Q: I feel confident in my skills and accomplishments, but do not seem to inspire confidence in others. I've tried to get new tasks and responsibilities, but have not been successful. What should I do?
A: Take a comprehensive look at yourself to be sure you're not sending unintended messages that are holding you back.
The inner game
First question to explore: While you're confident in your past performance, do others share your positive view?
Set aside your emotions so that you can neutrally assess the feedback you receive. What are you seeing on formal performance reviews?
Are you shown as a superstar, are you a fine midrange performer, or is there information pointing to areas of deficit? In short, can you find any clues as to why you may be overlooked for new opportunities?
Now think through a bit more why you feel you don't inspire confidence. Apart from not getting new opportunities, consider day-to-day feedback that you receive, including nonverbal reactions. Based on this, are you confident that you're accurately interpreting the situation?
For example, there are other reasons you may not have gotten new opportunities. Fair or not, if you're excellent at what you do and it's very important to your company, there may be reluctance to lose you from that role.
Now, having considered this, let's take your question at face value — you're good, but others don't see it. Take time to look at how you interact. Do you hold yourself with confidence? Speak with authority? If you appear tentative, then you will not inspire confidence. Similarly, if you appear scattered or overwhelmed with work, you won't attract additional opportunities.
It may be difficult to assess; in this case, ask your boss or a trusted co-worker to give you feedback on how you come across to people.
The outer game
If you've realized that there is a gap on performance, the first step is to clean up your act. If you are not always timely or accurate, immediately address that. Apart from holding you back, it may be enough to get you out the door. Or perhaps the gap is in attitude; if you appear unenthusiastic about your current tasks, you'll be less likely to get new ones, and so you need to change that.
If your current success is handcuffing you to your role, think succession plan. Talk to your boss about cross-training others so that you're not as needed and can be moved on to new challenges.
Finally, if your limits are driven by the ways you portray yourself, set goals to improve in key areas. For example, get rid of verbal habits that undermine your message such as phrasing a statement as a question or speaking too softly. Don't try to take on everything at once, but be consistent in addressing challenging areas. Reflect on your performance, and ask an observer to give you feedback, as appropriate. Remember to reward yourself for success.
The last word
It can be difficult to change others' perceptions of you; however, if you address the root causes, you'll be able to position yourself to progress.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.