The Confidence Code
eBook - ePub

The Confidence Code

Katty Kay,Claire Shipman

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  1. 256 pagine
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

The Confidence Code

Katty Kay,Claire Shipman

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Following the success of Lean In and Why Women Should Rule the World, the authors of the bestselling Womenomics provide an informative and practical guide to understanding the importance of confidence—and learning how to achieve it—for women of all ages and at all stages of their career.

Working women today are better educated and more well qualified than ever before. Yet men still predominate in the corporate world. In The Confidence Code, Claire Shipman and Katty Kay argue that the key reason is confidence.

Combining cutting-edge research in genetics, gender, behavior, and cognition—with examples from their own lives and those of other successful women in politics, media, and business—Kay and Shipman go beyond admonishing women to "lean in."Instead, they offer the inspiration and practical advice women need to close the gap and achieve the careers they want and deserve.

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Informazioni

Anno
2014
ISBN
9780062230645
Argomento
Business
1
IT’S NOT ENOUGH TO BE GOOD
Even before we found the door, we could hear, and feel, the pounding and thumping and barked direction echoing down the halls. We had come to the bowels of Washington, DC’s massive sports complex, the Verizon Center, on a hunt for raw confidence. We wanted to see it in action, to watch it on the basketball court, where, we surmised, confidence must be impervious to the turbulence of ordinary life, untroubled by gender battles, and stripped down to its essence. We were looking for that “aha” moment, a depiction of confidence so clear and compelling that it would shake up our female psychological GPS and shout, “This way. This is what your destination looks like. This is where you go.”
It was the opening practice of the Washington Mystics’ 2013 season, and the first thing we noticed, as we stepped inside the gritty, basement practice court, was the towering physique of the women. It wasn’t simply that they soared, on average, to above six feet tall and possessed muscled arms we could only dream of. There was an air of command about them that came from having mastered one of the most aggressive and challenging professional sports that women can play.
Tracking down unadulterated confidence isn’t easy. We’d seen plenty of stuff like it demonstrated in boardrooms, in political offices, and on factory floors. But often that confidence seemed fleeting, or warped by social dictates. Sometimes it just felt phony; a well-crafted performance hiding deep wells of self-doubt. We’d figured that sports would be somehow different. You can’t fake confidence on the 94-by-50-foot polished floors of a professional basketball court. To win here you have to believe in yourself. No doubting, no debating, no dithering. As with all top athletic pursuits, excellence is precisely measured, chronicled, and judged. And, assuming the basic physical tools are there, the central ingredient for success in competitive sports is confidence. Legions of sports psychologists have testified to its elemental importance to the game. If it weren’t so, and its deficit weren’t a problem, there wouldn’t be sports psychologists in the first place, right?
That’s why we knew women’s basketball would be a rich laboratory for us. Moreover, this particular petri dish is one of the few in which grown women can be observed working together mostly in isolation from men, which takes away a major confidence inhibitor.
There was plenty of action and intensity on the court that morning. The Mystics were trying to fight their way back from the worst two seasons in the WNBA’s seventeen-year history. We were watching two players in particular. Monique Currie, or Mo, as her teammates call her, is a DC native—a prep school, and then Duke, basketball phenom. She’s a star forward for the team, and the toughest player we saw. Her shoulders are strikingly broad, even for her six-foot frame, and they took on a determined curve as she attacked the basket again and again.
Crystal Langhorne, at six feet two inches, is a power forward. When she was in high school, her devout father had to be persuaded to let her play ball on Sundays. As a pro, she’s gone from mediocre rookie to all-star player, with a lucrative Under Armour endorsement deal. A white headband held back her long dark hair as she glided toward the basket, shooting with Zen-like ease.
We’d only been there a few moments when an intense scrimmage started and there it was: a performance so fierce it fueled a dazzling blur of perfectly timed passing, artful fakes, and three-point shots. It was a startling show of agility and power.
Confidence is the purity of action produced by a mind free of doubt. That’s how one of our experts defines it. And that’s what we’d just seen on the court, we thought in triumph.
After practice, though, we found something else. When we sat down to talk with Monique and Crystal, our perfect snapshot blurred with a multitude of doubts and contradictions. Not even here, in the WNBA, had they quite broken the confidence barrier.
Without the court as a backdrop and out of their sleek athletic gear, Monique and Crystal looked somewhat less intimidating. Now they were just exceptionally tall, attractive young women, who, visibly drained, sank with relief into plush armchairs in the VIP room. Monique, who’d changed into a slim jean jacket and T-shirt, immediately became intense and engaged on the subject of confidence. We got the sense it came up a lot.
