This year’s See It Be It programme will focus on the idea of confidence, but it's an important asset to anyone working in creativity.
Fresh from a See It Be It event in New York, Kathleen Griffiths: Lion-winner, festival speaker, See It Be It mentor and founder and CEO of Grayce & Co, talked to Cannes Lions about confidence, set-backs, and that all-important breakthrough.
"It’s like a muscle where each time you practice, you get stronger. But it’s never perfect and I wouldn’t want to give that illusion."
(Kathleen Griffiths on stage at Dubai Lynx 2017)
CANNES LIONS: Describe your own journey of confidence. Did you start confident?
KATHLEEN GRIFFITHS: “I did start out confident. I was raised to truly believe that I could do anything I put my mind to, and there was no difference between how my brother and I were treated. I wasn’t made to feel my gender carried limitations and was praised for being smart and strong. But, when I got into the ‘real world’, I received much different messaging. It was the first time I was evaluated based on my looks, weight and/or femininity, and it was the first time I was made to feel ‘other’ as a woman. I went through periods of lack of confidence until I eventually learned to tune that messaging out.
“Even when I was feeling less confident, I still tried to project confidence. Sometimes you have to “be” it before you actually are it. But the important part is where that projection comes from: if it comes from a place of insecurity, as opposed to trying to step into your power, it’ll never work.
“What I’ve learned is that confidence is really about being able to sit in that place where your internal world isn’t affected by external pressures, and conversely, you don’t feel the need to change your external world based on internal self-doubt.”
CL: Was there a breakthrough moment when you found your voice? KG: “It’s hard for me to pinpoint a single moment. Embodying confidence is also always evolving. It’s like a muscle where each time you practice, you get stronger. But it’s never perfect and I wouldn’t want to give that illusion. I think the best you can do is to chase growth and authenticity -- gaining confidence is really just the by-product of leaning into risk and becoming more of who you are.
"Growth, authenticity and the building of confidence is a daily practice. It's also a process that can be accelerated in difficult times. Sometimes you do have to break open to get to a breakthrough. When in doubt, I fall back on the question, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
"Just recently my team and I landed the business of a major brand, and then lost it in a matter of days."
(See It Be It New York, L-R: Kathleen Griffiths, Chloe Gottlieb, Sophie Kelly, Madonna Badger and Sarah Watson)
CL: Have you had any professional setbacks that knocked your confidence? How did you come back from them?
KG: "Of course, setbacks happen all of the time. Confidence doesn’t come from a lack of setbacks, but from how you navigate them.
"Just recently my team and I landed the business of a major brand, and then lost it in a matter of days. Our strategy was perhaps a bit too much of a departure from the norm, but what it came down to was: did we want to present safe “business as usual” strategies or did we want to be able to innovate and to come up with new ideas that we believed would truly serve the consumers and the company? We stuck to our core principles and in the end it wasn’t a good fit. But, it was a project we were excited about and that loss of business was a jolt to the system. It gave us a chance to regroup, take some lessons to heart. How much and how fast to push is a balancing act, and that's something we’ll now be better at going forward. You have to train yourself to not let setbacks diminish your confidence and steer you away from your core vision and purpose.
CL: How do you get confidence out of the members of your team?
KG: "Make it clear through word and action that you have their back. Don’t assign blame when things go wrong. Leave room for people to own their mistakes so that they can work through them, or bring them to the team to solve. Have a ‘people-first’ mentality, which means allowing them to take care of their own wellness and family first so that they can bring their best selves to work.
"Celebrate the wins -- small and large -- and congratulate new ideas. Create a positive work environment where individuals feel safe taking risks. When you delegate, let your team members take stewardship of the task and consider it handled. Demonstrate your trust. And always support other women in meetings -- it's important to be allies."
"Start by showing up. Sit in the middle of every table and have an opinion. Don’t hesitate."
CL: What would your advice be to the women in the audience looking to build their confidence in the workplace?
KG: "Start by showing up. Sit in the middle of every table and have an opinion. Don’t hesitate. Some studies have shown that the biggest difference between men and women seated around a board table is not the quality of their ideas, but the fact that the men are more willing to speak out, even if their idea is not quite fully formed.
"So, show up and own your ideas. Do your best: it’s impossible to feel confident when you know you’re not doing your best work. That said, you have to be gentle with yourself and acknowledge your best may not be the same every day of the week. And, seek out the people who recognise the greatness within you and work with them."
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