It's about curing the disease to please; recognising how to break silence; and ‘chunking down’ overwhelming tasks.
"Without a doubt, the biggest single thing I've had to battle with...is my self-confidence," said Softcat's Paris King when she took the stage at Computing and CRN's Women in Tech Festival.
Softcat's head of cloud alliances shared three key self-confidence tips with the hundreds of tech and channel professionals - both women and men - who attended the day.
The opening morning's packed agenda included keynotes from HSBC's CTO on the importance of diversity and inclusion for growth, and the topic of representation from the perspective of age from Lesley Lloyd.
Next to take to stage - albeit in a virtual capacity - was Softcat's Paris King.
King opened up on how she had tackled self-confidence issues during a nine-year stint at Softcat that has seen her promoted six times.
She shared three key learnings, namely curing the disease to please, recognising how to break her silence in meetings, and ‘chunking down' overwhelming tasks.
"In my nine years at Softcat, I've been promoted six times. Without a doubt, the biggest single thing I've had to battle with throughout those nine years is my self-confidence - and it definitely hasn't gone unnoticed [by management and her colleagues] either. I really had to figure out a way to get confident quick," she said.
Curing the disease to please
Early on in her Softcat career, King admitted she was "the definition of the woman who had the need to please".
"I used to say ‘yes' to everything. I didn't have the confidence to say 'no'. But I got to the point where it was humanly impossible to get everything done that I'd committed to. And that's when I started to drop balls. There were even several occasions when I lost the business money as a result of my over commitment and inability to be able to execute," she said.
The first part of the solution was to learn how and when to say ‘no', King explained, something that she said the ‘priority matrix' (pictured below) - which encourages you to split tasks into urgent/non-urgent and important/not important - helped her with.
"Then it came to the aural expression of saying ‘'no' to people and how to be confident and comfortable doing that."
King simply searched the internet to find phrases that enabled her to explain why she wasn't able to commit to things she'd been asked to.
"The more I got comfortable saying ‘no', the easier it became, and I was able to rinse and repeat. It became a part of the natural make up of how I did my work every day.
"I'm no longer the girl that says ‘yes' to everything…but I am confidently the girl that does everything she says she's going to do."
Breaking the silence
An inability to always speak up in meetings was another challenge King said compromised her confidence early in her managerial career.
This was exacerbated by the fact that she was often the youngest person in the meeting and the only woman, and that she was sometimes managing people she had previously mentored.
King said her approach changed overnight after she was introduced to the concept of the ‘doom loop' (a self-perpetuating downward spiral), and how to break it.
"The realisation of the impact of that negative belief absolutely hit home," she said.
"After I woke up the next morning and joined a management meeting, it was the first time in a couple of months I actually contributed to the discussion."
King admitted she had at times struggled when faced with work challenges that appear "absolutely mammoth" in size.
Her advice is to "chunk down" the task into smaller, more palatable chunks, as she had been shown how to achieve on a charity parachuting challenge she had undertaken.
"I take a similar approach to all the daunting projects I've had in my career," she said.
"I chunk it down into bite-sized parts and work through it bit by bit. It means that I can delegate certain tasks to the best people in my team that have strengths in those areas. It also means we can celebrate the small wins as we go."
In her role, King leads a team of solutions specialists, looking after Softcat's business with Microsoft Azure, AWS and Google Cloud Computing.
"While I still need to work on some of these things, my lack of self confidence doesn't consume me like it once did," she concluded.