Talent, confidence & Barbra Streisand

I took my Dad to see Barbra Streisand on Saturday.  I was shocked to discover that in 50 years of show business we were witnessing only her 93rd live performance. She confessed that in the 60’s in a concert in Central Park she was on stage and forgot her words. This really hit her confidence as a performer and she didn’t play live for 27 years. There is no question she has talent. As singers go, she probably is the best in the world.

This got me thinking. How many people do you know who are incredibly talented and yet have a major problem with confidence? There are great musicians who can play amazingly well and yet struggle to perform. At work, how many technical experts have great ideas but struggle with the confidence to present them?

I began playing with a few ideas. I know a few autocratic leaders/managers and I can imagine them trying to get Barbra back on stage during her 27 year absence…

“So Barb, you don’t seem to want to perform. Well let me tell you, you need to buck your ideas up my girl, your public is waiting, Have you thought of taking a few singing lessons to get you back on track? Our training department is running a singing class every Thursday run by Madge Walpole who apparently has quite a voice. You should go along to that and exercise those vocal chords of yours before they seize up…

Oh, you don’t like the sound of Madge.. well lets see what else we can do…In fact I was quite a singer in my day. I was known as the karaoke king in Southend on Sea. Maybe you and I could try a couple of numbers together? If you sing any bum notes or your timing is out, I can let you know so that you can make sure you don’t do it again. I can even test you on the words if you like.

OK perhaps not.. Well how about you team up with someone and do some duets? That way you can hide behind them or sing more quietly if you forget anything. What about giving that Celine Dion a ring and see if you can sing that ‘Heart Going On’ song. We could even get the front of a boat on stage and a wind machine.

No? Well to be honest Barb, I am losing patience here. We have a lot of customers willing to pay big money to see you. I could see about upping your percentage of the gate receipts and the merchandise… But we can’t have you wandering on stage, looking all sparkly only to mumble “Memories…. like the corners of my garage’ now can we? All you need is to take a couple of deep breaths and you will be fine. Try that old trick of imagining the audience naked. That works for me.

Barb, there is no point in blubbing into your silk handkerchief about nerves. We all get those you know. If you don’t sort yourself out I am going to have to consider some sort of capability procedure. Now I know you don’t want me to do that. I don’t care how well you sing ‘Evergreen’ in the shower, your public awaits…

What do you mean you are going? Well good luck to you Barb. See if anyone will give you the support and encouragement that I do… How bloody ungrateful….”

So for those of you who have studied Situational Leadership or coaching or motivation; Have a think about the talented people you know who have a confidence problem. Consider your style and approach and imagine trying to advise, cajole, pressurise, tell, or instruct them into resolving it. When it comes to confidence… this approach just does not work! You cannot teach confidence. They have to find it and your job is to help them.