When I go to work, I put on my ‘go to work armour.’ It’s not a physical thing so don’t worry. This is about how I behave. It’s not like I make a conscious decision to act differently but there is something about needing to be confident, sure of myself, leaderful – well at least my own perceptions of it. Inevitably there is a bit of ‘acting like I think others want to see me’ that creeps in. I now know that this goes beyond work and touches all aspects of my life. In fact I think we all do it, to some degree or another. The good thing is that sometimes we need to be able to ‘act’ a little. Ever been feeling really low and had an important meeting or a big presentation? Sometimes we need to lift ourselves out of feeling low and ‘perform’. Actors do it every day are are highly skilled at it and most CEO’s too I would argue. It is an important skill and discipline. Now I know some amongst you are probably disagreeing at this point and of course, with every upside skill there is downside and this is my light bulb moment from Challenger Week.
When I put on my ‘go to work armour’ it helps me ‘perform’. Equally it protects me from being hurt, from being found out and some would say from being wrong. However the problem with this is that it also prevents me from being seen. Seen for the real person I am with all the same vulnerabilities that most of us have, getting it wrong, screwing it up, saying the wrong thing and therefore being perceived in a way I do not want to be perceived…having failed or worse not being good enough.
Challenger week is what is says on the tin, a week of challenging but it was not exactly what I was expecting. The challenge has been an internal one. “Not what I was Expecting” was what I told my wife. She just smiled.
I have been experimenting since and people have been reacting differently to me. Taking off my armour is not easy – I have had years of practice with it on. However, the early signs are good. My friends thinks so and ultimately I know that this boils down to one very simple act of courage for me, which is that I simply just need to have the confidence to be myself and have other people embrace me for who I am.
And as I reflect on Challenger week, what does this now mean for me? Well, it impacts most things in my life, family, friendships and career. Career is interesting as it’s an area I have always thought I was really clear about, what I wanted, was prepared to sacrifice and what motivated me to get me out of bed in the morning. Most of that has not changed but for the first time in my career I have had the courage to ask for exactly what I want rather than - with my very efficient suit of body armour on - what I thought might be on offer. This has been a very interesting journey that is yet to conclude but I have never felt so sure about what I want from a job and whatever the outcome I can sleep very soundly.
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