All too often I encounter another accountant who is lacking in confidence. And this invariably holds them back from achieving the success they seek.
Just last week an accountant emailed me back after receiving a message I’d sent out on a totally different topic. Included in her reply was the following:
I know I lack a degree of confidence. I’m on my own, no mentor, no senior. This is daunting.
I’m not very good at small talk and sales patter.
I’m lacking confidence.
I have bags of ambition and drive.
I have a fantastic team of 3 ladies who I have personally trained and I have a huge office with potential for 10 desks.
I struggle to get new clients. I want to get things as right as I can from the outset and have not wished to take on loads more low value clients.
After thanking her for getting in touch I replied:
Stop putting yourself down and reinforcing the negative voices in your head. You are NOT lacking in confidence.
You’ve started your own practice. You have taken office space sufficient for 10 desks. All of that takes a HUGE amount of belief (which is simply another word for confidence). Well done!
And, as you say, you also have a huge amount of ambition and drive. I think perhaps you’re embarrassed by your confidence and you may be concerned it might come across as arrogance if you really let it out. I get that. And it’s good to avoid over doing the confidence.
I also wanted to direct her to some related advice I have shared previously. I was pretty certain I had addressed the issue of accountants and confidence before on this blog. But when I checked back most such posts related more to the problems of being over confident! So here is my further advice that should be of wider application and value.
It’s quite common
In conversation with accountants I am mentoring and with those who belong to The Inner Circle it is often obvious to me that a lack of confidence is causing them issues. Sometimes it prevents them making decisions that are then continually deferred, it makes them nervous about contacting certain clients and scared of quoting fully commercial fees.
One of the great pleasures of my work is that with a degree of understanding and encouragement from me, these same accountants grow in confidence. They tell me about how they are now able to quote fees they only dreamt about some months earlier and that clients are happy to pay them. They are proud to have refused to take on new clients who don’t want any advice; and they are excited by the future as they now know they can attract the sort of referrals and recommendations they always wanted.
There’s no magic involved(!) Building your confidence starts by accepting that you are better than you think when someone who knows you and knows enough other accountants (like me) tells you honestly that you’re at least as good as average – possibly better.
But you can also boost your confidence alone.
How to become more confident
Here’s a few tips I have encouraged accountants to adopt – and which I have been told have worked for them:
One popular technique is to get a character, toy or figurine to keep on your desk. Imagine them as your Positive Reinforcer (PR). When that negative voice in your head saps your confidence, imagine your PR guy/gal encouraging you onwards.
Keep a note of every success. Each day, note down these Positive Reinforcements (PR) to remind you of when you make things go well, so that you can focus on these – and NOT on the times when things don’t go so well. Review your PR notes – especially before your next interaction with a client where your lack of confidence has previously weakened you.
Celebrate your achievements so that you spend less time dwelling on the other occasions which didn’t go so well, but which contained valuable lessons. Note them down as Positive Reinforcement (PR) of lessons learned.
Accept praise and compliments. You do deserve them. Do not dismiss them. The ‘imposter syndrome’ is very common in all walks of life. You do deserve the success you enjoy.
If all else fails, fake it. Even if you don’t feel particularly confident, act as if you do. You may be pleasantly surprised at how positively this can affect people’s reactions to you. There’s also another good reason to practice faking confidence. I have also heard it said that the more you practice acting in a confident manner, the more it will increase your inner confidence. Just ensure you don’t come across as arrogant. And also be careful you don’t give definitive advice when you are not really confident it is 100% correct.
Confidence is self-perpetuating. Once you have it, you can use it to push yourself to succeed, which will build your confidence even further.
Want some help?
My confidence in my own ability to help sole practitioners to become more successful has fluctuated over the years.
Back in 2006 I had a wider focus and initially listened to those of my friends and colleagues who told me that I was bound to be successful as a mentor and speaker. They boosted my ego by referencing my reputation, credibility and high profile in the profession. I was prepared to listen. But then it soon became clear that few people were beating a path to my door. My confidence plummeted.
Over the last few years I have had plenty of successes and I am now confident of the value I deliver to sole practitioner accountants. This is one of the reasons why I offer a very low cost entry level facility to experience my style and advice. But equally I offer premium level 1-2-1 mentoring support and advice. Part of the value accountants get from me, where appropriate, is help, support and encouragement to become more self confident in their interactions with prospects and clients.