Throughout our professional careers, not everything will go according to plan. These times are the true learning experiences. We use what we learn when things go awry to make it better next time, to avoid that same misstep, and how to handle adversity.

Knowing we can survive professionally when we miss the mark and come away from it smarter than when we started, is exactly the confidence builder we need to try new things, talk to new people, and learn new ideas.

In the hiring process, when we interview candidates we often ask them to tell us about a time when something didn’t go as planned and how they handled it. We’re looking for their problem-solving abilities, the ability to shift priorities, the lesson they learned from the experience and what they would do differently next time. 

Lynne Doughtie, Chairman and CEO of KPMG US at Davos, stated in a recent interview that confidence doesn’t come only from self-talk, it comes from action.  “…jump in, do it, impress the heck out of yourself, that’s how you get confidence. And then as each new challenge and opportunity comes, you jump in again. You do it. You say: “OK, I can do this.” And that’s how the confidence builds.

Confidence reduces the nervousness that can leave us tongue-tied, fumbling for ideas or simply stuck in the mode of inactivity. It comes from actually doing something and finding out for ourselves that we can not only do it but be successful at it. Business development success builds this way.

We all have to get uncomfortable to grow. Growth doesn’t happen in a state of comfort. Your firm won’t bring in new clients, generate additional revenue, or grow the top and bottom lines if the professionals within it just do as they have always done.

As you’re getting uncomfortable and trying something new, expect a few mistakes will be made along the way. The important thing is to own them. Then share the stories in your firm. We share success stories because we want to repeat what works well and how to do it, but we also need to share stories of when we’ve fallen on our faces. By sharing your experience and the lesson learned with others, you become a confidence generator. Others in the firm will take action because they saw first-hand that you made a mistake and lived to tell about it. Now they’re more educated as they venture into new experiences as they’re armed with your knowledge. 

Mistakes make us wiser and guide us appropriately for the future. They should never halt our progress. Don’t dwell on mistakes, but learn from them and share that wisdom with your firm so you can continue to move forward and grow. You and your firm will be better for it. 

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Christine Nietzke