Updated: Oct 6, 2022
* No time to read it? Here's the audio version instead.
3 Top Reasons Most Leaders Don't Develop Confidence in Public Speaking
As an investigative journalist, it took me 7 years on the job to finally get to a point where I felt that my self-confidence had increased to a level I was happy with.
7 YEARS 🤯
I remember the day it all changed as if it were yesterday and I've never shared this part of my story before.
I remember when I first joined the team at the tender age of 27. The youngest on the team, I was super excited!! I had big dreams, and I was told that I had potential to become the next big anchor in studio!
What, me?? That sounded like a fairytale!!
I started off with a bang, rearing to go and gave my 150%!
Little did I know, a fiery curve ball was headed my way.
I remember the day I was chatting to our Executive Producer as if it were yesterday. He was a brilliant Producer, super smart and kind to me. He'd originally hired me and we have a good rapport, so we could be frank with each other.
I was told that he'd received news that due to changes to South Africa's Black Economic Empowerment laws (BEE), the management of our TV Station had to comply and that meant that only people of colour could be promoted into Anchor and lead journalist roles.
Like a mirror shattering into a thousand tiny pieces, my ghostly reflection of journalism success burst in front of me.
Now I'm all for equality, diversity and inclusion - I'm a huge advocate of it and know that we had a number of rights to wrong in our country. I know there are things I'll never understand, and won't ever claim to.
And don't worry this isn't about to become a political, or victim piece, it's a human piece, so stay with me.
Things changed for me from that day. It wasn't the first time I'd been passed up for promotions due to the colour of my skin. I'd managed and trained up 2 other managers in different roles before that.
Every time I did, I told myself, "It's ok, we're making right the past." And I made peace with it by consoling myself that it meant there was something better out there for me.
But to be honest, it was shit. Shit for me. I'd worked, hard, put in the hours - first one there, last one to leave, worked on weekends, through bronchitis (yea, that's too far!), but I'd paid my dues and didn't receive the recognition or position that I felt I deserved.
And then lucky number 3 happened.
I remember thinking "What's the point now?" The point of working hard, investing my time, energy and money into developing myself when I'm told that there is no way I'll ever reach the top of my game here?
My heart sank, and I was extremely disappointed, but I knew that I had two choices, leave, or suck it up, stay and enjoy the work regardless of the outcome.
Fortunately, I loved what I did, and at the time, that was enough to fuel me to keep going, for a while.
I developed my capability by studying all I could on the job. I did reams of my own my research for every shoot and gave my best to each story, but it felt like it was taking forever, and my desire for greener pastures outside of SA began to grow.
I don't mind a hard basket every so often, but this was next level.
I was also told I needed to be harder. Harder? "What do you mean by harder?" I'd ask.
My voice overs - sound harder, my questions, be harder, my tone, my body language, energy - harder.
I was hard-er. In progress.
Hard basket 101.
On some stories, we had 2 days to shoot a 10 minute story, 4 days before broadcast. That might sound like a lot of time, but it's like giving an artist the Mona Lisa to replicate in half an hour.
We were on borrowed time from the time we started! From red-eye flights to disappearing sources, 3-hour interviews with dodgy, corrupt government officials and evolving stories, we had our work cut out for us.
So it stands to reason that most of the more experienced Producers didn't have the time, desire, patience - capacity to help me develop my capability. Why should they, it wasn't their job.
We were literally given 1 hour of mentoring with a former journalist of the show. That's it. No mentoring or additional professional development and support from management, or the team.
I was faced with another challenge - sink or swim.
By this point everything had become an outright bloody big challenge to me! I'd become like the bull facing the Matador's red flag, grunting with a combination of determination, fear and fake confidence that I would make it out alive! I had to.
"Watch this space," I thought. "I will find a way to succeed - if it's the last thing I do!"
So I found a couple of new inflatable arm bands, blew them up and swam - albeit, somewhat clunky at times.
Eventually, over time, our stories were better than good. And at others, heartbreakingly brilliant. I was lucky (and crazy enough) to confront (and escape) brick-wielding corrupt municipal officials, free dive with tiger sharks, play pool with dangerous, high gang members in the heart of ganglands, met an ancient tribe called the Himba, and even stalked ghosts with some rather interesting ghostbusters!
I may not have been the Anchor, but we were making a difference, and that, mattered to me.
I've come to appreciate the 80/20 rule in life, and in this instance I experienced that while there oftentimes are the majority of people that are primarily focused on their own own success, there are always a few kind, generous and supportive people that seem to help make the world go round by lifting others up.
After some time, a handful of brilliant Producers that I really clicked with started helping me to become better with each story we told together.
I will forever be grateful to them for taking the time, and having the patience to support me.
At the end of 7 years on the job, some of the top Producers were asking to work with me, and I'd almost carved out a bit of a niche in the stories I did - the most dangerous ones, with the most gripping human stories. We would go to the places most wouldn't.
It was intense, but I loved it.
We'd tackled some of the most challenging issues facing our country; rape, violence, abuse, extreme corruption, drug trafficking, prostitution of minors and more.
Sometimes we made a difference. Other times, not so much.
But when I did eventually leave South Africa, I felt good about the positive impact we were able to make, together.
Those experiences will forever be imprinted on my heart. Hard as they were at times, I learnt some of my greatest life lessons from it all.
Tiger sharks are quite smooth to the touch.
Always carry a set of inflatable arm bands with you. One, courage, the other, kindness.
Even the most notoriously dangerous people are still human; with dreams, regrets and people that matter deeply to them.
Everyone deserves a fair chance.
Be kind, help others where you can and be patient - you never know when you'll need it yourself.
Years later, in hindsight, I think I really didn't need to go through all that struggle the way I did.
