Overconfidence: A Silent Killer

Last week, I wrote about Toxic Employees, an issue greatly faced by many organisations across the world. Today, we shall deliberate on yet another level of arrogance organisations face, called “overconfidence”.

Recruiters, headhunters, all around the world look, for confident candidates during the interview sessions. Same goes for the line managers. No one wants to hire a frightened candidate with low esteem or a dried-up throat or someone cannot look into your eyes and talk to you for a short interview. The recruiter’s or line’s talent actually comes into play when they can figure out what is low confidence, confidence itself and overconfidence? In fact, they should be able to figure out who is actually putting an act or wearing a false face during the session and who is being genuine.

Definition of Overconfidence

To simplify, excess to anything in life isn’t normal. Same goes for Confidence. We, as professional leaders, must make a deliberate effort to normalize the talent and attributes associated to all the aspects of what we call ‘Talent’. Bell should start ringing when we see someone is putting an act or overdoing or overcommitting etc. “Overconfidence is overestimation of one’s accuracy, or, alternatively, an overestimation of ability relative to others, and links with increased failure risk of firms Hayward et al., 2006. Overconfidence bias can KILL your company.

How to avoid overconfidence @Workplace?

We all should know that overconfidence isn’t just a big deal — it can cause us to lose out on big deals, too. Now that we understand a bit about the subject and how it can wreak utter havoc in our lives, let’s learn how to tone it down and eventually avoid it.

1. Challenge your beliefs

It’s tempting to surround yourself with people who will agree with and empathize with you, but at the workplace, a team composed entirely of “Yes Men” can be extremely dangerous. Xerox’s Barry Rand was spot on when he told leaders at his company that, “If you have a yes-man working for you, one of you is redundant.”

When people agree with anything and everything you do and say, whether it’s out of fear or awe, innovation often stagnates, and your organisation stops making genuine progress that it deserves. Always encourage and allow your team members in close-door meetings or townhalls to ask questions, bring forward newer ideas and remember that healthy debates open up perspectives and allow us to see new ways of doing things. That is the only window to peak into new outlook that you want to give to your company.

Devil’s advocates are frustrating, but they push you out of your comfort zone and force you to think critically about the strategies you employ. With their help, you might discover better or more efficient methods of doing things, to park the older ways of doing things.

2. Do your homework

Let’s take a simple example of buying an expensive car. You’re probably not going to run into a car dealership and buy the first car you see. Your homework, your research, your discussion with your family, your needs, your budgets — these are important considerations that you will make before you run into headaches down the line.

Same applies to the business. Situations can change at any time, so it’s better to be prepared with all of the necessary information you might need to make informed decisions. The more possible causes you list, the better prepared you’ll be in case something does go wrong. You can be more realistic about how successful you’ll be by counting how much of a threat each potential problem poses.

3. Reflect on failures

We have seen leaders who always want to be successful all the time, but when the wind blows against them, they get upset because failures suck. They didn’t prepare themselves or their team for failures. As leaders, we must understand that failures in business are great learning opportunities. Acknowledging your very own mistakes instead of placing the blame on someone else i.e. a coworker or subordinate, helps us clear our heads of any hubris that might cloud our judgment. When we feel invincible, we become blinded to the pitfalls and traps that lie ahead.

John C. Maxwell says, “Here are some questions to ask yourself: What plans worked? What decisions yielded good results? What decisions ended up being wrong? If I were to approach the situation again, knowing what I know now, what would I do differently? Why?”

4. Manage time

According to psychologist Ron Friedman, “We have a window of about three hours in the beginning of the day when we’re really, really focused. We’re able to have some strong contributions in terms of planning, in terms of thinking, in terms of speaking well.” He suggests making the most of those first three hours by starting with a brief planning session and outlining what you want to accomplish that day. Then, stay proactive.

Since people tend to get tired around 2 or 3 pm, he recommends time-blocking less taxing work in the afternoon. Time management is all about knowing your limits and being realistic about how much you can accomplish. Responding to emails generally puts us in a reactive mindset. Instead, try sending emails–to clients, coworkers, and companies you’re pitching. For related article, click here.

5. Accept criticism

Leaders may invite input, suggestions, ideas but most of them don’t like to be criticized or even reminded which of their decisions caused loss to the organisation. With the passage of time, they may start assuming that they are bright and wise enough, that’s why they are holding these big positions thus they think they have become indispensable. On the contrary, they should remember that are also human beings. They are naturally bound to make mistakes, no matter how desperately they try to avoid them. By listening to constructive criticism, we can learn from our mistakes and make changes in the way we operate. Often, when we get criticized, our first impulse is to go on the defense. The feeling is even stronger when the advice is coming from someone you don’t entirely respect.

Final Thought

To sum it up, confident employees have everything going in their favour at their work and family lives. They are valuable assets for companies owing to their self-motivated and positive nature, not to forget high performance. They exhibit leadership qualities, aren’t afraid to take risks and tend to be extremely reliable. But fact of the matter is how does the ‘confidence’ turns into ‘overconfidence’ or ‘arrogance’? How do we, as leaders, deal with a cocky team member who gets onto everyone’s nerves because they are so full of themselves? Turning a blind eye over someone’s toxic attitude will not bring about any change. As a leader, it is our collective responsibility to mentor that overconfident employee before their behavior affects your team’s productivity. It could become a taxing exercise but its fundamentally important to address such issues sooner than later as the same will hurt the organisation in the longer run.

Related Article: click here.

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Muhammad Sajwani is the Founder, Managing Director and Principal Consultant at Evolve HR which aims at transforming, enriching and evolving Human Capital of Pakistan. At Evolve HR, him and his team thrives in challenging assumptions that hinder organisational aspirations, by creating innovative solutions that yield maximum impact, scalability & benefit to a wider base of stakeholders. As a Business Coach and Organisational Consultant, Sajwani knows how to combine business insights with people insights to transform organisations and put them on the path to growth.

C-Level HR, Transformation Leader, Board Advisor, Writer, Business Coach & Organisational Consultant