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What Comes First: Mindset or Confidence?

Updated: Mar 7, 2021

A chicken and egg question:

In a recent client conversation, my client and I were again revisiting her goals - specifically her sales plan. She wants to grow her company to its next phase of size. She knows how she and her team are different and knows they do really great work together.

The plan and potential were there in front of her. Behind her comments and the plan, there was something holding her back. I could hear pieces of mindset, or her attitude, and a vulnerability to her confidence for the next steps and getting to work. We openly talked about how she was showing up. She agreed with what I was seeing, hearing and feeling. Where should we go in our work to get to her aspired results? Mindset or confidence?

Gaining perspective

I have a focus on mindset in my work with clients. My foundational reference point comes from Dr. Carol Dweck’s work. I first wrote a post about this in: Is your mind set or do you have mindset?

It’s a reference article I use regularly with my experienced and/or technical clients. I work with my clients in knowing their fixed mindset and using their growth mindset. Research shows the best success is realized with a growth mindset. The fixed mindset has a peak, or cap, to it.

The growth mindset can take you further to realize potential and results.

Confidence is another permeated theme running through my client work, especially in work that is surrounded by a theme of change. Doing new things and learning new habits and skills puts confidence in a vulnerable place. The high stakes of moving into a new skill or flexing your personality is failure. In our highly competitive work environments, feeling competent and capable is essential.

The tension point to feeling confident is knowing that the status quo is rarely an option for most leaders.

What to work on: mindset or confidence?

I posed this question to one of the coaching forums of which I am a member to see what their take was. Even in this group there were views on both. Many of the comments saw mindset as the fuel to confidence. A couple of the network felt that if you had the growth mindset, you already had confidence.

Both mindset and confidence are foundational to successful leadership. Both are foundations of who you are, how you show up and how you do your best work.

Putting your growth mindset to work

Your mindset, or your attitude, is comprised of five elements, according to Dr. Carol Dweck. Your mindset is how you see:

1. Challenges

2. Effort

3. Obstacles

4. Criticism

5. Success of others

It’s about how you see learning. It’s the continuous learning of skills, habits and actions.

Putting your confidence to work

I tackled this topic broadly in the post The Game of Confidence. If I get even more focused on what it takes to build and have confidence, I’d say it comes down to action. You build confidence by doing; or, to use the term in my model, execution. Confidence is a belief in your abilities. If you’ve worked on your abilities, you feel good about yourself.

Getting to action is where your growth mindset gets called into play. You may encounter challenges and obstacles. Important goals most likely will demand effort. And you may possibly experience failure. One of the most important aspects of a growth mindset is to see failure as learning. If you want to flip how mindset could play out, look at it as a gains not a loss mindset.

A mindset for confidence

Want the easy answer?

It’s all going to start with your mindset. The three themes to your success will be mindset, skills and execution. This is the Pivotal Success Formula. There is much more behind each of these themes.

Pivotal Coaching Success Formula

The successful ending

My client embraced her growth mindset, her discomfort, and got to work. Within two days, she had the successful outcome to what she’d been mulling over for a couple weeks.

We have the answers, and most importantly the potential within us, yet there are times when we need to see things differently. A certified coach is trained and skilled to help people identify, clarify, take action and change to realize their goals.

Wondering about your mindset? We have a diagnostic tool to measure your, your team's and your company's mindset. Contact Us

Interested in reading what the experts have to say?

Here are a couple of my favourites:

·• Mindset: The Psychology of Success

• The Confidence Code

• 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

• Blink

I’d love to hear about other books you’d recommend on the topics of mindset, confidence and success.


Lisa W. Haydon is a high business acumen leader, credentialed sales professional, and executive coach. Lisa has led teams and clients in industries such as banking, commercial lending, capital markets, technology, consulting, and professional services. Her hands-on experience in executing change and growth mandates enhances client results. She is known for delivering transformational results with diagnostic tools, consulting and coaching.

Lisa is the founder of Pivotal Coaching, which specializes in sales effectiveness and leadership development services for companies optimistic and ambitious about growth. More information is available on the Pivotal Coaching website. For more on its proprietary diagnostic tool, visit our services page.

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