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  • Writer's pictureHelen Frewin

Competence over Confidence

Oh how I love using those ting tings at events! I think technically they’re called meditation bells or cymbals, but I much prefer ting tings!

Competence over Confidence

You probably already know this about me. I’ve got a super keen interest in getting people to focus on their competence more objectively. This is one of the many issues with focusing on our confidence: it is subjective, it is an opinion about my competence, it is so changeable.

What if instead we focused on gathering information on our actual competence: the skills we have, the areas we add value, and the gaps in our knowledge and ability? Then we could crack on with doing something about it.

This came up as a strong theme at a conference event I spoke at this month (where I was delighted to use those ting tings). I did my usual keynote approach of mythbusting on confidence, then getting into the practical thinking tools that better than confidence… but you know when you can see people really resonating with one point more than any other? It was this bit about competence.

Speaking to various people afterwards, they told me about their struggle to identify more objectively where they are competent and where they have gaps, because they don’t necessarily get much feedback from colleagues and we get stuck in a cycle. I lack confidence when I think I am not competent, so how can I judge my competence?!

This is where the key question comes in – “what might tell you that you are doing a good job?”

In coaching conversations, I love hearing how broad the range of answers to this question can be. From people asking me for help (because they trust me I suppose), to seeing a change in outcomes, and from delivering work on time to seeing my work being used by others. What if we had a more objective checklist of “being good at my job” that we could review our performance against? Could we even get better at discussing that with a manager or colleague, so that we are regularly seeing our competence?

Then of course we have the question of, “how might you know which specific areas need further development?” and that’s great because it gets us focused on action. If I can identify specific areas to work, I can start working on them. Rather than the vague, “I’m not good enough” leading me nowhere but negative emotion.

Try it out for yourself, reflect on the questions:

“what might tell you that you are doing a good job?”

“how might you know which specific areas need further development?”

Let me know how you get on!

All the best,



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