TZL 1477 (web)



Confidence vs. competence

We need to examine the connection between confidence, competence, and our sense of self in the corporate world.

“I want to be more confident in meetings so I sound like I know what I’m talking about.” When my mentee said this to me, it started a Rube Goldberg series of thoughts. What does it mean to “be confident” and how does it help someone “sound as if they know things?” My thoughts began to swim – what is the connection between confidence and competence?

Janki DePalma, LEED AP, CPSM

My mentee and I decided we needed to explore the connection between confidence, competence, and our sense of self in the corporate work world. I love asking my children for their input too, because a middle-schooler will always shoot you straight. My son matter-of-factly defined both competence and confidence. In his words, competence is having the knowledge of something at a specific level. Confidence is the feeling that you are OK just as you are. Simple, but let’s unpack this. Turns out competence is not exactly a binary function – either you know something or you don’t. My close friend Elaine Dolecek, a principal at EEA Engineers, introduced me to the Hierarchy of Competency

Pyramid. Noel Burch of Gordon Training International coined this four-leveled pyramid of competence that accurately captures the progression from novice to expert through the lens of competence and consciousness. Let’s use my own journey of studying Japanese as an example. You start at an unconscious incompetence – the ultimate beginner stage. I was just learning the alphabet, sentence structure, and making so many unconscious mistakes. You may stay in this stage for a while depending on how hard you work. I didn’t know how bad I was until I started my study abroad in Japan; that’s when I moved into the conscious incompetence stage. This is that stage where you



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