July 11, 2012

Lower self-confidence might make you more successful.

Says this item in the Harvard Business Review.
1. Lower self-confidence makes you pay attention to negative feedback and be self-critical...

2. Lower self-confidence can motivate you to work harder and prepare more....

3. Lower self-confidence reduces the chances of coming across as arrogant or being deluded....

31 comments:

edutcher said...

Obviously, there's a point of diminishing returns, but, to validate this, just look toward the White House.

Commandante Zero, vainest human on the planet, is never wrong and look what a success he's been the last 4 years.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

I'll never forget Art Monk saying it was fear that motivated him.

Fear of failure, with failure being (my guess) not being an NFL receiver of note.

Original Mike said...

Gee. No kidding.

Sorun said...

But everything in moderation.

Michael K said...

Black gangsters have very high self esteem, which is another term for self confidence if you are not too smart.

Synova said...

Lower than what?

NotquiteunBuckley said...

"I couldn't catch a cold," he recalls. "I don't know why. It was just a disaster. I remember practices where they'd throw the ball to me and it would hit my hands and I couldn't catch it. I knew I was better than that. I got really depressed and down on myself. And I just made up my mind that this wasn't going to happen again."

What he did, of course, was what he had always done and would always do when the fear of failure had him by the neck. He worked. With a friend, he spent the off-season catching footballs, zillions of them. "I trained like crazy," he says. "I just did every ball drill I could possibly imagine—five days a week. The next year I ran every route as hard as I could. I really focused on the ball. I didn't care what was going on around me. I just really wanted to show them that I was worthy of their scholarship." - A. Monk

Steve Koch said...

Chris Weidman should have a lot of self confidence, he absolutely destroyed Mark Munoz tonight. Munoz was an All American wrestler and Weidman completely out wrestled Munoz. Weidman knocked out Munoz.

Terribly late stoppage by the ref, BTW. Munoz (who was either unconscious or barely conscious after a standing elbow knocked him silly) took at least 5 too many very heavy shots to the head after the fight should have been stopped.

Chip S. said...

Beta is the new alpha!

Steve Koch said...

Fear of failure may motivate you to work harder but, in realtime, it hurts your ability to catch a football (or shoot a basketball). The less you think, the better you catch or shoot.

The Drill SGT said...

Monk is still a mensch

Sue D'Nhym said...

Lower self confidence prevents you from being like Obama.

Eric said...

This is one of those things that's counter-intuitive because... it's wrong.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Failure to plan is a sure plan to fail.


wv: mboner french to *^$#^ after %%$F^&

traditionalguy said...

Is he saying don't embarrass the boss by outshining him? Or is he saying be meek and take the worst seat at the banquet awaiting promotion for your humility.

If not, then he is playing an April Fools Day prank. His advice is exactly how not to be a leader.

Steve Koch said...

If you are in a meeting trying to persuade the attendees of the merits of your design or product strategy or whatever, nobody is going to go with you if you lack confidence in what you are presenting.

If you are going to go for it doing anything, you have to have the confidence that you will succeed or you will never go for it in the first place.

Having said that, doubt is a good motivator for more thorough preparation and over confidence is an excellent way to get yourself in over your head. In the final analysis, you have to have a good understanding of reality and your confidence should reflect a realistic appraisal of your ability to deal with that reality. Neither over confidence or under confidence help you succeed.

cassandra lite said...

Hang on, weren't you #1 in law prof hits?

Oh, "...MIGHT make you more successful."

n.n said...

Self-confidence is a product of merit and when lowered is crippling.

Self-esteem is a product of perception and when uncorrelated with self-confidence is crippling.

The Crack Emcee said...

Lower self-confidence makes you a really good drone. I've seen it.

As someone who hasn't had to work all his life (for others) I sometimes wonder how it must be to never have a higher calling in life than to hold down a job. Do the eight, go home, have a beer/dinner, watch TV and then fall asleep to do it again. Murder.

I went to the accountant today and discovered my bill to the government is paid off - and the ol' dream machine in my head got charging. Everything I want to do just came rushing in - ideas, plans, projects. I still have a few personal debts to get rid of now, no big deal, but then the sky's the limit.

Ain't no low self-esteem issues around here,...

William said...

I don't mean to brag but I've always excelled in lack of self confidence. It's one of those things I've got a natural flair for. People ask me how I pull it off, but it's just one of those things you're born with....Tip to those with too much self confidence: In meetings look down at your shoes and wear shoes with velcro straps and an unpolished surface.

tim maguire said...

The problem with the list of reason for the beneficial aspects of a lack of self-esteem is that it overestimates the value of performance for success in the workplace.

Strick said...

Sufficient lack of confidence means you'll never try. To appear to lack confidence means you'll never attract support and your enemies will clobber you.

