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Self-Esteem vs. Self-Efficacy
I think I can?
In the past few decades, many kids going through school experienced programs designed to build their self-esteem. These now-grown students are in the workplace. Does their nurtured sense of self-esteem actually help them?
I’m of the opinion that a healthy sense of self-esteem is fine, but what we want to build in the people around us—our direct reports, our peers, our own children, etc.—is SELF-EFFICACY.
So, what’s the difference?
Basically, self-esteem is: “I’m good enough just the way I am.”
Self-efficacy is: “If I work hard at it, I can make it happen.” It’s the Little-Engine-That-Could’s: “I think I can. I think I can.” Remember that old children’s story?
If we want to grow people’s self-efficacy, we need to start by (1) assessing their current competencies, (2) seeing where they have potential for improvement, (3) discussing where THEY want to grow and what THEY want to be able to accomplish, and then (4) sharing our vision of their future success (which hopefully dovetails with THEIR vision of their future success). Their sense of “I think I can” often will grow best if they are getting a message of “I think you could be great at this” from us. We can then provide training, encouragement, and give them opportunities to develop, use, and refine their new skills.
If you are new at this, start small. Expect that first efforts will yield mediocre results, and see those results as “first drafts” that can be revised. Give them honest feedback that focuses on how to make it better, rather than pointing out what is wrong. Then build on their small successes to larger ones.