Confidence in the workplace is a complex topic. It’s easy enough to say that confidence is key, but I’m sure we can all think of someone we’ve worked with who takes that philosophy a bit too far, bordering on arrogance.
We’ve also heard from many working women that there often seems to be a double standard when it comes to projecting confidence: men can do this without reproach, but if a woman tries to do the same, they risk being seen as overly confident or combative.
So what’s the solution? Well, following our interview with talent agent/producer/consultant Malin Stenborg, earning your confidence is one of the most important steps you can take.
Stenborg has been doing just that for more than 25 years now, putting together highly impressive teams of creatives to give high-end clients all they want and more.
Stenborg’s confidence in her admirable professional abilities has led to her sterling reputation within competitive sectors, and she’s shown time and again that she has no shortage of good ideas.
But that’s it for the preamble. If you’re struggling with finding your confidence at work, read through this interview with Stenborg and get ready to jot down some great tips.
Have you always felt confident in your professional abilities?
Stenborg: I think I have always been good at reading people, which is something that is very important in what I do. It can make or break a good client relationship. That came pretty early in my life because I had to be able to take care of myself. So I feel that my intuitive nature with people is the backbone of my professional attributes.
My other professional abilities and beliefs have stemmed from there: my communication skills, problem-solving, ability to manage a lot at once, stress management, etc. That has all grown over time and with experience. Having worked all over the world has provided me with so many different challenges and insights and I feel I’ve always figured things out and remained poised.
Was there a point when you noticed that your professional reputation started to speak for itself, in terms of attracting more clients?
Stenborg: Yes. After I had done a great job with a big client in London about 25 years ago, it started to happen. For example, there was a really tricky job involving one of my CGI talents and one of the biggest advertising agencies in London. The agency’s clients kept changing their mind about what they wanted. Deadlines were shrinking and there was huge pressure on us to deliver this in a short amount of time.
I managed to effectively handle both my talent, the advertising agency, and my client in a way that, although they were frustrated with one another throughout the entire project for different reasons, they always knew I wanted them to be happy with the result and that I cared.
As soon as the job was completed, I actually received an email from the ad agency saying that they were so incredibly impressed with me and the way I magically handled the challenging situation really showed how good of an agent I was. They said they were over the moon with the results, and so was their client. I actually need to dig out that email and frame it, haha! After that job, clients started to come my way because they had heard about my reputation from that advertising agency.
If you had to name your single most valuable skill, what would it be?
Stenborg: I have an excellent ability in knowing who would work well with whom, i.e. a client and a talent. And once it’s in my head I make it my mission to make a strategy and find ways until they do! It’s only through experience that you know how that works, how you earn the clients’ trust to choose someone they otherwise wouldn’t have.
Innovations vs using tried and true methods. Have both of these been essential to your work or one more than the other?
Stenborg: Both for sure. You can’t get stuck into something old, you constantly have to try different things. And sometimes the tried and true method works better. I mean, a big one is communication. Old-school is picking up the phone and talking, and nowadays we email or just send a text. Sometimes it’s just better to pick up the phone!
I think it is so important to have those tried and true skills, but we must always be open to new ways of doing things. The world is changing so fast. Efficiency is key. The more efficient our methods are, the more teams can succeed. Especially now that remote and hybrid work environments have evolved because of the pandemic.
Have your professional priorities evolved over time? Have they largely stayed the same?
Stenborg: I think they have always stayed the same. My priority is to lift up the talent I work with, to make them feel well taken care of, like I have their back in all situations. And ultimately, I’m there to make them successful. Their success equals my success, and that is the most amazing feeling!
Where do you find inspiration these days?
Stenborg: In my travels, always! Going to museums when I travel. The people I meet. Places I see. It is so important to travel, I can’t urge that enough! Travelling inspires all your senses!
Other things that inspire me are watching movies, seeing something cool on Instagram, going on a walk and listening to some music or a podcast. You can find inspiration everywhere if you look for it!
What’s your advice to women who struggle to present themselves and their abilities confidently in the workplace?
Stenborg: If you can, try to find a job that you love to do. If you love it, you will excel in it, and then your confidence will automatically grow. Show what you can do and don’t be scared of a little bragging, guys do it all the time.
It took me a while to learn that. I’m Swedish, and in our culture, you are not supposed to brag about how good you are at your job, or at anything for that matter! But when you’re good, you’re good, and I think it’s important to be proud of your work.