Hey goal achievers! You might remember that I believe confidence is critical in our goal achievement journeys. And recently, I invited a confidence expert to share her perspectives and ideas around growing confidence on the Elite Achievement podcast.
I am excited to introduce you to one of my mentors, Nicole Kalil. Nicole spent most of her professional life with a Fortune 500 company, where her passion for leadership led her to become the first female Chief Development Officer in company history. Working in the male-dominated industry of financial services gave her both experience and insight into what’s working and what may not be working within an organization.
Nicole has coached over 1,000 women in business, consults with Fortune 500 companies and speaks to women and leaders about winning at work, at home and as a team. She is a self-admitted foodie and enjoys wine tasting and reading and whatever free time she has.
Nicole has definitely played a huge role in helping me grow the confidence to get on a microphone and share insights and perspectives with the world through my podcast, so the first thing I wanted to ask was about her business and the podcast, This is Woman’s Work, and why she got started.
Nicole shared right away that it was a big question with a big answer.
“Somebody told me once, many years back, that we should all have a purpose or a passion or a mission that’s so big, we can’t even see achieving it in our lifetime. So big, it doesn’t even seem possible. And for me that big mission that seems impossible in my lifetime is to eliminate gender expectations so that we can all show up here to be who we are meant to be, to live our purposes, to play to our strengths and to not feel confined by the bodies or the genders we happen to show up in. That’s my big mission,” Nicole explains. “And I figured I should probably start where I can be the most relevant and where I have the most experience and that is what it is to be a woman in today’s world. This is Woman’s Work is a sort of a play on (and I put in air quotes woman’s work) the message that we’ve been receiving over time about what we should be doing as women, or what our roles are – what we’re put here to do and be. My goal is to redefine together, what that is, again, so we can be our whole true authentic selves.”
This is just one of the reasons I appreciate Nicole. She has a huge and important mission. And I know as a woman and mother, and also a wife, and business owner, there are a lot of expectations that we as women have. And it’s such a unique time where we’re redefining those expectations and seeing more women step up, taking risks, doing what they want and showing up in business differently. I’m also seeing more men stepping up and taking on more responsibilities at home and with their children. It’s such meaningful and important work I can’t help but thank Nicole for the work she is doing.
Nicole explains that it’s her pleasure and passion. She notes that during this season of COVID, even with disparities or discrepancies that exist, we’re seeing them highlighted. And that although it may not be true for every woman or relationship, generally, it’s apparent that women still carry the majority of the load when it comes to caregiver responsibilities and parenting. “You know, as we all face uncertain times and confusion, I hope we all just stay kind with each other because we’re all doing the best we can,” she says.
I have to agree. This is a season where we need a lot of grace from ourselves and others. While at the same time, ditching some of those rigid expectations that might not serve us well. I shift back to Nicole’s area of expertise. Knowing that she started a company whose mission is all about redefining gender roles, I’m curious where she got the necessary confidence and begin by asking her to define confidence and what it means to her.
“Let me be clear that my confidence, like everybody’s, has been a journey,” Nicole starts. “How do you climb Mount Everest? One step at a time. And that’s how you build confidence. It wasn’t until my mid-20s that I really started paying attention to confidence as a skill. I was noticing people who were very successful and happy and portrayed confidence and I started really paying attention to what was different about them,” Nicole explains.
“I read every book and article I could get my hands on.” Nicole explains that she is not a confidence prodigy who was born with the skill but rather a student of confidence, one that has grown her confidence muscle over time. She explains that no one (unless delusional) is confident at all times, but it is a skill that can be developed. What’s encouraging is her explanation that wherever you are currently, when it comes to confidence, is a place that you can have the opportunity to build from.
I think through what Nicole has shared already and notice a couple of critical aspects to confidence. First, that it’s a journey. And second, that you can intentionally grow your confidence through books, articles and more. But Nicole has brought in a second topic by mentioning the element of courage that goes hand in hand with confidence.
Nicole goes on to agree that the two “1,000%” go together. “Confidence is built through action alone. All the learning, all the reading, all the thinking, all the observing I did was very, very helpful,” Nicole says. But at the end of the day, the only thing any of us can do to build our confidence is act our way into it. Confidence is built through action – little risks, little choices, little acts of bravery and courage along the way build big confidence.”
Not the huge things, Nicole shares, but the little acts of courage. Like the conversations that make you nervous or other little risks, these are the things that lead to big confidence.
I wholeheartedly agree with what Nicole has just pointed out because I work with many of my clients around celebrating their wins. A lot of times on the goal achievement journey, we want to achieve that big goal. And we wait until we’ve mastered that goal before we celebrate. But by listening to Nicole, I’m hearing her say that confidence grows through the small courageous acts done over and over. Maybe the conversation, the posting on social media, the asking for a referral or the calling someone on your phone list that freaks you out – it’s these little acts that build your courage muscle that then lead to building your confidence that then leads to your goal achievement. They’re all interestingly connected together.
