Gaining confidence as a managing partner comes with experience. And if you are new to this role, you probably want to be the best you can be – right now. Good news! Allowing your confidence to shine through involves more than experience. There are strategies you can employ immediately to appear more confident, even as you build confidence on the inside. Here are eight:
- Be Prepared. This might be obvious to you, but it is the foundation for all other strategies. Prepare in advance of meetings or retreats – well in advance. Have your reports ready and if you have an administrator, review them with him/her to be sure you understand all the components and ramifications of the numbers.
- Anticipate Challenges. Anticipate questions from your fellow partners as you discuss difficult topics, and have answers for their concerns (even if the answer is, ‘I’ll get back to you’. Of course, if that is the answer, then you must get back to them!). Predict and plan for any complications like tardiness or off-topic discussions during your limited time to meet.
- Develop Your Leader Persona. Hone your leadership personality, and what you are most known for as a team leader. Analyze the special experience you bring, and emphasize that when you are running meetings. Do you know how people describe you as a leader? What do you convey when you stand in front of the room? Likely your persona is a combination of what you say, how you look, how you act, and what you avoid saying.
- Identify Your Allies. Know what the issues and problems are in the ownership of your firm, and in the firm itself. Have discussions with your partners to understand their perspectives, and become aware of where you have support and where you might find resistance. As you look to build consensus on initiatives, return to your allies for new ideas and creative solutions to present to the group.
- Accept Some People Won’t Like You. The role of Managing Partner can be a popularity contest, and understand that some people won’t like your style. Although it happens to all of us at one point or another, it can rattle your confidence. Instead of concentrating on trying to win over your critics, concentrate on those who appreciate your role, and you will be much happier. The sooner you let go of aiming to please everyone, the more confident (and happier) you will be.
- Command Attention. Courtroom litigators understand the role of expression. Expression on your face, and that of the jury, witness, judge and opposing counsel. Even though the role of Managing Partner isn’t in a courtroom, the audience can be even more daunting. You must adopt a different style for sharing information with your partners, your administration, your staff. Start by using your natural style – talk with your hands, use gestures, whatever is comfortable for you. Next, think about your facial expressions. Smile, even if it’s a conscious effort to do so! You portray confidence when you smile, and it puts everyone at ease. And, a find a comfortable voice to speak in. Look for opportunities to speak in a voice which is friendly, but commanding. Engage the entire room by moving your eyes and head to make contact with everyone.
- Act “As If”. There is an old phrase, ‘Fake it until you make it’. Acting ‘as if’ is accepting your confidence challenges and behaving as though you have overcome them. Sometimes it feels like our most critical colleagues “smell” fear or nervousness, which only amplifies their critical voice. As a credible attorney and business owner, you have no need to fake your legal skills. Faking your confidence will win over dissenting people, and provide the impression you “get it”. And, when you show confidence in yourself, the members of your firm are more likely to have confidence in you as well.
- Hire a Coach. We all find ourselves in the position of ‘we don’t know what we don’t know.’ If you enjoy sports at any level, you have likely noticed that professional athletes always have a coach. Amateurs often don’t. I guess it depends on how important the skill is to their success, doesn’t it? An Executive Coach is the champion of your growth and development, pointing out blind spots or obstacles and partnering with you to provide neutral and objective feedback of your leadership.
Use these tips to help yourself become a calm, cool, confident leader, even if you have moments of doubt or feelings like a bundle of nerves on the inside. Soon you will be the confidence you portray!