“Sometimes as players you can kind of struggle with your confidence,” said Monique, “because things might not be going well, because you think you’re not playing as well as you can. But to be playing at this level you have to believe in what you can do and you have to believe in your ability.”
Crystal nodded, her face partially obscured by a Yankees cap. Then she joined in, noting that there’s plenty that messes with female players’ confidence that doesn’t seem to affect the men. “Let’s say I have a bad game,” she suggested. “I’ll think, ‘Oh my gosh, we lost’ and I’ll feel like I really wanted to help the team win, and win for the fans. With guys, if they had a bad game, they’re thinking, ‘I had a bad game.’ They shrug off the loss more quickly.”
What was striking in talking to Crystal and Monique was that with every answer a comparison to the guys popped up, even before we asked about it. And the Mystics don’t even compete directly with men. Indeed, the frustrations sounded so familiar that we could have been having this conversation with a group of women in our line of work. Why do men usually just assume they’re so great? Why do mistakes and backhanded comments just seem to slide off them?
“On the court, it’s kind of hard to say certain things or play rough,” Crystal said, “because women get hurt feelings. Our assistant coach says guys just curse each other out and then forget about it.”
“Not me,” noted Monique, with a wry grin. “I’m a mean player.”
“Mo is different—she is more like a male athlete,” Crystal said, laughing in agreement. “You could say something to Mo and she would brush it off. She can yell. I’ve played with Mo for a while, so I know how she is.”
Still, even Monique rolled her eyes when asked whether her wellspring of confidence is really as deep as that of the men. “For guys,” said Monique, in the slightly mystified, irritated tone that we’d come to recognize, “I think they have maybe thirteen- or fifteen-player rosters, but all the way down to the last player on the bench, who doesn’t get to play a single minute, I feel like his confidence and his ego is just as big as the player’s who is the superstar of the team.” She smiled, shook her head, and went on. “For women it’s not like that. If you’re not playing, or if you’re not considered one of the better players on the team, I think it really messes with our confidence.”
We wondered what the Mystics coach, whom we’d noticed during practice, thought about all of this. A half foot shorter and twice the age of most of the players, Mike Thibault, clad in a navy team polo, was one of the few men on the court. A legendary WNBA coach who brought years of victories to the rival Connecticut Sun, he’d just arrived in Washington with the mission of helping to turn the Mystics’ fortunes around. He was in a unique position to talk about the subject of confidence in male and female athletes, having trained both. As an NBA scout, Thibault helped to recruit Michael Jordan. He became an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Lakers and has spent the last ten years coaching women. The propensity to dwell on failure and mistakes, and an inability to shut out the outside world are, in his mind, the biggest psychological impediments for his female players, and they directly affect performance and confidence on the court.
“There’s probably a distinction between being tough on themselves and too judgmental,” he said. “The best male players I’ve coached, whether it’s Jordan or people like that, they are tough on themselves. They push themselves. But they also have an ability to get restarted more quickly. They don’t let setbacks linger as long. And the women can.”
“It’s very hard for me because sometimes I kind of hold on to things longer than I should,” agreed Mo. “I can get down on myself about missing a shot, even though I know I worked for it—it’s still an adjustment to say, ‘All right, just let the play go—move on to the next play.’ Even at thirty, and after eight seasons at WNBA, that’s something that I still have to work on.”
“I feel like with women, you still want to please people,” sighed Crystal. “I feel like that’s what happened to me last year, in my playing. That’s my problem, sometimes I just want to please people.”
Mo shrugged. “If you have a male attitude and that type of swagger and confidence in yourself, you play better.”
Honestly, none of this was what we had been expecting or hoping to hear. How ​. . . messy, that even in our perfectly imagined habitat of female basketball stars, the essence of confidence was still elusive—​or at least still battered by the same familiar forces. Monique and Crystal had looked so ​. . . ​purely confident out there on the court. But after thirty minutes of talk we’d uncovered overthinking, people pleasing, and an inability to let go of defeats—three traits we had already realized belonged on a confidence blacklist.
If clean confidence couldn’t be found in professional sports, where was it? We decided to explore a realm in which women are routinely pushed well beyond their comfort zones, in direct competition with men.
