Confidence–considered a common and necessary element for success.  We often believe that those who are confident will succeed.  A recent study provides some intriguing insight into just how confidence can contribute to high performing teams.  Two studies were conducted with soccer teams to determine if players’ confidence in either the team’s ability or the game outcome influenced team performance.

While the players’ confidence correlated with the team playing well, it did not necessarily predict the game outcome.  In other words, team members’ confidence had an impact on the quality of their playing performance, but not necessarily on winning.  In part, the researchers believed that confidence influenced individual and team performance, but it could not influence the play of the other team, the referee’s calls, or just plain luck. Put another way, your confidence influences your own actions, but not the actions of others or flukes.

Another important finding was that players’ confidence can change during the game.  The researchers found that if the players gained confidence in the first half of the game, it positively impacted their performance in the second half.

This study offers some great news for managers and leaders.  Based on the findings of this study, three strategies for building team confidence are recommended.

First, when leaders strive to enhance each team member’s confidence in an individualized way, it contributes to the total team confidence.  Attempts to elevate the entire team’s confidence through collective actions such as a motivational speech to the entire group were less effective than coaches’ appeals to the motivating factors of each individual.

Second, bolstering individuals’ confidence in the team strategy was also found more effective than imposing unrealistic expectations on individual and team performance. Focusing on unrealistic overconfidence at the start of a game often led to confidence collapses during the game if the team’s performance falls short. A game plan provides a more stable source of confidence as game plans require time to work out—and they can always be modified or even replaced without shaking the players’ confidence in themselves.

Third, peer leaders within the team played a key role in enhancing the team’s confidence and preventing downward performance spirals. Verbal persuasion was an effective strategy for increasing players’ confidence in the team.  Team confidence building was facilitated if key players used their leader status to affect their teammates’ confidence positively. As such, an important task for managers and coaches is to make peer leaders aware of their potential and responsibility as role models in the team.

Fransen, K., Decroos, S., Vanbeselaere, N., Vande Broek, G., De Cuyper, B., Vanroy, J., & Boen, F. (2015). Is team confidence the key to success? The reciprocal relation between collective efficacy, team outcome confidence, and perceptions of team performance during soccer games.Journal Of Sports Sciences33(3), 219-231.