Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! If you want to be successful in business and in leadership, you have to know how to be confident in yourself. This week, join Jeff as he interviews one of his former mentors, Vice President of Field Sales for Cintas Corporation Wendy May. Wendy shares how she has learned from her failures and what it takes to maintain your confidence no matter what others say.
Reflecting on Women’s History Month
I believe that men and women are fundamentally different. I believe I was built and designed to be empathetic and compassionate. And now, over the past 15 years at Cintas, I have been able to bring that to leadership and be confident in being who I was made to be. For me, Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate my development as a human being, coming to peace with being a female in the workplace, and being able to bring my whole self to the workplace every day.
On Failure and Confidence
I’ve failed a lot, but that has been what has fueled me. I was a single mom for a large portion of my time at Cintas. I was fighting for my kids and their futures. I am a big studier of the human spirit, how it acts and reacts. The thing that has brought me to where I am is confidence. It is so hard to master, and it is critical to either your success or your demise.
I’m able to stand on my feet even if I’m rocked because my confidence is inside. It’s not determined by anything that is outside. - Wendy May
How has your confidence evolved?
I love receiving words of affirmation. Not now, even though it is a love language, it does not affect my confidence. I used to be looking for affirmation and awards as a younger leader. It’s still important for me, but it does not affect or destroy my confidence either way. Learning these two things helped me maintain my confidence.
What people say behind your back is none of your business. They’re going to talk behind your back whether you show up the way they want you to or the way you want to, so you might as well have the confidence to be yourself.
Never compare yourself to the person next to you. You have to avoid comparing yourself against someone else’s highlight reel and also against mediocrity. Comparison is scary and it steals your confidence. Other people are not your journey. You are your journey.
Q: Describe a time when comparison stole your confidence. How did you recover? What do you think helps build your confidence? Is your confidence more affected by other people or your own internal dialogue? Why?
What do you do when your confidence is shaken?
You can’t master confidence until you master it when it is compromised. The key for me is finding time to pause. I actually have fuzzy socks. I will put on fuzzy socks, walk out to my car, listen to Nora Jones, and call my sister. I also have an app with affirmations. I try to focus on the benefits that will come from the situation that rocked my confidence. I’ll pause to reset my mind. I’ll find my center and then get back to chasing my goals.
Fighting the Battle in your Mind
Some commentary is just what you think other people are thinking. Very little of that is actual reality. Quite frankly, I don’t care if people think I’m too kind, thoughtful, empathetic, or though-minded. As long as I am winning at my job and the people I am working with are giving me their effort because they know I’ve got their back, that’s all that matters. Opinions don’t matter.
Q: How do you measure success? How is that similar to or different from the way other people measure success? When do you think you have to consider other people’s definitions? How do you stay focused on your own purpose and definition of success?
What advice can you give our listeners?
People always want to see you do well, but never better than them. Everyone is fighting for their piece of the pie. I expect that if you say something outrageous to me, I expect an apology. If I say something outrageous to you, I expect to apologize to you. There are no grudges. Those moments when you can get offended tend to be because of insecurity or jealousy. You can learn from them, but they don’t have to define you.
Q: Do you agree with Wendy’s assessment? Why or why not? Why do you think it is helpful to think about things from other people’s perspectives? Has considering the bigger picture ever helped you protect your confidence?
What are some of the negative stories you are telling yourself? Write them down and then flip the script! Ask yourself whether each of them is true about you or if it is something that you made up in your head. For each negative statement, come up with a positive one that you can think about when that negative thought tries to come in.
How has your confidence evolved? Think about how your confidence has evolved over the past ten years. Are there any triggers that cause you to doubt yourself more? Develop a plan for coping when your confidence is shaken so that you do not make decisions from a place of insecurity. It could be a routine like Wendy’s with comfortable clothing, music, and talking to a trusted friend or something completely different!
What did this interview teach you about how you can help instill confidence in your employees or team members? If you have any insecure employees, focus on building trust and setting clear expectations. Make sure they have the resources to be successful and affirm that you know that they are capable of becoming more confident. Consider reading one of the books Wendy suggests as a staff or team development book as well.