Years ago I had an unusual experience in a job interview. When I had trouble answering one of the interviewer’s questions he calmly told me, “Always be confident.” This was a real-life lesson in being prepared and knowledgeable. I appreciated the advice.
Confidence is a very important aspect of one’s personal brand. People are more likely to trust and rely upon others who give the impression of confidence. On the flip side, there are some unscrupulous people who know very little about what they are doing but act confident nonetheless. They can use their own confidence, even when coupled with incompetence, to manipulate others into misplaced trust. This can easily morph into outright fraud, which is when the description of “con man” (i.e., a perpetrator of a “confidence scheme”) applies.
I have noticed that almost everyone is sensitive about money. Given that finance professionals deal with money at the heart and center of their work, they can expect to handle scenarios in which this natural sensitivity surfaces from their colleagues, employers, customers, vendors, and others who rely upon them. Employees of the business will come with payroll or benefit questions. Vendors will inquire about payment status. Senior management will ask any and every question under the sun regarding the business’ financial standing. Important keys to gaining trust include knowing your stuff, answering accurately and timely, and being confident.
A tone of uncertainty will create doubt in others’ minds. There are ways to handle situations when you don’t immediately know an answer without giving the impression of incompetence or lack of confidence. Rather than giving a deer in the headlights look, say, “I have that information available, just give me a moment to look it up for you.”
Be on guard against automatically trusting people who exude confidence. At the same time, recognize that this need for vigilance exists because of the natural human tendency to trust others who display confidence. Use this to your advantage. As long as you have integrity and knowledge, you have every reason to be demonstrate confidence in your professional dealings. People will trust you in the long run if you back up your confidence with proof of your competence.