3 Keys to Building and Maintaining Confidence and Confidentiality


“Confidence” is the feeling or belief that you can rely on someone to do what they say they will do, including keeping personal information confidential.  In supervisor and coaching relationships there must be mutual confidence between the parties for mutual trust to be developed.  Here are three keys to developing confidence in a relationship. 

1. Set confidentiality ground rules.

This may seem unnecessary, but just setting a ground rule that all information about each other is to be held in confidence unless there is agreement to the contrary can help create an environment of trust. This will create an atmosphere where the parties are willing to be vulnerable with each other, making it easier to be helpful to the other person.

2. Be honest about expectations and abilities.

In supervisor or coaching relationships it is critical that each party understand the capabilities and expectations of the other. This requires that honest evaluation of what is expected from the other person and what the other person feels competent to deliver is made clear. Supervisors must have confidence that the employee understands and is able to deliver. The employee must have confidence that the supervisor is providing complete information about expectations and the resources necessary for success. Failure in either of these areas can lead to lack of confidence.

3. Keep promises.

This is simple; do what you say you will do. People need to be able to rely on others if trust is going to be maintained. When you can’t do what you say you will do, then make sure that you make the other person aware at the earliest possible time so that surprises are eliminated. The ability to rely on the other person to do what they say they will do and to protect that which is told in confidence is critical to the development of mutual trust in a relationship.

3 Essential Components of Mutual Trust

There is an old saying that “relationships are built on trust” and it goes without saying that trust must go both ways for a relationship to grow.  Effective supervisors know that there are three primary components to building trust.

  1. Shared Purpose:  Both parties are interested in achieving the same thing in the relationship, and believe that the other person shares that purpose.  If either party thinks that the other is not interested in or actively helping with the achievement of a common purpose, then trust is diminished.  For example, if the employee perceives the boss as only interested in making him/herself look good and not in helping the employee to progress, then shared purpose does not exist and trust is diminished.
  2. Mutual Respect:  Each person shows respect to the other.  Notice that we say “shows respect” not “likes” the other person.  While it helps, it is not necessary to like the other person; but it is essential that you show respect for the person as a person.  One of the primary ways that respect is demonstrated is by taking the time to listen to each other in an attempt to completely understand before giving advice.
  3. Confidence and Confidentiality:  This is the willingness and ability to confide in each other and depend on the candid, truthful feedback from the other.  It is also the knowledge that each person can depend on the other to do what they say they will do.  Failure to maintain dependability and confidentiality are sure ways to diminish confidence and trust in a relationship.

Over the next three weeks we will examine each of these in more detail to determine how to go about executing each one.

Why Do I have to Tell Them Everything?

We all want our employees to take appropriate initiative in their jobs because it makes our jobs a lot easier and makes the employees’ jobs more interesting.  Here are four critical factors in getting increased initiative on the job.

  4 Keys to Increasing Employee Initiative


1.)  Tell them that you want it.  Giving permission to show initiative can open the door to appropriate “initiative taking.”  Some people have been punished in the past for acting before being told and they are reluctant to step out again.  The first key is to let them know that you want them to take appropriate initiative.

2.)  Focus on confidence-building.  The key to building confidence is to give people meaningful activities to accomplish and then follow success with your recognition.  Remember that “meaningful” is in the “eye of the beholder”.  What you see as meaningful may not be seen the same way by the employee.  Take time to know your employees’ aspirations and engineer opportunities for meaningful success.

3.)  Reinforce initiative taking.  Certainly recognize success, but even when failure occurs you can recognize the effort.  You never want to recognize/reward failure because that creates confusion about expectations, but you can recognize that the person attempted something and that you want them to continue showing initiative.  For example, you might say, “Even though the result was not what was expected, I want to thank you for trying it on your own.  I appreciate your initiative.  Now let’s talk about how to get a better result.”

4.)  Redirect failure without reducing self-esteem.  Aways focus negative feedback on the result, behavior, or both, but never on the person as a person.  Blaming the person only serves to reduce self-esteem and reduces the probability of taking initiative in the future.


3 Keys to Building Confident Employees

Most supervisors want employees who are willing to show appropriate initiative in their work - employees who do things without having to be told to do them.  How many of you would like for your children to clean their room without being told?  OK, maybe that is a little far fetched, but you get the idea.  We know from a lot of research over the past 50-years that people with confidence are much more willing to take initiative.  With this in mind, really good supervisors do everything they can to instill confidence in their employees.  So how do they do it? There are three essentials to building confident employees (and children): 

1.  Evaluate strengths and weaknesses

2.  “Engineer Opportunities for Success” based on those strengths and weaknesses  

3.  Acknowledge success to increase confidence

First, you have to honestly evaluate what each employee is really good at and where they could use some improvement.  Second, “engineer opportunities for success” primarily for the areas needing improvement, but also for the areas that are already strengths.  Remember, while we can learn from failure, confidence is built primarily on successes.  Finally, “acknowledge the success”.  People need positive feedback from important people in their lives, and as a supervisor or parent, you are significant.  Be a confidence builder and you will find that things get done faster and with less of your effort.