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Executive coach Marshall Goldsmith rarely encounters self-confidence problems among his CEO and potential-CEO clients. But when he gives seminars at university MBA programs, with students drawn from lower echelons of organizations, self-confidence is a topic they want to talk about. On Harvard Business School blogs, he offers this advice for those struggling with self-confidence:

Accept imperfection

Don't worry about being perfect when making business decisions. In fact, there are never right or wrong answers in complex business decisions, much as we want to believe we can find such perfect answers. Even Warren Buffett, who is known as The Sage Of Omaha, doesn't get it right every time. "The best that you can do as a leader is to gather all the information that you can (in a timely manner), do a cost-benefit analysis of potential options, use your best judgment - and then go for it," Mr. Goldsmith writes.

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Live with failure

Accept that there will be moments of failure. The best salespeople realize that. They actually get rejected more than ordinary salespeople but they ask for the order more, he notes, and live with their many failures as a necessary step to win their many successes. You are only human. Learn from your mistakes and move on.

Commit

After you have made a final decision, commit fully to that course of action. Don't continually second- guess yourself.

Show courage

Even if you are somewhat hesitant on the inside, show courage on the outside. As a leader, those who report to you directly are reading your moods and expressions for clues. "If you show a lack of courage, you will begin to damage your [their]self-confidence," he stresses.

Be happy

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Don't worry; be happy, as the song by Bobby McFerrin tells us. Find happiness and contentment in your work. Do your best and, when you win, celebrate - and when you lose, just start over again the next day.

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POWER POINTS

Overwhelmed? Put less on your plate

It's a well-known diet trick that you will eat less if you use a smaller plate. Consultant Patricia Katz advises the same strategy to prevent being overwhelmed by work. Stop assuming you have 24 hours up for grabs each day and, instead, set aside a reasonable number of hours for rest and renewal. That will make you more cautious about how many commitments you pile on your now-reduced plate. Pause Newsletter

When to get a hot response to a cold call

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The best day of the week to cold call, according to a study of millions of such efforts by Kellogg School of Management's James Oldroyd, is Thursday - almost 20 per cent more effective than Friday, the worst day. The best time: 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., followed closely by late afternoon. Geoffrey James, BNET blogs

Irritated employees head for the door

The conventional wisdom is that people quit companies because of their boss. But after studying more than three million exit interview responses, consultant Beth Carvin says employees leave because of irritations. Some of the most common are limited growth or advancement opportunities, inadequate training, unreasonable workload, dislike of the type of work, perception of unfairness, unreasonable procedures, sexual harassment, perceived discrimination, difficult colleagues, lack of quality products or services, and discomfort with organizational ethics. Canadian HR Reporter

If boards make decisions, who monitors them?

The media focus in Canada after General Motors Co.'s decision not to sell Opel was on auto supplier Magna International, which was jilted at the altar. But Bryant University professor Michael Roberto says the focus should have been on GM's board of directors overruling management and making the decision itself. While we want more effective and vigilant boards, we also expect boards to be monitoring and controlling the decision makers. If boards become the primary decision makers, he asks, who will monitor and control them? Prof. Michael Roberto's blog

Know who your critics are

If you are a leader, you will attract critics. Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt suggests distinguishing who they are: friends offering helpful feedback; honest critics, who disagree with you and whose sentiments enrich the continuing conversation about an issue; and unhealthy trolls, who have an agenda and are out to hurt you.

MichaelHyatt.com

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MARKETING / THE VALUE OF CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS

It's known that celebrity endorsers can help bring public attention to a product and encourage more sales. But a study by Ana Rumschisky at the IE Business School in Madrid found that they can also pave the way to a higher price for a product, Knowledge @ Wharton reports.

Testing ads with and without a well known Spanish television host, Prof. Rumschisky found that the students in her sample were willing to pay up to 20 per cent more when a watch was endorsed by a celebrity. Men were more likely to put a greater value on a product when it was celebrity-endorsed than women, but that may be because women were already willing to pay more for the item without an endorsement.

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INTERVIEWS / IMPROVING CANDIDATE SELECTION

In interviewing job candidates, we tend to assume the onus is primarily on the applicant to make his or her own case. The interviewer's role is merely to be alert and try to catch the candidate in any misrepresentations.

But Toronto-based management consultant Trevor Hitner says that interviewees should be treated as blank slates: The recruiter's role is to fashion and ask the right questions, in the right manner and in the right order, to elicit responses that will help assess suitability for the position.

"Frequently, the interviewer plays a game of gotcha with the interviewee - looking for weak, rather than strong, points. I have observed that not only is the sequencing of questions important, but also the emphasis and the cadence of the interviewer [have]an impact on how the interviewee responds," he says.

His own approach is to match his cadence, body language and rapidity of questions to that of the interviewee. If the interviewee responds quickly to a question and demonstrates excitement about an issue, Mr. Hitner matches that with excitement and his questions become more rapid-fire. On the other hand, when the interviewee is more reflective in responses, Mr. Hitner also tones down, becoming less garrulous. "I match my temperature, if you will, to the temperature of the person I'm interviewing. It's somewhat difficult to explain but it all speaks to eliciting the strengths of the interviewee," he says.

Two other tips from him:

Remember the job interview is one of the least effective tools for determining candidate suitability because it tends to focus on the one skill that most people do not need for most jobs: the ability to give an immediate response to a question or issue posed. Usually, we research before.

The best candidate for the position is not necessarily the person with the most credentials and experience. A candidate with one year of experience who has reached a predetermined level of competence may well represent a better choice than a candidate who has taken three years to achieve the same level of competence.

harvey@harveyschachter.com

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About the Author
Management columnist

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. More

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