from a museum called me.  She had been put in charge of turning around the guest service culture in her museum, but she needed to communicate her plan to her Executive Director who was a big picture thinker.  We talked through a possible approach (the tool), and that discussion gave her the confidence to go in and explain her approach and what she would need.

She later told me that the approach worked like a charm, and things are moving forward.  I would say it was her approach in addition to the confidence she showed when she explained her approach.  It’s all connected.

The tools you need will vary by situation and your role within your organization.  Wherever you are, be diligent about getting the tools you need so you can confidently move forward, lead your teams and make a positive impact.

If you need help figuring out what tools you need or how to use them, I’m happy to help. Feel free to give me a call!

Thanks for reading!


“Hey Matt! I wanted to let you know I loved your book (ALL CLEAR!)!! There are a few things in there I have experienced myself, and others I haven’t even thought about! Very good read! You’ve given me my goal for this next season of helping to develop more leadership skills and mindsets in my team!”

Adam Woodall – Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, IAAPA Show Ambassador

Purchase your copy here!



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