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A new book from an SNC confidence researcher launched early to meet the needs of readers newly laid off during the current economic crisis.

New Book Builds on an Author’s Journey to Authentic Confidence

The key to a having a successful career – and one that you love – depends upon authentic confidence, says Ben Fauske, a confidence researcher on the faculty of St. Norbert’s Center for Exceptional Leadership. Fauske’s recently released book, Authentic Confidence: The Secret to Loving Your Work and Leading an Unstoppable Career, takes readers through the process of discerning and improving their confidence-related behaviors. Here, Fauske speaks with travel writer and author Melanie (Radzicki) McManus ’83 about why confidence is such an important topic.

Q. How did you get into the field of confidence research?
A. When I first graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, I had eight jobs in eight years. My dad said I should write, “Does not play well with others” on my résumé. Confidence issues were at the core of those job changes. I started to study what role overconfidence and underconfidence play in leadership, and I learned both can be toxic. So I became fascinated with the idea of how you overcome your confidence challenges and find authentic confidence – that sweet spot of being assertive and knowing who I am and what I bring, but also being comfortable with my limitations. When leaders demonstrate these qualities, it draws people in. Their influence is welcomed.

Q. So confidence is an important topic. But is it overlooked?
A. Career challenges are often connected to confidence challenges. People who have a strong bias to be overconfident or underconfident struggle. At one end of the confidence continuum are those who need to learn how to listen better and champion others and serve. On the other end are those who need to advocate for themselves better. And many don’t know these confidence issues are at the core of what’s holding them back.

When I first started talking about confidence, people did not want to talk about it. Now that I’ve created safe language around the topic – we can talk about overconfident and underconfident instead of arrogant and insecure – there’s a real hunger by people to explore and learn.

Q. Tell us about the confidence assessment you created.
A. We’re all born with a bias toward overconfidence or underconfidence. I became obsessed with psychology and self-assessments to find out confidence biases, tendencies and triggers. Eventually, I created my own self-assessment that determines your confidence profile. The self-assessment is in my book and there’s a shorter, free version on my website.

Q. Should everyone assess their confidence, even if they aren’t having problems at work?
A. Yes, yes, yes! We all have confidence triggers: that type of person, or content, that triggers an overconfident or underconfident response in us. If we don’t analyze and assess those triggers in advance, they can surprise us. If I’m in a board meeting and get triggered and react in a way I don’t want to, then I have some repair work to do. But if I do the work ahead of time and learn what tends to trigger me, then I can prepare. When you can be calm and clear about your response – I’m confident with what I’m great at, and comfortable with where I’m still growing – people really respond to that.

Q. What about kids?
A. I work with a local school district, and we’re thinking about how to teach kids as young as 2 or 3 years old to find authentic confidence. Research shows that what people believe about themselves is formed really early. And many core confidence issues come with people thinking they’re not good enough or not good at something.

Q. How difficult is it to uncover your authentic confidence?
A. It’s not a complicated process, but it’s not easy. It’s not easy for us to look at ourselves and be honest and willing to change. But if we aren’t in touch with how we communicate confidence and don’t understand our natural biases, we’ll miss opportunities to connect or really accomplish what we want in our lives. So you have to want to do the work. But when you put in the work, change happens quickly.

Q. Any success stories from your coaching?
A. I have many, many stories. I was working with one person who had just gotten overlooked for a promotion and was very upset. We worked through several confidence challenges during six months of coaching and she ignited after that. The energy she brought into meetings was completely different and people said, “What did you do? How do we get some of what you have?” She took a different promotion and is really thriving now.

Another example was an individual who had some relationships that were not working. Some people were not pulling for him and he had no idea why. We worked through the process and got clarity on some of his behaviors that other people didn’t like, why he used them and what he could do to change. He went from a place where a majority of his team was working against him, to the majority wanting to help him succeed.

Q. Tell us about your book.
A. There are three core components of the book. One, uncovering the core beliefs that great influencers have. Two, the self-assessment, which helps determine your primary confidence profile: Peacekeeper, Friend-Maker, Inquisitor, Negotiator, Driver or Convincer. Three, the career confidence-building process: how to build your unstoppable career.

Q. What inspired you to write it?
A. Once I applied this process to myself – I had nothing to lose, my career was a mess – I instantly went from hating my work to loving it. People who had been around me said, “You seem really different. What’s going on?” I started to share the process and watched people’s leadership transformations. That’s when I thought, “This is going to be bigger than me.”

A friend said, “You need to write this down and share it. It’s meaningful work.” For probably six months to a year, I said no. Writing is hard for me. He, for whatever reason, stayed on me. After a while, I couldn’t shake the idea. Something in me felt like I really had to do this.

I got rejected from 27 different publishers before finding the right fit. And it was a lot of soul work, really defining what you believe. And it’s vulnerable. You’re sharing it with the world. There were many times my wife, Kristy, would ask me, “What’s the name of that book you’re writing?” Because I’m not immune to confidence issues. I’m on the journey with you. This book would not have happened if it wasn’t for my wife. She was amazingly supportive.

Q. What do you hope your book will accomplish?
A. I hope readers find their own breakthrough in this book. I believe every single person deserves to love their work. If you hate your work, it impacts your life — your work, your family, your health.

Q. Tell us about your book launch amid COVID-19.
A. My book launch was supposed to be May 27. But then COVID happened. When people are furloughed or laid off, their confidence challenges usually come to the surface. It can be tough to interview, to find clarity, or people are looking to pivot. So we decided to release it early and help people now. We did a virtual launch and donated one book to an educator for every book sold [during the launch]. We were able to donate over 200 books.

Q. Any final words of wisdom?
A. You are not alone. The more we can normalize being on a confidence journey, the more we can help each other gain clarity at what we’re great at and what we still need to learn. It’s a growing conversation.

July 28, 2020