Cornerstones of Confidence

I always amazed when I watch great athletes and championship teams at what a fine line there is between superior confidence and self-doubt. How often do we see a player or team on a hot streak or coming off a championship season suddenly hit the skids and profess that their confidence is shaken? How can anyone be so good one day and then profess that they have trouble believing in themselves the next?

Losing streaks and shaken confidence can hit each one of us and our organizations at any time. History is filled with stories of companies that were on top of the world and lost their way for a variety of reasons. Harvard Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter studied many business and sports organizations that have hit both ends of the confidence pendulum in her book Confidence: How Winning Streaks & Losing Streaks Begin and End. She identifies what I call three cornerstones of confidence that organizations must address to turnaround a downward spiral or maintain a winning streak.

Accountability. Kanter says accountability is missing in most losing streaks, when “people stop talking, stop practicing and stop trying or become accustomed to finding fault than facing facts. To shift the cycle from losing to winning, leaders must develop accountability—the discipline and responsibility of the best athletes and teams.”

Cultivating Collaboration. When organizations go on losing streaks, people’s confidence in one another is lost. It’s up to the leaders in the organization to lead that turnaround. It starts with including everyone on the team in developing and implementing turnaround strategies. Leaders need to set ground rules for team behavior, new goals and new respect for a healthy team building process. This includes getting people connected to each other, carrying out work in teams and communicating an inclusive environment of mutual respect.

Inspiring Initiative and Innovation. Kanter says leaders should be guided by four principles:

  • Believe in people and their power to make a difference
  • Direct the energy tied up in negativity into positive actions
  • Make initiative possible and desirable
  • Start with small wins—things that people can control

Even the most supremely confident leaders and their teams will experience more than one crisis of confidence during their careers. Starting a new winning streak begins with a willingness to honestly face the facts and make changes to “business as usual.” View your personal and organizational setbacks as opportunities to build a new championship team that will enjoy many more victory celebrations.

Ross Woodstock

Executive Coaching and Leadership Development

Kolt Communications, Inc.


Ross Woodstock is an executive coach/consultant with Kolt Communications in Okemos, Michigan. During his career in leadership, management and consulting, Ross has become widely known as an innovative leader, creative problem solver and an inspiring communicator. As an executive coach, Ross helps leaders achieve sustainable growth in their careers. He also works with organizations to help them develop their high potential leaders. He received his ACC coaching credential from the International Coach Federation.