To Succeed… Who do you need to be?

Feb 11th, 2019


“There will always be someone who can’t see your worth – Don’t let it be you”

Mel Robbins


Marie Kondo’s Netflix series has been the surprise hit of the winter. This Japanese decluttering expert has been showcased from the Financial Times to CNN, thanks to the power of her methods. Not only do people gain a tidy home, the process often triggers a life-defining shift in how individuals see themselves with a far-reaching impact on their relationships, work and ambitions.

Lightbulb moments for my clients often come when we focus on this question of identity: not on what they need to do in terms of skills and competencies, but who they need to be. Once this changes, everything changes.

A seasoned executive client recently made the transition from corporate executive to consultant. As she set out to build relationships with potential clients, because this was a new position for her, she took on a novice identity. This was influencing the requests she made to people and the language she used. We worked together to help her inhabit her expert advisor role which changed her approach to new business. ‘Be the CEO before you are the CEO,’ I frequently advise clients seeking promotion. Inhabit the role, step up and be it now. Once the role comes to you, you will already inhabit it and be ready.

When you believe in your ability and your value you hold yourself ‘big’. You are confident in your interactions with stakeholders and are able influence, inspire confidence and get results: a positive reinforcing circle. What happens, though, when a negative spiral sets in? Much has been written about imposter syndrome: an inner ‘gremlin’ voice attributing your outward success to luck rather than ability. Even for people with innate self-belief, some events can trigger doubt. One senior executive had a great boss and, under his leadership, was a confident performer with a strong presence in the organisation. A new boss, however, made her doubt herself. She struggled to find the dynamic in an increasingly fractious relationship and I was struck by how ‘small’ she started to carry herself – and the negative reinforcing cycle that ensued.

To be at your best, who do you need to be? What do you want people to say about you when you’ve left the room? Compare this with how are you holding yourself at present. Everything you think, say and do impacts your personal brand. Be aware of your dominant thought as you enter a room for a meeting or presentation – are you confident with what you have to say and the value you will bring? Or are you feeling insecure or looking for a level of approval or validation from those around the table? 

Here are some simple, practical ideas that can make an immediate and lasting difference to your identity:


  1. Ground yourself with a daily practice

Physically ground and centre yourself for a few minutes every day. This will calm and clear your mind, and help you access the confidence and clarity you need. For long-term benefit, my clients build a daily practice. My grounding exercise only takes a few minutes and can be done anywhere – including just before an important meeting.


  1. Use Decisive language

If you have been given the responsibility, step into that role. An executive I work with had a remit from his CEO to build a team but, still finding his feet in his new job, continually used language that sought approval, such as: ‘is it okay if…?’ vs/ “I propose ….”  Pay attention to the language you are using in your interactions and use robust language to convey your recommendation.


  1. Prepare well:

Preparation is key to performing well and never more important than when the doubting gremlins strike. Self-sabotage is a curious thing: have you ever been ‘too busy’ to prepare for a meeting even though you knew key stakeholders were present, choosing to prioritise something less important? Also, beginnings are critical – one client used to arrive in meetings late and flustered which impacted her gravitas and diluted her influence. Remember the way you walk into a meeting room or open your presentation are key moments.


  1. See everyone as a client

Often I am aware that people behaviour differently with clients than with internal colleagues. They view adapting their style to different clients to be part of their job and do it extremely well. Ask yourself: what would I be saying if this were an external client? If you need to understand what your colleagues need from you, ask directly: “What is the biggest priority?’


  1. Ask for support

Imposter syndrome sometimes triggers the sense that you have to do everything on your own. During a client review process, two colleagues explained they couldn’t understand why their team member hadn’t asked them for help to prepare a critical presentation. Be clear on what you need and let others be part of your success.


  1. Develop trusted peer relationships

If the relationship with your boss is not open and trusting, find one or two good peers who you can talk to. You need trusted confidantes so you know you are not alone. Choose carefully – not your team members and not people who can influence your career. Be mindful also of what you say: this is to gain support in the face of challenges, not vent your wrath.


  1. Recognise your achievements and successes.

Write down your achievements: the past year, month or even week. You will remind yourself what you are capable even if the current road seems rocky. I also recommend clients keep a ‘testimonials folder’ – positive and affirming comments from their clients and colleagues. A quick referral to this folder gives you a boost you need at critical moments.


  1. Dress for the job

Do you look how you want to feel? One client recently decided to ‘dress for the job’ and invested in two high quality suits. The link between how you look and feel has been long proven and ‘power dressing’ is a highly effective and immediate way of adjusting your mind set.


  1. Create mental and physical space

Marie Kondo says “the space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were”.   Often we jump from one activity to another with little space in between to reflect or adjust our mind set. You may go from a highly detailed meeting straight into a bigger picture meeting which requires a different energy.  Try to allow 15 minutes between key meetings or take a short walk to shift the energy in your body. And create the physical space – a calm and clear workspace really does increase your sense of control.


Dr Valerie Young in her book ‘The Secrets of Successful Women’ says, “You can only stop feeling like an imposter once you stop thinking like an imposter.”  To be your best, step into the role of the person you want to be and let yourself shine.


Would you like to take time out to clarify your ambitions and aspirations and set a plan to achieve them? Bookings are now open for the 2019 Potential Plus International one-to-one Vision Intensive Programme. Sign up to our Leadership Insights & Articles here.


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