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Confidence, capability and you: finding the sweet spot

As confidence returns to the design sector (see the 2021 DBA Annual Survey Report) it got me thinking about how this macro, sector level confidence impacts personal confidence. Design leaders have often been viewed as the quieter, more introvert cousins of our friends in advertising, but does this make a person any less confident? What role does confidence play in running a design agency and winning new business? I discussed this issue with DBA Expert Ralph Ardill to get his take on it.

Ralph immediately got straight to the point. “Confidence has nothing to do with being introvert or extrovert. It has nothing to do with how well you can ‘wing it’ in a presentation. Confidence is a response you elicit in others. Do they feel confident in you?”

“You can attempt to project confidence all you want, but in the end the most important thing is how your confidence is perceived by others – your clients, your team. People confuse charisma with confidence, which is not the same thing. Clients are not coming to buy charisma.”

As creative people, we are projecting ourselves into futures that do not exist, dreaming about things that have never happened and as Ralph points out, “we are eternal optimists, and sometimes that leads us outside of our capability zone”.

Your capability zone, as Ralph describes it, is the arena in which you have the greatest right (and likelihood) to win business. Your sweet spot. The area in which you can prove you can add value. It’s where you’ll most naturally instil confidence in clients, because you are in control and capable of delivering on what you are saying.

Agencies often rely on dialling up the passion and charisma when outside of their capability zone. But even when projecting positivity and confidence, client confidence in them can quickly evaporate. A lack of reassurance by the agency on its track record in the area in question, and avoidance of discussing any of the risks involved, won’t establish client trust.

Without trust there is no relationship. And without any relationship there is no business.

If people feel confident in you, and they trust you, that fuels your own confidence. “It is a bit like being a comedian”, says Ralph, “the audience will decide if you are funny or not.” But there is no short cut to achieving this – honesty and delivering on what you say on a constant basis is key.

Shift your thoughts to “What can I do to elicit more confidence in me by those around me?” and you’ll arrive at two strands of activity:

  1. Personal development – how can you grow your competence and expertise?
  2. Positioning – are you trying to sell the wrong thing to the wrong people?

By understanding where you have the greatest right to win, and the confidence you can elicit in clients in your capability, you’ll hit the sweet spot in securing new business – and be able to charge a premium for it.

If you would like to have a conversation with Ralph around confidence, he can be contacted through the DBA Experts Register, along with many other consultants who are experts in their field at the same time as understanding the design industry and how your business works.

About: Ralph Ardill

Ralph is an internationally recognised independent expert on brand transformation, culture change and experience design. He is also a respected writer and speaker with over 30 years experience in the creative industries on both client and agency side.

Today Ralph’s passion is for harnessing everything he’s learned from what he calls his “30-year apprenticeship” to work with ambitious corporate clients and design businesses who are looking to beat the 70% odds against successful change to transform their brands, businesses and people.

In doing so Ralph works as a board-level instigator for change bringing his highly pragmatic and personal fusion of management consulting, brand strategy, experience design and change management to help his clients orchestrate and deliver accelerated brand-led, people-centred and design-inspired transformation and growth across the total experience – inside and out – of their businesses.

Ralph is an accredited DBA Expert. Find out more and contact Ralph here. 

Image credits:

Glen Carrie | Unsplash

Andrej Lisakov | Unsplash


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