How to measure confidence

Confidence, on the job, is the result of adequate self-esteem and a certainty of one’s ability to fulfill the job requirements. Confidence within an employee or an associate is directly related to their likelihood of fulfilling a task. Therefore, confidence is one of the two components you as a leader will need to be able to evaluate.

In a previous post, I wrote about the two components – competence and confidence, so I won’t repeat what I wrote. I do want to address the necessity to estimate another’s confidence.

It is not a precise science and there are no number scales that I know of to help you do this. Nor are there any tests one can administer that would measure it. But, having said that, it seems obvious that a simple observation of skill will help measure competence. If the skill is there, then confidence should be relatively simple to measure.

Let’s take, for example, the situation I described in the post I made last Friday. An apprentice had been working in a restoration shop for several months before the owner gave him a complete project of his own to manage.

We can assume that the owner and the apprentice’s immediate manager had been watching him and evaluating the work he had turned out. Since they were releasing to him greater responsibility, we can also assume that the apprentice’s work had been up to the standards required and possibly exceeded them.

At no time and in no way I am suggesting that a conscientious and responsible manager or leader simply guess about the ability of an associate, employee, or subordinate. It would be foolhardy to hand off responsibility to an untried, untested, unevaluated person and expect anything more than disaster. Indeed, if the unevaluated subordinate proves to be competent and responsible, then you were just lucky.

No, hand off responsibility, well, responsibly. So for the sake of measuring the second component – confidence – let’s assume that the person in question has been working with you long enough, or has sufficient references and experience from previous jobs that you can assume the best as far as competence goes.

Here’s a hint – in the case of the reluctant and unsure apprentice in the restoration shop, his reluctance and uncertainty could have been alleviated at least somewhat had he been receiving regular feedback. I do not like and do not advocate annual or semi-annual performance appraisals. It may be okay to evaluate progress toward agreed upon goals periodically, but performance appraisals should be done every minute of every day. As soon as you see or discover something being done right, say so. Every minute of every day you should be on the job, in the workplace, looking around catching people doing things right…and then letting them know. This is the number one way to build a positive and thriving work force.

So then, how do you measure one’s confidence:

  1. Rate their enthusiasm for the job they do and their enthusiasm to accept the job you are offering. If you see hesitation, make a value judgment as to whether it is a lack of confidence.
  2. Check out the types of questions they ask. Are they asking for reinforcement and reassurance? Do they seem unsure of their own personal ability to make a decision? If so, confidence is lacking.
  3. What kind of risks are they are willing to take? An unwillingness to take risks is almost always a sign of a lack of confidence. But you need to be honest here. Are they lacking confidence in themselves, in you, in the company, or what?

You can help by doing these 5 things:

  1. Be very explicit about what the job requires.
  2. Be very explicit about what the deadlines and standards are.
  3. Be very explicit about what the budget is.
  4. Be very explicit about what limits there are to the delegate’s authority and power. Remember the case a few years ago when a low level clerk in Singapore brought down an entire international investment company simply because there had been no limits placed on clerks in trading securities.
  5. Be very explicit about what you will do to support them in their responsibility and at the very least imply what you won’t do.

It could go like this:

Here is this project I want your help on. Look over the job, let me know your suggestions and report back to me so I can decide what to do.


Here is this project I want your help on. Look over the job, put together a project plan and let me see it before you act on it. The budget is $XXX, look over the job and let me know if it is enough or too much.


Here is this project I want your help on. Look over the job, let me know in a week how you’re coming along.


Here is this project I want you to handle. Let me know when you think you can get it done , who you will need to help, and how much you think it will cost. After we talk about those things, you can get started.


Here is this project I want you to handle. I need it in 9o days. Can you do it? If you are confident you can, report to me every 2 weeks.

Confidence is different from self-esteem. Confidence is the measure of certainty we have in being able to complete a responsibility. Self- esteem is how we feel about ourselves. Low self-esteem almost always accompanies low confidence. But people with high-self-esteem may lack confidence in a particular task or responsibility. You can fix that by how you relate to them and work with them. Confidence breeds confidence. You confidence in them goes a very long ways in imparting to them the confidence they need to get the job done. Be smart about it, but don’t minimize your role.


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