Nicole shares how those little acts of courage build confidence because they remove the scary scenarios our brains make up for us. “In reality, we imagine worst-case scenarios, right?” says Nicole. “So, when we do these little things, first of all, we don’t die, we’re still alive. So, you know, like, Yay. And that’s confidence building. There’s this knowing that begins to happen – if I can do that, and it actually works. Even if it doesn’t work out, it’s rarely as bad as I think it’s going to be, and I’ve also learned something, or I’ve grown in a particular area. So, I’m proud of myself for doing it in the first place. It’s amazing how it’s the action that builds confidence even more than the result.”
I’m curious to ask Nicole why we never flip the script. Why don’t our brains predict the awesome outcomes when we are getting ready to do something scary that requires courage?
Nicole responds, “I honestly don’t know. I think that’s even worse with women than our male counterparts – the overthinking, over worrying, thinking of the absolute worst-case scenario. It doesn’t serve us in any way other than self-preservation and matters of life and death. Like, if you do something physically risky, then you may want to make sure you’re totally prepared and have thought about all the risks. But we apply that to some of the smallest decisions, and it harms us more than we know.”
I’m curious to talk about the things that we do that hinder or de-rail our confidence and ask Nicole for some examples from her coaching experiences and work consulting with organizations.
She starts with a top-five list and, at the top, is perfectionism – holding ourselves to unrealistic expectations of perfection – and then beating ourselves up when we don’t achieve it.
“I call that beating ourselves up head trash. So that’s the second confidence de-railer, it’s the stuff we say to ourselves about ourselves in our own head that is very rarely true, and almost never kind,” Nicole shares.
“The third one is judgment, and comparison, whether it be of yourself or others. The fourth is overthinking, over-processing, over worrying. And the fifth one is the belief or myth or expectation, that confidence is going to come to us externally – that we’re going to build our confidence, via, you know, compliments, attention, validation, achievements, promotions.”
Nicole explains that while all those things can make us feel good, if we’re looking to them to build our confidence, we’re probably doing more damage than good, causing us to de-rail on the confidence journey.
Since most of Nicole’s work is with women, she notes that some of these play out more frequently in women than men, specifically the perfectionism and head trash combo. She talks about how we, as women, have the expectation that we’ve got to do it all, be good at it all and look good while doing it all. In her experience, men’s version of perfectionism affects their career path most often, while women’s version affects every aspect of their life.
Nicole shares an example. “It became obvious to me when a woman, who had listened to my podcast, and I talked about head trash. Her fiancé listened to the same episode and was so confused about this concept of head trash. He couldn’t believe that we have voices in our heads that are unkind that say we’re not good enough, that we’re not smart enough, that we’re not this enough, all the time. And she couldn’t believe that he couldn’t believe it! She was shocked that he doesn’t have this internal voice, knocking him down all day long. I think it was a good moment for them in their relationship where he was like, I can’t believe you’re walking around with this all day.”
We know a lot of our expectations come from the judgment and comparison side, which has been more prevalent in recent years as social media has grown. It’s not that comparison didn’t exist before, but now we have a whole new environment, so we have to pay a little more attention to this confidence de-railer and how we’re letting it play out.
As I think about my social media journey, particularly for my new business, I know I have been very intentional with who I follow and who I allow on my Instagram feed. I need to fill that feed with other fierce females, with motivational speakers, with individuals who share like values. People that love their families and practice gratitude.
I’ve chosen to use the platform in a way that hopefully boosts my confidence. And yet there are still times I see other things, like Nicole and where she is in her business and question why I’m not there yet. I know I can’t compare my beginning with someone else’s middle or end, but comparison can still sneak in.
Nicole shares a helpful quote, “Be careful not to compare your behind the scenes to somebody else’s highlight reel.” She adds that she chooses to be intentional as well, following people with certain qualities, one of which is keeping it real. “Anybody who tries send the message that they have all the answers or that they are perfect, or that they’re confident all the time or that they don’t make mistakes, etc. – I just don’t have space for that because first of all, it’s not real and second of all, I think it reinforces what we’re talking about. It is making the casual observer, or the person on the outside think that everything is sunshine and rainbows. And that makes us feel like there’s something wrong in our lives because it’s not all sunshine and rainbows all the time,” Nicole says.
In reality, there are going to be storms. But Nicole reminds us that while we don’t feel great when we’re in the midst of them, there is value. You can have the confidence to know that you’ll be ok and that you’ll come out of the other side of it better in some way.
Knowing that is sometimes easier than putting it into practice. I ask Nicole to share some of the things that she coaches her clients or has done personally to build the confidence to know it will be ok on the other side.
