Carol Kauffman's picture Submitted by Carol Kauffman May 15, 2020 - 9:05am

The storm had moved out to sea and the shoreline on the eastern Cape of South Africa boasted the largest waves in years. We almost missed the herd of ostriches on our left. We pulled over. The countryside was intensely green and peaceful. We saw a bucket of food pellets, and the sign.  

There is a special way to feed an ostrich, you cup your hand, fingers close together, make sure it’s at a 90 degree angle to the ostrich’s very strong beak.  Typically, you don’t bleed when they nip you. But this time I was overly focused and confident.  I had the pellets, my hand carefully at the correct angle for the ostrich I meant to feed. But I hadn’t factored in ostrich greed. The lovely guy in the photo was nearby and hungry and aggressive. He shot out his neck like a weapon grabbed the pellets, and me.

When I’m asked to give talks on confidence I say, sure, but you need to know that I think confidence is irrelevant. They are taken aback—why do I say this?

Confidence is not an accurate assessment of competence.

With the ostrich I was quite confident, and incorrect.

Confidence is an emotion, a subjective emotional experience.

Think of leaders, or presidents who were confident, but not competent.

80% of all drivers assess themselves as above average drivers

20% are either accurate or lack the “confidence” to know they are better than average.

For many of us, confidence is something we need to dial back.

75% of all small business failures were the result of overconfidence. (HBR)

The competent under confident:

Many who do not feel confident are more competent than their enthusiastic colleagues.

If you are on the “lacks confident” side, what can you do other than build it?

You can replace it with something else.

Get beyond your ego.

Staying silent because you fear what people will think of you is equally ego-driven as the one who wants to hog attention, it’s just the -5 vs. the +5 away from the 0 of being ego free.

Step into a high purpose—driven, begin of service headset.  

Focus on what needs to be said, not that it’s you who is saying it.

If you are on the +5 side, slow down and listen, the hesitant member of your team may have the most valuable things to say. He or she may be factoring something in that you are overlooking.

And notice—when you see a warning sign, perhaps you should pay attention.