Nancy Fredericks pens Women Lead Change's "Mindful Mondays" column, appearing the second Monday of every month. Fredericks is a preeminent Business Executive Strategist, Author and Thought Leader. Corporations like Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Adobe, Allergan and Transamerica have retained her to optimize individual and organizational performance. You can find her at www.CareerStretchZone.com. The views of Nancy Frederick's blogs represent her own and not necessarily the views of Women Lead Change.
Recently reading research in the world of businesswomen stirred my memory banks of a time when I chose the road less traveled to arrive where I happily am today. At the time, did I know how momentous this decision was? No! It’s only in hindsight, we see. My desire is to transfer insight to you through the hard-won wisdom I acquired along the way that will shorten your transformational journey.
I recall one-ruler-knuckle-rapping-lesson early in the history of Nancy Fredericks International. Looking back, I can see a backward step instead of a forward one would have caused the course of my future to be changed dramatically.
And there’s no question in my mind that if you’re up to something big, you’ll run into your own “Don’t Chicken Out” career-making inflection point sooner rather than later.
Wait a minute. Let me be entirely honest. It won’t be one lone incident. Fully maturing into the possibility of all you can be means you’ll face another “Don’t Chicken Out” moment and then another and another. It’s practically guaranteed. You’ll never regret building muscle with every big, risky step taken on your way to the future.
The tale begins in a parking lot with my heart tripping an unnatural beat; as this lone woman, me, jumpstarted a business that is still going strong over 30 years later.
But its genesis started long before with cold promotion letters sent to Presidents of companies I’d love to land as clients.
Dreaming big entails also acting big, so I included Hunt-Wesson to my mailing list. Low and behold, the Corporate Vice President of Human Resources’ admin called scheduling a meeting.
I was breathless. My first humongous corporate client face-to-face meeting—this explains the irregular heartbeat.
Arriving at their West Coast Headquarters, I walked from the parking lot to an arched bridge across a California riverbed (cement flood control channel). At the peak, I saw their CAMPUS.
It was enormous in a just starting my business ego-deflating kind of way—definitely, too large a risk for me to attend the meeting. Scared and deflated, I turned around without giving my future a chance.
“Wait, just one little minute, Nancy,” something deep inside of me whispered. “You’re accountable. You keep your word,” the voice got louder and more censuring. “You can’t do this. You have to keep your appointment even if they laugh you out of the office.”
With dragging feet and confidence faltering, I turned around. I honestly can’t tell you one single thing about the meeting. It took place outside of consciousness because time ceased inside of me, but I do remember something magical transpired. I walked away with a contract in hand to coach the Corporate Vice President of Human Resources!
I’d passed the “Don’t Chicken Out” trial—the first significant, scary overcoming step leading to a future beyond my imagination. I learned what Admiral Michelle Howard, U.S. Navy (Retired) said as a 2018 KPMG Inspire Greatness Award Winner: “Sometimes when faced with an obstacle, you can’t go around it or above it, you just have to go through it.”
I don’t know whether this storyline in my history is more about overcoming risk or rising with confidence. I know both are appropriate and relate to fusing the research side of our dialogue on women’s leadership issues.
According to the KPMG Women’s Leadership, women said they lacked confidence:
While 67 percent of the women say, they need more support, building confidence to feel like they can be a leader. And 56 percent of women in this study are looking for confidence building training.
The reality is if you are always looking for outside approval, the chances are you’ll never achieve any heightened destination for yourself. What do you need to do?
Develop Your Inner Champion: Confidence isn’t about what people say to you. The truth is it’s about what you say to yourself. And it doesn’t come from outside. It’s an inside out affair. Research by Bain & Co. and LinkedIn shows women lose confidence between entering the workforce and upon reaching a mid-level position in a company. It appears they are internalizing the negative rather than holding on tight to all they’ve done well. Stop! Begin tracking your wins in your “I’m Doing Great” action journal, so your voice of success has a louder sound than any external one ever could. After all, it is your career you’re generating!
Forge Gap Goals: Audacious targets are essential but never make them roadblocks to your future. If you’re setting your aspiration bar way too lofty, you could unwittingly be positioning yourself for failure. I like to generate gap goals. What’s that? Set a commitment target—something you believe you can make, although it requires stretching. Then, create a big, fat, risky one that feels almost impossible to reach, but a whisper deep in your heart, says if everything in your life aligns, you could. Design your execution tasks around attaining your audacious goal. Operating between these two targets is how you foster a career. Keep in mind. This model rarely has you entirely achieving your daring aspirations. No sense of failure, please. Because you’ll always end up further along than you ever would if you only create simple stretch goals for yourself.
Learn To Do Things Afraid: Allowing your fear to determine the parameters of your world keeps you small. To grow means you’re taking action steps afraid. So, continuously do something new, even risky for this will move you into something brighter, better, and a heck of a lot more fun than hunkering down frozen in fear. And you may find yourself, without realizing it, at the top of the leadership mountain.
Please don’t allow your talents and gifts—the world needs them—to lie dormant because you’re fearful of risking and never built the confidence muscle necessary to be the difference-maker. “Just say, yes. Use any fear as motivation to be successful. That fear will then turn into confidence” as Adena Friedman, President of Nasdaq wisely shares.