Start with your strengths and celebrate them.
“Start with your strengths and celebrate them. I built a real inner confidence by reinforcing what I think others see in me.”Andrew White, Senior Director, FTSE 100 Company
Andrew’s recent promotion meant he had increased responsibilities, and as a result was in regular contact with the top executives in his organisation. He embraced the new role and was in contact with senior group much more often.
From previous feedback, he knew he needed to improve his competence and confidence in influencing senior stake holders in group situations. He was aware of his tendency to slip into ‘Imposter Syndrome’, resulting in a tendency to clam up and become subservient. To compensate, Andrew tended to revert to where his strengths were, and dive down into the detail, becoming ever more formal and regimented.
He felt he needed to be more conversational with the executive group, and to see the valuable work in his conversational exchanges, rather than in delivering a discrete piece of work. He noticed that decision-making at a senior level became more complex and ambiguous, and individuals were valued for their contribution to the conversation, not their ability to deliver anything in particular.
Andrew worked with Caroline for about 9 months and felt at ease very soon into the process, exploring in depth what his needs were, what challenges lay ahead and what paths he could follow. He allowed himself a level of exposure and disclosure, early on in the coaching relationship.
Caroline created an environment where he felt comfortable, striking a balance between pushing and probing, whilst never putting him into a position where he felt uncomfortable and didn’t want to be there. She read the conversation and Andrew’s body language very clearly and adjusted the coaching style accordingly.
‘Wow! By the end of my coaching, I felt I had learned an enormous amount about myself and more than I ever thought I would.’
The first thing was a validation of what he knew he was good at. ‘Start with your strengths and celebrate them.’
But beyond that, together Caroline and Andrew challenged his in-built assumptions and default behaviours.
‘I began to think very differently about my relationship with others and viewed things from different angles to improve my influence. I had to accept that when operating at a senior level the conversation is the work! The work doesn’t have to be writing reports.’
At last, Andrew began to acknowledge what he’d discovered and began to relax when he found himself with the senior group, and he felt far less tense and on edge.
‘I built a real inner confidence by reinforcing what I think others see in me.’ He knew he’d earned his new position on merit, and as a result, he began to believe in himself. The pattern of ‘Imposter Syndrome’ was broken.
As time moved on, Andrew began to ask for feedback from people about what they’d noticed had changed in him and as a result of his coaching journey.
‘People are telling me I’m much more collaborative, more peer to peer when working with the senior team. I allow myself to be more spontaneous, less formal, more straight talking rather than talking around issues. I feel really positive because it’s a validation of the entire process, tangibly and practically.’
Despite big change, some things remain the same. Andrew feels he is still the person he always was. Caroline and he spent a lot of time talking about his values and why they mattered to him. They’re not compromised but challenged as part of the process.
And there’s plenty more to continue to work on, but with his new level of self-awareness and with time to invest in himself, Andrew is much more conscious of his impact on others, what he now needs to be working on, and what to tweak to be most effective.
‘I now know what I need to do on a day to day basis: to continue to maintain and build upon the shift I’ve made so far. I ask myself how am I going to be the leader I want to be, and not slip back into habits that I set out to break? What is my leadership task today, rather than focusing on my managerial or bureaucratic task today. In one word, the process has been empowering.’