Why We Need To Start Talking About Confidence
I have noticed a fairly stark trend unfolding in the advisory space. Even though there is a growing number of female firm owners in the accounting industry, the vast majority of firms making the shift towards advisory are male owned and operated. I started to wonder why that is, and more importantly, what can we do to change it?
Interfacing with hundreds of firms from around the globe means that I get the unique opportunity to ask these kinds of questions of practitioners, and if I play my cards right, at some point get to be a part of making shifts happen. When I talk with female firm owners about advisory, the same three general lines of conversation rise to the surface:
“I’m not the right person to be giving my clients advice.”
“I’m too busy serving my clients as it is.”
“My clients don’t see me as an expert.”
Hearing these sort of phrases repeated over and over again made me realize that we had a bigger issue at play here. An issue of mindset. And until we tackle that, advisory services are not going to become a part of the female firm owner’s playbook. After all, how can clients see a firm owner as an expert advisor if she doesn’t even see herself as one?
Confidence is a tricky topic for women because we’re sold the idea (often by brands) that it is either something you have or you don’t. If you don’t have it, we’re told to just buy this makeup, skin cream, diet pill, new pair of shoes etc. and then we’ll magically have it. But confidence doesn’t work like that. Especially when it comes to seeing yourself as a trusted advisor to your clients. Confidence is something that is cultivated over time and reinforced through lived experiences. This is what makes becoming an advisor so tricky for women: we have to do it first in order to believe in our abilities.
Our first instinct, particularly if you’re the sort of Type A person that the accounting profession so often attracts is that we need more credentials. Someone else has more training and expertise, we tell ourselves. If only I had a plaque on the wall that proves I know my stuff, maybe then I can be an advisor.
Credentials & courses can be great, don’t get me wrong, but I am yet to hear of a small business owner insisting to see someone’s ProAdvisor certification. In the world of advisory, it is your experience & comfort level with clients that speaks louder than any certification ever will. If you’ve been serving clients for years, you already know your stuff, and clients already see you as an expert resource. However, if having the credentials is going to make an impact on your comfort level, have at it. Just know that these courses can give you resources & tools, but that doesn’t magically make you an advisor. You and only you can make yourself an advisor by having the confidence to deliver advisory services to your chosen clients, and by advertising your expertise accordingly.
Confidence isn’t just something that we create by ourselves, it’s also something we can cultivate based on who we choose to keep around us. As women, it important that we surround ourselves (both virtually & in real life) with women that are going to support & encourage us as we grow. The women I see making moves in the advisory space all have one thing in common: they are connected with other like-minded women that are cheering them on and talking candidly about their own struggles and successes. Having a community like this, whether its women you get lunch with or an online community, will help you by showing you examples of women blazing a trail for themselves, and boost your confidence in your abilities to do the same.
As women, one of our greatest hurdles is overcoming the fact that often times we are our toughest critics. Living with a media culture that has monetized shame and subordination for the last century definitely hasn’t tipped things in our favor when it comes to self-love. But now more than ever before we have resources and tools that can help us combat our inner critics. From apps to help us master our mindset to empowering books & podcast, we can actively seek out and create conscious ways to rewrite our perfectionist programming.
One of the most simple and powerful tips that I recommend to my coaching clients is to cache your positive feedback. I don’t care if you put it on a sticky note on your desk, or save it in a Google doc, just simply start building a place where you can put all of the kind words others have said about you and your work. If you put something like this place, you can draw on it when you’re doubting yourself to quiet your inner critic by seeing the value and expertise you have to offer through the eyes of others. It may seem like a simple exercise, but sometimes we really do need to see things to believe them.
It is my greatest wish to see a shift in the accounting space, where women start to trust in and truly own their advisory abilities. After all, great advisory services are all about insight, intuition, and having the emotional intelligence to demonstrate to your clients that you care about their goals and outcomes. These skills are all traits that come quite naturally to women, and chances are that many of us have already been advising clients in some capacity for years without seeing or selling the true value of these services. My hope is that if we start talking about confidence and addressing it out in the open, we can help women everywhere feel completely capable at showcasing the advisory abilities that they have had all along.