Nicole dives right in. “Number one, I lived in California, the bulk of my life and recently moved out to Massachusetts, about three and a half years ago. I’ve learned a little bit more about preparing for storms. And that’s sort of the point is to be prepared for a storm. You know they’re coming but you don’t know how bad they’re going to be or how long they’re going to last. So, there are a few things that I do in preparation for storms. Number one, I surround myself with quotes everywhere. There are certain quotes that I think are more helpful or better reminders when times are tough so I make sure I have those out. I also have something I’ve created called a recovery plan.
I have a free downloadable version of the recovery plan, so you can create your own on my website. Plus, I share mine, so you can see an example. I have a list of things I know to be true about me at this point in my life. And I update that a couple times a year. I’ve been doing this since my late 20s. It’s a reminder of who I am, what I can count on about myself, what my strengths are, what my talents are, and who I am and how I’m wired.
During the storm, I can go back to that list. And that’s what gives me confidence in me. I don’t necessarily have confidence in how everything’s going to work out or how somebody else is going to respond or what the result is going to be. But it’s a way of reconnecting to myself and what I can count on even during the storm.
Then the last thing I’ll tell you is, and I think this is true for all of us, we’ve all lived through storms. And at this point, we’ve survived 100% of them, right? Because we’re still here. And so, it’s that reminder in it where I’m like, ok, I’ve lived, maybe not this exact scenario, but I’ve lived through storms before. And if I look back, I can always see how I’ve come out better because of what I’ve learned, how I’ve grown, how it’s made choices a little bit more obvious, whatever the case may be.
So, reminding myself of that during a storm can be really helpful. Because again, it’s just that grounding of internal confidence that says, I’m going to make it through this. And I have a choice to come out better. And I have a choice to learn things. And I have a choice to make decisions. I can’t always choose what’s happening to me, but I can always choose my reactions and my choices from there.”
What I love about Nicole’s recovery plan is that you look to the things you know to be true about yourself so that you can pull those out if you start feeling less than confident or negative mental narratives start running rampant. You can get back to who you truly are and connect to that authenticity versus allowing stories and self-doubt to take over and run the show.
Nicole agrees. She recommends pulling the recovery plan out for a big head trash day, a rough patch or prior to doing something big. “If we have a big decision to make, or if I’m doing a big keynote, or trying to sell something to a new client, it’s something I’ll pull out to remind myself to put myself in the best position of confidence that I can be in – before I do this thing that makes me a little scared or nervous, or a lot nervous – whatever the case may be.”
I’m so thankful for all of Nicole’s recommendations and I’m curious, given how we’ve talked about how confidence impacts different genders, what advice she might have for men, specifically men raising daughters. What would she say to the parents who want to raise their daughters to be more confident as they grow up and enter the professional world?
Nicole jumps in with her professional and personal experience. “I have an almost seven-year-old daughter, fingers and toes crossed that all the things that we’re doing with her are going to make her confident,” says Nicole. “That’s something that’s really important to Jay and I. Number one, specifically with men raising daughters, is to focus on things outside of how your daughter looks. This is such an ingrained societal thing with women – we tend to feel a lot of our value and our confidence is wrapped up in how we look. And so be mindful to focus on when your daughter does something brave. Say things that notice she was very brave. Or how you like that she worked hard on something, regardless of the result.
In our household, we focus a lot on effort, a lot more on what JJ puts into things than we do on the result. Again, that perfectionism thing, if we’re always focused on amazing results, then she’s going to be a results junkie, and she’s going to find her value there. We put a lot of effort on being kind – kind to herself, and others.”
Nicole also reminds us that kids learn through observation and experience. That what we show them is just as important as what we tell them. The more we can demonstrate our belief in our life and profession, the better. This means if you’re a man running a company and you have no women at the leadership level, but you say women can do anything, take the time to check in with yourself.
This is close to my heart because my six-year-old daughter, Scarlett, is one of my big why’s when it comes to the work that I do. I may be scared to do big things but if I take those risks and demonstrate them for her, my hope is that she can grow up believing in herself and that she can also take risks, do big scary things and learn from failures.
Nicole shares that she has a tradition of asking her daughter, “When does mommy love you?” Then walking through some scenarios and answering yes to each, like when mommy is frustrated or traveling, she still loves you then. “I want JJ to know that our love is unconditional and that she doesn’t need to prove herself for it. And that she can be loved completely even when things aren’t going well. Or even when we’re frustrated with each other,” Nicole says. “I think a lot of times with confidence, we relate it to proving ourselves or needing to be good enough and I am trying to teach her that she’s loved no matter what. And even in the times where it doesn’t totally look and feel like it that she can be confident in who she is and that she’s loved.”
As we wrap up our conversation, I thank Nicole for all the great wisdom she shared, from weathering a storm to five confidence de-railers and more. And I ask Nicole to share where we can go deeper on our confidence journey and download her recovery plan.
Through her sites and podcast, Nicole has provided the tools that will help you begin to build your confidence.
Until next time goal achievers, keep celebrating your weekly wins, learning from your lessons and identifying your priorities so you can consistently pursue progress in the direction of your goals.