Building confidence of individuals and the group

  • Research, planning and preparation
  • Gertting started
  • Finding the way
  • Showing interest
  • Being an expert
  • Showing concern
  • Achieving objectives
  • Being brave and showing strength

In an unfamiliar or potentially dangerous environment, most people feel some degree of fear. This fear can be reduced or eliminated by a leader who demonstrates an ability to cope with the perceived risks. If a leader reveals a lack of confidence in his or her ability to cope with the risks, then lack of confidence, or possibly fear, can quickly spread through the group. The confidence of every member of a bushwalking group, including the leader, can be raised by careful attention to a few key matters. Most are very simple things, but they do require an investment of time, energy and effort.

In many social situations you face two fears—embarrassment and disgrace. Embarrassment may arise from being proven wrong or appearing foolish. Disgrace may result from the failure to perform to others’ expectations. Nervousness or lack of confidence are signs of these fears. In the outdoors, you face two additional fears dangers inherent in the environment, and the disgrace of causing, or failing to prevent a serious misadventure to a group member. All fears are natural and can be contained. Confidence will grow from feeling at ease in the activity, and from a sure knowledge that you are well prepared. This sort of confidence is contagious and self perpetuating.

Research, planning and preparation

This is the most important of all, and without it the leader cannot be truly confident. Good leaders seek all possible information about the area of the trip, and plan each stage, including possible options. They learn about the capabilities of people going on the trip, to ensure trip demands and capabilities match. This helps build the confidence of the party. Being aware of possible hazards or weaknesses in the group enables the leader to minimise the hazards and shield the weaker people, which also builds confidence. If a problem arises, the leader will be prepared for it and will handle it much better, which reassures party members.

Getting started

Greet and speak to everyone individually. This shows you accept each person as a group member and is reassuring. Outline plans for the day with all members, to dispel any uncertainty from lack of information. Check group equipment as sharing resources contributes to a sense of group solidarity.

Finding the way

Few things more quickly drain the confidence of the leader and the party than getting lost. A leader must become skilful at finding the way and quickly resolving any navigational errors. Diligent practice is the only way to acquire these skills. If you do become unsure of your location, you should be able to recognise the problem quickly and take corrective action with confidence. Procedures when lost are in Chapter 38.

Showing interest

Be interested and enthusiastic about scenic features or items of interest along the way, especially those noticed by others. This a compliment to the person who noticed it, and maximises the inherent values of the activity. It also demonstrates that you have party safety issues well under control, and can apply your attention to ‘higher matters’. It helps greatly to know enough about the area’s natural or human history to explain phenomena or features encountered.

Being an expert

Occasionally, and only when appropriate, good leaders give useful hints, tips or advice. This can build their image as a helpful, reliable authority, but should not be overdone.

Showing concern

At appropriate times ask weaker members how they are feeling and listen to their response. Ensure you speak with every member of the group at some stage each day. These actions promote a feeling of belonging. This is particularly important in the early stages of the trip.

Achieving objectives

You should define and ‘build up’ an achievable objective. ‘Let’s climb that hill over there—it should give us a great view.’ Then let the party members get there first.

Being brave and showing strength

A little boldness in taking an apparently risky step will heighten the sense of achievement and lift morale. Only do things you are personally confident of achieving and which have low real risk if you fail. When the going gets tough, adopt a higher profile. Do more than your share. Demonstrate that you have reserves to draw upon.

These are all opportunities to boost group morale and confidence in you as their leader.