The Confidence Code Q&A – Too much confidence?

Katty Kay
Hispanic businesswoman with colleagues

Q: What makes you think that self-confidence is a good thing? I the past I have had far too many employees, both male and female, who were far more confident than their abilities warranted. It’s much easier to help and encourage people to complete a task than it is to clean up the mess they made through over-confidence.

A: We agree that a lot of over confidence is not a good thing (think 2008 financial crash) Many men tend to lean toward over confidence, Columbia Business School has found that men tend to overestimate their abilities by some 30%. The trouble is that women tend to skew toward underestimating their abilities and it is holding them back from trying new challenges. Ideally we would raise women’s perception of their abilities to be more in line with their actual abilities, that way they would feel able to apply for promotions, speak up in public and take more risks. Interestingly the many psychologists we interviewed believe that on balance of a bit of over confidence in life is better than a bit of under confidence – because it propels us to try things, to take action and to live a more fulfilled life. We were surprised by this, but the conclusion was very clear.

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