This 5-Step Plan Can Help Female Founders Build Their Confidence
Jenn Willey is Founder and CEO of Wet Cement, a business consultancy that helps companies solve problems. Wet Cement’s gender equity practice, Advance Women at Work, helps companies understand and remove key barriers stunting women’s growth. Willey has spent the last decade focused on advancing women in business and has been at the helm of creating successful strategies, partnerships and teams at companies including PricewaterhouseCoopers, AOL, WebMD, Yahoo!, Independa and others.
Wet Cement recently conducted an independent study of 50 male corporate executives to understand from their perspectives what is holding women back the most in business. The overwhelming response—a lack of confidence. And there are other studies that come to the same conclusion that women are much less likely than men to feel confident, especially in the workplace.
So how can today’s female founders bridge this confidence gap and boost their self-confidence? Jenn Willey, Founder and CEO of Wet Cement, has reviewed the research and found that the more women can catalogue their achievements, the easier it will be for them to feel confident about the work they do.
These findings led Willey to develop a five-step plan to help women measure their impact and articulate what it is they bring to the table, two actions that Willey believes are necessary in order for women to have more confidence.
1. Make a list of all the things you’re most proud of.
Brainstorm a list of all the things you’re most proud of as you look back on the last five years of your career. The list can include projects you worked on, good outcomes achieved when you were a mentor, risks you took, difficult conversations you’ve had, and the business you built (or are still currently building). The list can also include things that have nothing to do with your company or career at all, but make you feel accomplished and good about yourself.
Review your list and add metrics to each line item. “A metric can be anything that helps you measure the impact you made,” says Willey. “If at first you put on your list that you’re great at building client relationships, you need to then turn that into something measurable.” Willey demonstrates how adding a metric can qualify how good you are at something: “’I’m really great at building client relationships” becomes ‘this year, I developed client relationships with six new companies, or my relationship grew this business by 26 percent year-over-year.’” Once you start measuring your accomplishments, it’s easier to see your growth over time, which Willey says is key. “You can now articulate your ability to make an exponential impact, and that is an important part of feeling confident.”
2. Share your list with colleagues and trusted mentors.
Now that you’ve developed your list, share it with those who know you and your work best. According to Willey, the added confirmation and input from trusted colleagues and mentors can help women overcome “imposter syndrome” and feelings of not having anything to bring to the table. “Getting others’ perspectives on your list can help you understand whether your list is accurate, but more importantly, adding the things that are missing—women tend to have a harder time remembering what it is we do exceptionally well.” And according to Willey, saying your accomplishments out loud helps you to ‘own it.’
3. Organize your list into categories.
Once you gather feedback from your supporters, go back to your list and start categorizing it. “Most people will start to see themes emerge from their lists,” says Willey. “You may discover that you’re creative—while you may not have a creative role, you consistently develop and deploy creative strategies. Or perhaps you’re a great team builder. As you categorize your strengths, you’re able to communicate with investors and others what it is that’s great about you as a founder.”
4. Keep your list someplace you can access it easily.
Willey suggests putting your list into whatever tool you use for organization or note-taking (e.g. Google Doc, Evernote, OneNote, Excel). The key is you should be able to access your list from any device at any time. “Before any big meeting, pitch or tough conversation, you can go back to that list and give yourself a confidence boost from reminding yourself where your strengths lie, what you bring to the table, and what you’re most proud of.”
5. Update your list every single week.
Make time in your schedule each week to review and update your list. Willey recommends creating a recurring calendar appointment for yourself for 15 minutes on a weekly basis. “It can be a long time between big wins when you start your own business—for example, going from Series A to Series B, or trying to get a new client or customer on board. Seeing the progress you’re making in between those big wins can serve as fuel to help keep you moving forward,” says Willey. “By reviewing your list on a regular basis, you’ll start to see your baby steps leading towards a big win.”