Had I received more support to be at my best, my capacity would've expanded, not diminished because I would've had more time, energy, desire etc. to dedicate to my growth instead of having to overcome relentless challenges first.
I probably would've chosen to more formally advance my capability, which would've accelerated the time it took me to develop a level of competence that could've made everyone's lives so much easier, not to mention the possibilities it could've unlocked for the kinds of stories we told, and for my career.
C'est la vie.
Fortunately, there was one thing that kept me going, and took me through.
Going back to the beginning, remember I said that confidence is like a 3-legged table?
There's one thing that sits at the top of capacity, capability and competence that holds us up in the face of any challenges we may face.
In Neuro Semantics, we say,
Meaning drives Performance
Regardless of being Anchor, what became exceptionally meaningful to me was our combined ability to make a positive difference in people's lives. The ability to give a voice to others that might not ordinarily have had one, and for me personally, to facilitate interviews that would allow people to open up, and share their remarkable stories with the world.
Stories that could change the world.
That's why I believe that if Confidence is a 3-legged table - WHY is the table top.
My meaning was meaningful enough for me to stay the course, to do it regardless of my personal achievement outcomes, to rise to the challenge, look those sharks in the eyeballs and do it anyway.
Meaning holds us up to deliver with confidence.
When we've got enough meaning, deep enough meaning that connects to our values, to our beliefs, and something greater than ourselves, no matter what challenges we might have or face, our capacity, capabilities and levels of competence will be held together and hold us up, standing firmly in our purpose.
So back to our VENN, right in the middle intersection of all 3 of confidence's components is the most important part - meaning, our big fat WHY.
And as our confidence grows, so too does our level of enjoyment, impact and credibility.
So what's the impact of all of this on leaders and presenters today?
In my experience, here are 3 top reasons why so many leaders don't develop confidence in their public speaking abilities.
Capacity: Most leaders are super busy, exhausted, and they don't have the time, energy, or support to develop these abilities. In addition, while there is a desire to improve, there isn't always adequate leadership support to help carve out the required time, energy, mental, emotional and physical capacity to dedicate to this.
Capability: They lack the practical skills and knowledge to write, design and deliver influential presentations that inspire action and so stitch together ad hoc bits of Googled "How to" articles and videos to help them improve, but that actually hamper their abilities more and slow down their progress.
Competence: With little to no time to rehearse, or practice their skills, they're oftentimes throwing something together, and hoping for the best as they read their notes off of badly composed slides and notes.
"Your Why is your purpose for existing. It speaks to a leader's cause and belief that drives them to start a movement that achieves a better future through a collective goal. When a leader invites people to join their cause, they're inviting them to belong to a community." Simon Sinek
Without a why, we have no purpose, and no drive.
We have but 3 wobbly legs that might balance for some time on their own, until the first wind of doubt blows them over, or another competing why takes their top.
With so many competing whys in our lives, that demand our attention, energy and capacity, it's up to us and our leaders to help support us in tabling the genuine capacity we have to develop our full potential.
I love the African proverb,
"If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together."
While we could possibly do it alone, don't do what I did and struggle through many years trying to make it on my own. Please, ask for support, get real about what is truly meaningful for you in your role, and career, and table it so that you can accelerate your capabilities, and level of competence you need to make your aspirations a reality.
Here are 3 final questions I'll leave you with to ponder:
How much capacity (time, desire, energy, money etc.) do you have to increase your confidence, influence, impact in public speaking, and how can you create the capacity you need to do that?
What are the specific skills and knowledge you need that would enable you to be a more competent presenter?
What's the first action you will take today to support yourself (or a team member) in building a solid presenting platform to present your important ideas?
And finally, what would it mean to you and your career if you were able to do all of that?
As I said, please don't try go it alone! I'd love to help you avoid all the struggle, and challenges I went through to develop my presenting abilities.
With my over 20 years' worth of experience as a presenter, to a wide range of audiences, and across multiple platforms, I channel this experience and expertise into all my programs.
The Voice Code® is our series of programs that are specially designed to help you increase your confidence, clarity and credibility when you present.
Here are 3 ways you can work with me:
Awaken the Genius with our 1:1 Coaching Program. And yes, we all have a communicating genius inside of us that needs to be unlocked.
Illuminate your Path to success with our practical Training Program. We'll give you the skills, tools and knowledge you need to write, design and deliver influential presentations.
Fascinate your Audience with our Speaker Mentoring Programs. If you have an upcoming presentation and need mentoring to help you co-create your content, slide design and help you with delivery, our 3 mentoring programs have been carefully designed to suit your needs: Rehearse, Refine or Reimagine.
We're also able to tailor our programs to suit your and your team's specific needs.
Get in touch with me today on (+64) 22 036 8139 for more info, and let us help you take the struggle out of speaking!
Thanks for reading my story. I trust you found some value in these 3 articles and I wish you every bit of sturdy, solid tabling of your phenomenal dreams.
Remember, when it comes to you and your value, there is nothing you could add to something to make it more valuable when it is already intrinsically invaluable.
YOU are the most invaluable you can possibly ever be - and that value is off the charts!!
As for increasing your confidence, it's as simple as 1, 2, 3 - capacity, capability and competence, with a WHY cherry on the top. Not always easy, but really simple!
Finally, Esteem and Confidence a bit like red wine and tequila - great on their own, lethal when they're mixed. 😉 Here's to never mixing them again.
All my best,
P.s. Here's a brilliant podcast episode from The Talking Stick, with Executive Coach from Australia, Jay Hedley that speaks more to the difference between self-confidence and self-esteem: https://open.spotify.com/episode/24ociRachSEUSHXxwPpwZR?si=a715dfdcf91e4fce