Officer Michaela Bilotta had just graduated with honors from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and was one of fourteen members of her class chosen to join the prestigious Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team. The EOD is responsible for dealing with and deactivating chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons in areas of conflict, and its members routinely deploy with Special Operations Forces. To be chosen, you have to be the best. When we congratulated Bilotta on her new post she immediately deflected our praise, calling it “part chance.” We pointed out how she had just, unwittingly, refused to own her achievement. She offered a half smile.
“I think it definitely took me longer than it would have for some other people to admit that I was worthy of it,” Bilotta confessed. “Even though from the outside, I can look in and think, you did all the work and you earned your spot.” She paused. We were sitting with her in her parents’ basement, which, we noticed, was overflowing with sports gear, trophies, and academic plaques—the souvenirs of raising five determined girls. No clues that would have suggested a childhood that didn’t nurture self-belief. “I just doubted it,” she said, shaking her head. “I wondered, ‘how did this happen? I got so lucky.’
Luck. What could be more divorced from luck than passing all of the clearly defined, objectively measured physical and mental and intellectual hurdles that the military neatly lays out for someone like Michaela Bilotta? How was it that she couldn’t see that what she had accomplished wasn’t just a fluke?
Of course, we know exactly how she feels. We too have been masters at attributing our successes to the vagaries of fate. Katty still entertains the notion that her public profile in America is thanks to her English accent, which must, she suspects, give her a few extra IQ points every time she opens her mouth. Claire spent years telling people she was “just lucky”—in the right place at the right time—when asked how she became a CNN correspondent covering the collapse of communism in Moscow when she was still in her twenties.
“For years I really believed that it was all luck. Even as I write this I have to fight that urge. What I’ve realized only recently is that by refusing to take credit for what I had achieved, I wasn’t nurturing the confidence I needed for my next career steps,” she admits. “I was literally quaking when it came time for me to go back to Washington and cover the White House. At the time, I thought to myself, ‘I’ll never learn to report on politics. I don’t know anything about it.’ ” Preoccupied and insecure about whether she would measure up, she should have relied on what she had already achieved to give her a psychological boost.
The more we surveyed the landscape looking for pockets of flourishing confidence, the more we uncovered evidence of a shortage. The confidence gap is a chasm, stretching across professions, income levels, and generations, showing up in many guises, and in places where you least expect it.
At a conference we moderated at the State Department, former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton spoke openly about the fear she felt when she decided to run for the Senate in 2000, after eight years as First Lady, decades as a political spouse, and a successful legal career. “It’s hard to face public failure. I realized I was scared to lose,” she told us. That caught us off guard. “I was finally pushed,” she said, “by a high school women’s basketball coach, who told me, ‘Sure, you might lose. So what? Dare to compete, Mrs. Clinton. Dare to compete.’
Elaine Chao dared to compete. She was the country’s first Chinese-American cabinet secretary. For eight years, she served President George W. Bush as labor secretary, the only cabinet member to stay with the president through his entire administration. There wasn’t much in her background to predict such lofty heights. Chao was born in Taiwan; she came to the United States on a freight ship at the age of eight, after her father finally managed to get together enough money to pay the fare. Her rise reads like a classic tale of hard work, risk, and ironclad confidence.
But when we asked Chao if she ever doubted her abilities during those years in office, she was wonderfully candid, and funny. “Constantly,” she replied. “I’m Asian American, are you kidding? My fear was that the newspapers would have blaring headlines like: ‘Elaine Chao Failed, Disgraced Whole Family.’
We’d figured, and hoped, that the younger generation might have markedly different tales to tell. But their stories are eerily similar. It is hard to imagine a more successful Gen-Y’er than Clara Shih, for example. The thirty-one-year-old tech entrepreneur founded the successful social media company Hearsay Social in 2010. She joined the board of Starbucks at the tender age of twenty-nine. She’s one of the few female CEOs in the still techno-macho world of Silicon Valley. Although she hasn’t let the confidence gap stop her from racking up a string of impressive achievements, even she admits that it has tripped her up. “At Stanford, I found the computer science major very difficult. I really had to work hard, especially in the upper-level courses,” Shih told us. “Yet, somehow, I was convinced that others found it easy. At times I felt like an imposter.” Shih even considered dropping out and switching to an easier major. On graduation day, she was astonished to learn she’d finished first in her class.
“I realized I had deserved to be there all along and that some of the geeky guys who talked a big game weren’t necessarily smarter.”
Tia Cudahy, a Washington, DC, lawyer who always appears calm, upbeat, and utterly in charge, to...

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