”You can do it! You just have to believe in yourself!” You’ve probably been on both ends of this encouraging statement at some point in your life. We can do anything if we believe in ourselves. At least that’s what we tell our kids. Maybe it’s about time we start telling our colleagues as well. Our belief in ourselves and our skills, what psychologist Albert Bandura calls self-efficacy, is a great indicator of how well we perform at work and in other areas of our lives.
Did you know that great feedback is a central component in the worklife of highly engaged people? Read more about feedback at feedwork.dk.
What is self-efficacy?
Self-efficacy is about the belief in our own capacity to achieve certain goals, overcome challenges and initiate as well as continue projects. In other words, it’s about how much you believe in yourself, and how this affects your behavior. If you have great faith in your ability to complete the task your boss just gave you, you’ll be more willing to say yes to the task, you’ll struggle less with unexpected bumps on the road, and you’ll keep going even when it gets tough. Since Bandura coined the term in the 1970’s, many research projects have aimed to discover the relation between self-efficacy and behavior. The impressive results have only led to even more research, as it has shown, among other things, that our level of self-efficacy is one of the most accurate determinants for academic success. This is obviously impressive in itself, but what does this look like in the workplace?
If you want to perform well, believe in yourself
A meta-analysis conducted by Stajkovic & Luthans found that your level of self-efficacy is closely related to your work performance. It turns out that self-efficacy has a greater positive correlation with work performance than other typical focus areas such as goal setting and modifications in organizational behavior. In other words, the more you believe in your own skills and capabilities, the better you’ll perform at work. In the end, your boss is only interested in you performing to the best of your abilities, but how can you improve your belief in yourself? And what can your colleagues do to help?
Don’t think you can get through this presentation? Do it anyway.
If you tend to doubt yourself and your abilities and want to believe in yourself more, what do you do? Listen to a motivating podcast? Look at yourself in the mirror and say “You got this!” ten times? While these methods may be beneficial, you need to place your energy elsewhere if you want to make a real difference. Bandura points out mastery experiences as the main source of self-efficacy. This means that you need to experience successfully overcoming challenges. If you don’t believe in yourself, and you want to pass on a presentation to a colleague because you don’t think you could get through it – pull yourself together, make an effort, do the presentation, and have the experience of overcoming a challenge. What’s essential is that you are in an acknowledging environment, which is one of the five pillars of a healthy feedback culture, to ensure that you get the positive feedback that feeds your belief in yourself.
Another condition for the growth of your self-efficacy through mastery experiences is, of course, that you have some degree of autonomy in the workplace, which enables you to attribute your success to yourself. This is important both in terms of self-efficacy, but also your motivation in the workplace. Having a personal success story about overcoming a challenge is the main source to increase belief in yourself.
Lack the courage? Then watch and learn
You may be thinking “sure, easy for you to sit behind the screen and tell me to ‘just do it’,” and you’re right. If it’s too challenging for you, we can seek inspiration from Bandura’s other source to increased self-efficacy: vicarious experiences. This is about observing people you look up to being successful with challenges you’re too scared to take on yourself. If the presentation is too daunting for you, ask a colleague you admire to do it instead. When this colleague does it, and you see how well it went for them, it might help you build the courage to go for it next time – and implicitly strengthen your belief in yourself.
“You can do it! You just have to believe in yourself!”
The last source to self-efficacy is probably the most common in our daily lives: verbal persuasion. When we encourage our colleagues to do things or believe in themselves, we help them increase their self-efficacy. This can be done in many ways, such as “you nailed it last time, you can do it again!”, “you’re way better than you give yourself credit for!” or “I really admire your communication style!” This is very specific, and this source to self-efficacy is all about good colleagues and positive feedback.
So, if you’re feeling insecure and this is keeping you from performing, the best you can do is try to improve your belief in yourself. Go for the tasks you’re intimidated by, watch your colleagues succeed with a difficult task and help others increase their self-efficacy with the good old: “You can do it! You just have to believe in yourself!”