Updated: Jan 28, 2022
Do you trust yourself? Do you find yourself procrastinating and over-analyzing even the most basic "common sense" decisions? Do you feel your creativity being stifled as a result? Over the past few years I have been training and coaching individuals from a whole host of different backgrounds, each with differing levels of work experience. They mainly fall into two categories:
- Category 1: Individuals from technical roles (information systems, geologists, engineers) who know very little about finance, and who are intimidated by jargon, and the plethora of differing views and opinions on financial issues;
- Category 2: New entrants to the financial sector. These are individuals who have all of the textbook jargon and theory, but don't know how it is actually applied, and don't know how to filter out the make-or-break factors from the noise and less-significant details;
In both cases the main overriding symptom or consequence I see is the same: LACK OF CONFIDENCE!!
It's human nature to immediately question one's own abilities and potential when we experience roadblocks or problems we have not encountered before in our line of work. This is where a fork in the road occurs:
- Path 1: Lean in to the problem. You do this either because your back is against the wall and you have no option to turn back, or because you desire what is on the other side of the wall so badly, that you're willing to take a chance and plough through it; or
- Path 2: Procrastinate, or put the problem on the shelf. Say to yourself: "I'll cross this bridge later", or "let me apply some 80:20 principle and focus on something else, perhaps delegate the issue away if possible";
While path 2 has many merits, there are never ever any one-size-fits-all philosophies to day-to-day work. Sometimes path 1 is better, sometimes path 2 is the best. What does tend to happen though, is that path 2 has the potential to let self-doubt creep into one's psyche, which may indirectly have the effect of diminishing one's creative impulse, or one's desire to take calculated risk. Path 1 usually has the opposite outcome: once an obstacle is overcome, self-confidence grows, and the desire to expand one's reach, take bigger risk, and express one's creativity increases dramatically;
I have found that with the correct training and skills development, many of my past delegates have been able to overcome limiting beliefs, and have been able to take quantum leaps in their levels of self-confidence and creativity.
Here are some tips that you can apply today to increase your confidence in your area of work:
Tip 1: Prepare for Meetings. Know who your client is and what their problem is. This is vital especially for client-facing ("front-office") employees. If you are working in a middle-office or back-office role (in other words, you are an internal enabler of business processes in your organization, and you don't interact with external clients), then consider your internal colleagues to be your clients. For example, if you work in information systems, servicing a trading desk, your clients would be the traders who's systems you would be maintaining. If you were to be called to a meeting with these traders, make sure that you would have read up on what problems they would be facing before the meeting. Go the extra mile, and read up a bit on what products they trade, and have a general awareness of how their markets operate.
For front-office employees this tip is of paramount importance, and would have the greatest impact on one's career progression. If you are meeting an external client for the first time, make sure you read up on their company. If they are listed, read the management discussion and analysis section of their annual financial results over the past 3 years. This will give you an idea of where the company is coming from and where they aim to go in future. It may also spark some creative ideas when you attempt to brainstorm solutions to their problems.
Know your audience. Know the role of the individuals you would be meeting with. This is important, as a meeting with a technically-based individual would need to be framed differently to a meeting with an individual in a more strategic or oversight role. Thus, your preparation for a meeting with a technical person would involve more detail regarding your models, trends and forecasts, whereas your meeting with a strategy-based individual would lean more towards your summaries of the problem, industry and competitor analysis, cost-benefit analyses, conclusions and recommendations for the way forward for their company.
Tip 2: Know the Deal. Make sure you have a firm grasp of your individual product area, and how your product solves problems for your clients. Once you have established a client relationship, know exactly which services and products your organization can provide to the client, and what services and products are being proposed for the current deal in question. Having a thorough understanding of your own company, division, product area, and team will enable you to confidently address any questions the client may have about your service or product offering:
Study your own company's prospectuses;
Help prepare marketing materials and pitch books, which highlight your company's past achievements and areas of expertise; and along with Tip 1,
Know how your products would benefit each of your clients on an individual basis.
Tip 3: Be Present. This is especially relevant for introvert personalities. It is important to push yourself outside of a comfort zone of being silent in meetings, especially if you are a junior employee. This was something I struggled with for many years. Looking back now, and when I currently see other junior employees in the exact situation I was in, I now realize that I was holding my own career progression back by not fully engaging with clients at every possible opportunity. Even when I had something insightful and constructive to contribute, I would sometimes feel as though the other, more senior voices in the room, always had all the solutions to the problems, and that by speaking up I would only be a nuisance and excess baggage on the team. Nothing could be further from the truth! When a junior employee shows a desire to participate and engage, in a vast majority of situations, this is greeted with admiration and grace from more senior team members, and even from the client. However, make sure you follow Tip 1 and Tip 2 first, to avoid asking irrelevant questions in meetings.
Tip 4: Invest your Own Money in the Area of your Expertise. It goes without saying that you should avoid any issues of conflicts of interest or insider trading. If possible, put a small amount of your own money into a company or commodity related to your day-to-day work. If you have your own money at stake, chances are that you would probably be more interested in your sector than if you were a mere casual observer. Research a few companies or commodities, and even if you're just starting in your sector, try to choose a few companies or commodities you feel would perform best in the next three or so years. Now as you develop in your career you will learn lessons from your personal investment successes and failures. It will also add to the depth of your analysis, as now you would probably be keeping up with sector news and following your company or commodity more closely, now that you have your own money on the line.