December  2015
Thinking about Confidence
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December  2015    The Headscratcher Post © Headscratchers LLC     Edition 119

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Thinking about Confidence

Two common HeadScratchers participants bring to our workshops are “How can I be more confident in my decisions?” and  “How can I better influence senior management?”.  The short answer to these questions is “It’s all about the Premise”.

The “Premise” consists of the components you use to come to a conclusion about what to do. This is the decision you are, or are not, confident in, or the idea you would like senior management to consider.

One of the components of the Premise are Facts.  These are statements of absolute truth.

Another component of the Premise are you Experiences.  What you have actually experienced.

Another are observations; what your read and hear from others (these may be facts, but you don’t know they are absolutely true).

Another are the assumptions you make.  These are presumptions about what was, what is, or what will be, and they are based on Facts, Observations and Experiences.

Together the above components make up your Premise.

Here’s the rule;
The stronger your premise, the more confident you’ll be with your conclusions.
The weaker the premise, the less confident you’ll be with your conclusions.

For example; Someone asks you “how long will this take”?
If you’ve done this a hundred times (lot’s of experience), then you’ll have high confidence that your estimate will be correct.  However, if you’ve never done this, or perhaps only a few times, you won’t have much experience, your premise will be weak, and you won’t have high confidence in your conclusion.

With respect to influencing senior leadership … in order to influence them, or anyone else for that matter, they too have to have confidence in your conclusion.  If a senior manager asks, “how did you come up with that time estimate”, and your response is, “well, I just guessed”, that won’t instill much confidence.  However if you response, “we’ve done this 25 times before, and I’ve interviewed 6 other people who have done this and they said my estimate is right on, and we did an experiment to prove technical feasibility on the unknown component and …”, that makes for a fairly strong premise, and you, and your leadership will have confidence in your conclusion … and you will influence your leadership with that confidence.

The Takeaway:
If you’re not confident about a decision, take a look at your premise components, starting with Assumptions and ask what they are and why.   If you are confident, make sure there’s a good foundation for that confidence by again looking at the premise.

There’s a lot more regarding your premise; how to ensure it’s strong using tools like credibility and consistency, and how to use your premise to influence and persuade.  You can pick up some additional tips in the archives of The HeadScratcher Post Thinking Tips, and perhaps pick up a copy of my book, Think Smarter … or sign up for a workshop.

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