Zendesk Women in Leadership series: Conquering confidence

Published May 16, 2022
Last updated November 3, 2022

Established as part of Zendesk’s commitment to building community and inclusivity for its customers, partners, and employees, the Women in Leadership (WiL) series recently hosted a lunch for fifty-five senior customer experience leaders as part of Zendesk Relate around the topic of confidence.

In her opening remarks, Alex Constantinople, Zendesk’s chief marketing officer, shared her perspective about building confidence and the importance of authenticity, saying, “Instead of trying to be somebody I wasn’t and act like I thought a CEO should, I put that energy into simply being myself. This shift gave me the space to focus on growing the business and our leaders.”

Wendy Johnstone, chief operating officer of APAC at Zendesk and global executive sponsor of Women at Zendesk, led a panel on how to project confidence and speak authentically to your own style, featuring Melissa O’Keefe, vice president of global marketplace customer advocacy at Redbubble; Stephanie Mohr, director of members support at Masterclass; Ruth Zive, chief marketing officer at Ada; and Kate Garcia, senior vice president of commercial sales at Zendesk.

Here are three main takeaways that were shared during the event.

Celebrate successes and lean on your champions
While all the panelists affirmed that confidence comes from within, they agreed; finding a tribe of trusted advocates is integral to maintaining balance within the workplace.

Ms Garcia explained, “If you don’t surround yourself with people who will be your cheerleader and remind you of your wins, you’re in it alone, and that’s hard.”

The data proves this. Studies by Northwestern and the University of Notre Dame report that women with a close-knit circle of supportive women are 2.5 times more likely to be high performers at work. Additionally, 75 percent of high-ranking women maintain a female-dominated inner circle or strong ties to two or three women.

It is critical to have a network of trusted people to both celebrate your success and challenge your mistakes. Ms Zive said, “If I’m worried about something or think I’ve done something wrong, I’ll turn to my tight network of people and ask for their feedback and input. They keep me honest and hold me accountable in a reasonable way because I’m way too hard on myself.”

Get buy-in from a larger group
Speaking with confidence in a small meeting can be one thing, but trying to convince or present to a larger group of stakeholders can be another. The panel discussed actionable tips for speaking with confidence and navigating challenging dynamics when trying to get buy-in from a larger group.

“When you’re in a scenario that may be impromptu you need to become a facilitator, and really look to find win-win strategies and alignment,” said Ms O’Keefe.

And when the situation calls for a more planned presentation, Ms Zive recommended talking about something you care about and letting your “non-work self” influence professional presentations. Connecting to the audience with personal anecdotes lends a richer storytelling quality to any speaking engagement.

Instill confidence in your team
McKinsey reports that delegating decisions is a critical component of successful management, saving leaders time and businesses money. Ms Mohr said, “My job is to empower my team and give them the tools and resources they need to resolve issues and make things right.”

Reiterating your faith in your team and hiring the right people is also critical to your team’s confidence. Ms Garcia explained, “I make sure my teams know that I believe in them. And part of that is making sure you’re hiring a team of people you do believe in.”

Instilling confidence can also extend beyond your immediate team. When someone requests your mentorship, approach the relationship with an open mind. Ms Johnstone said, “I’m a big believer in reverse mentorship. I have a rule where if someone asks me to be their mentor, I always do my best to say yes because I know I’m going to learn something from that relationship.”

Zendesk’s commitment to women in leadership
You can learn more about Zendesk’s Women in Leadership series and be notified of future digital and in-person sessions here.