Confidence to the point where you ignore the risk is foolhardy. Knowing you can fail keeps you hungry, but only if you are confident enough to work to overcome the risk, or much more importantly in the long run, your inevitable failures.

Dave said...

It's better framed as humility and it's only useful when it's accurate. In other words if your image of yourself better conforms to reality it's an advantage and then only if you act to correct your weaknesses. It's easier to see the advantage of lower self esteem when you see the results of excessive self esteem/pride/arrogance. Pride causes people to take large scale risks; like going deeper into debt to stimulate the economy. The arrogant man steps right of the cliff confident he'll fly. Dialing it down to reality and being open to advice makes an enormous difference.

Dan in Philly said...

Since we constantly are bombarded by stories saying white kids have higher self-esteme than other minorities (I understand white babies have officially become less than 50% in this country, so I'm calling them just another minority), it's clear that the system is geared for white kids to lose.

Tibore said...

"1. Lower self-confidence makes you pay attention to negative feedback and be self-critical...

2. Lower self-confidence can motivate you to work harder and prepare more....

3. Lower self-confidence reduces the chances of coming across as arrogant or being deluded...."


Because of course top-tier athletes like Michael Jordan, or spectacularly successful businessmen like Donald Trump exhibit all these characteristics...

*Rolls eyes*

I may not like Trump - in fact, I think he's an exceptionally narcissistic asshole - but I can't deny that he's been ridiculously successful.

Anyway... I'm just disappointed at this whole notion of self esteem either being too high or too low. Self esteem is the contributing characteristic, not the primary one. The real indicator is core competence: Does someone honestly know their stuff? If so, they can be successful. If not, they're screwed. If they're arrogant about what they know, they can back it up. If they're humble, they won't have to back up their attitude but they still accomplish. The key is how good they are; how they present themselves must follow that, not preceed or dominate it.

The author of that piece needs to read Bob Greene's book on Michael Jordan. Chamorro-Premuzic doesn't seem to be working from data as much as he is drawing conclusions from clusmy archetypes.

Joe Schmoe said...

There are other study findings that lend this one a little credibility, but the author makes some incorrect assumptions about how this plays out.

People overwhelmingly prefer to work with people they personally like. When it comes to group work, brilliant assholes are shunned in favor of the less-capable but affable coworker. So my conclusion: not having brash confidence makes you more likeable, and hence more likely to be viewed favorably in your company.

Another aspect of a lower-confidence person, or at least one that doesn't disply brash, offputting confidence, is that they are less likely to generate interpersonal drama in the workplace. Managers detest drama, so they look more favorably on those that don't initiate or perpetuate it.

But then the author loses me with this bit:
According to Gallup, over 60% of employees either dislike or hate their jobs, and the most common reason is that they have narcissistic bosses. If managers were less arrogant, fewer employees would be spending their working hours on Facebook, productivity rates would go up, and turnover rates would go down.

In my experience, people will hate their job if they are not interested and engaged in what they are doing. Simple as that. They go to the web not because of a bad boss, but because it's more interesting than what they are supposed to be doing.

Changing bosses doesn't change that, and when it happens it doesn't miraculously lead to big improvements. That's the biggest challenge; finding what keeps people interested and engaged, and then making that fit with the company goals of more growth. Engaging work is the key; money or low self-esteem or stack ranking doesn't drive a person. Either they like what they're doing, or they adapt, to varying degrees, to doing something not so interesting.

BarryD said...

Like everything, there's a balance between too much and too little.

OTOH if you can have the self-confidence to bullshit your way to a top executive position and a huge severance package, you don't have to succeed (in an objective sense). See Obama, Barack. He's really good at this.

If you don't care a whit about bankrupting a company and screwing a bunch of hard-working employees and little old ladies who own your stock, you might be quite happy with your path in life.

The lesson, really, is that if you are going to have TOO much self-confidence, you had best be a legitimate sociopath.

Too little self-confidence is another pathology, though.

Also, there's a difference between self-confidence and self-esteem, I think. True self-confidence says, "I'm good enough to earn success, and I'm going to go do it." Self-esteem sounds more like entitlement, to me.

Oso Negro said...

An inability to appear arrogant or deluded will certainly limit your potential for high elective office.

Joe Schmoe said...

Based on this article and the stack-ranking article, I'm moving towards the opinion that business writers suck at drawing conclusions from study findings.

They seem to lack management experience for a company of any size. Their knee-jerk assumptions are tinged through the lenses of typical lefty attitudes about the workplace. And lefty attitudes are tinged through the lenses of union-thought. As such, usually not realistic.

Ty Thorn said...

.............says some loser

Jeanine Spence said...

Thanks for taking this opportunity to discuss this, I feel strongly about this and I enjoy learning about this topic.
ways to improve self esteem