Why showing up as the best version of yourself will help your career

Standing out from the crowd: one rubber duck set aside from a line of rubber ducks
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Feeling the pressure to fit in? Here are eight steps to help you show up as the best version of yourself.

"I just didn't fit in. I felt awkward, uncomfortable and different, somehow marginalised in the meeting. I really want to talk about it."

These were the initial words that a client shared with me at her coaching session. She was referring to the first significant external meeting with her senior leadership colleagues in a capacity as the new functional head.

But the excitement at attending this meeting quickly changed as she entered the room to be greeted with a sea of male, middle-aged colleagues, all wearing grey suits.

Feeling different

"I like to be colourful," she said. "It’s part of who I am, my brand." And yet, somehow in this leadership role, she felt incredibly torn and challenged.

Our coaching session, therefore, initially focused on her feelings of being different. We reflected upon how her colleagues responded to her and how her appearance affected her performance. What difference would it have made had she too put on a grey suit to fit in?

This coaching session is not the first time I've experienced the concerns that female leaders have as they push up through the corporate ranks to the boardroom and senior leadership roles.

Personal brand

Clothing is just one part of our personal brand. Yet, just because our dress sense is somehow different, this does not make us less effective or impactful within our role.

The desire to conform to the social norms, including the belief that entering a boardroom requires you to wear a grey suit, should be challenged.    

It’s fascinating how something as simple as the clothes that we choose to wear can elicit such strong emotions, a feeling of self-doubt and a dent in our confidence, or, to counterbalance this, a feeling of empowerment and authority.

Showing up as the best version of yourself

This is just one example of why showing up, being proud of who you are and what you represent, is vital as opposed to feeling the need to fit in. Recognising and valuing the differences that we all bring, regardless of our gender, heritage, age, and certainly our dress sense, should all be celebrated.

What’s holding you back?

The need to fit in with others can be just one element that holds us back. The desire to conform to the social norms, including the belief that entering a boardroom requires you to wear a grey suit, should be challenged.    

We know that there are many scientific gender differences which make men and women act and think differently. These can affect self-confidence, career decisions and self-awareness when it comes to breaking through the barriers that have historically impeded women’s progression to the boardroom.

These are explained in a fascinating book by Barbara Annis and Richard Nesbitt (Results at the Top: Using Gender Intelligence to Create Breakthrough Growth).

Vive la difference!

Annis and Nesbitt show that women take fewer risks and have more processing power for details. This makes men great in a crisis and seeing the bigger picture whilst women like to plan and think through the details.

This also translates to women spending more time processing emotions or being sensitive to people around them and possibly getting distracted in a work situation.

Don’t be too proud or arrogant to accept help. It is not a sign of weakness but demonstrates confidence in knowing what you can and cannot do.

However, women can ‘bounce’ between the left and right side of the brain more effectively than men, between facts and emotions, rather than the straight line thinking of their male counterparts.

These seem to me to be great assets for any organisation. But sadly, historically, male leadership characteristics are more prevalent and valued.

How to show up as the best version of yourself

So, reflecting upon my recent coaching session I would encourage you all to consider your strengths. What do you stand for? What inspires you? And how do you like to show up? Step into your brilliance and become more visible. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some more ideas to help you show up as the best version of yourself.

1.    Stay connected

Grasp every opportunity to increase your visibility, presence and influence. Talk to new people, attend external meetings, conferences and take up training opportunities.

Networking is important, be curious and genuinely interested in others as this will help you build rapport. Listening is an important skill and remember to be authentic.

If you don’t yet feel confident to engage face to face, connect with influential people via professional social platforms such as LinkedIn.

2.    Stretch yourself

Not literally! Find yourself a project that challenges you. If you are not ready to move organisations seek out a short-term project at work that goes beyond your current knowledge and skills such as mentoring someone else, planning an office move, creating an employee newsletter or organising an event or meeting.

3.    Keep learning new skills

This really is the key to finding new openings. There are learning opportunities everywhere not just formal work-based schemes, you can learn from others, ask questions and absorb their knowledge.

In your spare time, there are podcasts, free online learning from the Open University or via YouTube, TED talks, blogs, articles and books to read that will increase your knowledge and skills.  

4.    Accept help

Don’t be too proud or arrogant to accept help. It is not a sign of weakness but demonstrates confidence in knowing what you can and cannot do.

If you can find yourself a formal or informal mentor you will always have someone that helps, inspires, connects and stretches you.

5.    Be positive

Stop the negative self-talk and avoid criticising others. Negativity is soul destroying for those giving it or receiving it. It undermines people’s self-worth and confidence. As Monty Python would say – always look on the bright side of life!

6.    Celebrate success

Don’t be shy when it comes to telling people what you have accomplished, in a factual, non-boastful way.

I urge you to show up and be courageous, confident and step into your unique difference.

Using stories (or case studies) are great ways of getting people to understand what you have achieved, who you have helped or obstacles you have overcome.

And don’t forget to recognise and celebrate the achievements of your co-workers.

7.    Help others

Pay it forward is becoming more common, so why not help others become the best versions of themselves rather than competing? You do it for your friends, children and family so why not support others at work, it will improve the strength of the team.

8.    Small steps

If steps 1 – 7 seem daunting then remember every task, objective and ambition begins with one small step. Just showing up and making a start will move you towards your goal.

Don’t worry about the time it is taking or doing everything right, you will make mistakes and have setbacks just keep moving in the right direction.

One important thing to remember however is to stop procrastinating! This is a form of self-sabotage. Don’t get sidetracked, remember to take small, manageable steps every day.

Be confident and courageous

Showing up sometimes isn’t easy. I constantly have to push myself forward into unchartered territory and I too have wardrobe malfunctions.

I strongly believe that ‘you must be the change you wish to see in the world’ (Gandhi). So when I show up I try to be bold, be brave and be authentic.  

I urge you to show up and be courageous, confident and step into your unique difference. Remember it’s your personal brand, so be true to who you are and celebrate being you.

 

About Teresa Boughey

Teresa Boughey

Teresa Boughey, MA Chartered FCIPD, is Founder and CEO of National Award-Winning Jungle HR a strategic HR Consultancy Practice that works with Executive Boards and Leadership Teams during times of change and business transformation.

Described by her peers as personable, innovative and high energy. Teresa has operated at Senior level within a variety of industries and sectors including FTSE 250, Financial Services, Travel Industry, Private and Public Sectors, Charitable Organisations and a Sunday Times Top 100 Company that grew 30% year on year.

Her achievements are award winning and include leading on the acquisition of the iconic Gleneagles hotel, delivering business transformation programmes across Europe achieving cost savings of c1.5million euros as well as providing Executive Coaching to Board & C-suite members.

Teresa has also been appointed to one of only 50 UK Female Entrepreneur Ambassador roles and is currently a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Women in Enterprise and also the Women at Work All Party Parliamentary Group.

Her book, ‘Closing the Gap – 5 Steps to Creating an Inclusive Culture’  will be published winter 2018.  The book will provide Corporate CEOs and HR Directors with a clear framework which can be used to create a culture that welcomes diversity and aims to close the gap in gender pay using her tribe5 Diversity Accelerator ™ methodology. Teresa is also launching a free tribe5 Diversity and Inclusion Report and a series of taster sessions, one day workshops, Impact Programmes or can work more closely with companies through an in-house programme.

As an active fundraiser Teresa has also helps raise funds for various charities and is currently an Ambassador for The Hunger Project – Unleased Women’s Project. 

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