From as early as I can remember when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I said ‘the boss.’
I'm sure you could imagine the patronising and uncomfortable reactions to this response from a cute, chubby little girl; particularly in the late 80’s early 90’s.
In the very least it was generally met with a gentle nudge toward a more ‘appropriate’ career path for a little girl; like a schoolteacher or a nurse.
By my teenage years I’d pushed it to the side and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
I studied a year of a double degree in journalism and international studies, and then moved un-purposefully on to a Medical Radiation degree.
This decision was made for two reasons that frustrate me endlessly in hindsight;
1. I was told it was easy to get a solid job with a good income straight out of university and thought it wasn’t really possible for me to make money doing something I loved – particularly when I didn’t yet know what that was.
2. I was riddled with self doubt and thought I wasn’t good enough, confident enough, attractive enough, charismatic enough, to make in in the world of journalism.
I need to add here that in my family not going to University was seemingly not a consideration!
In fact, my beautiful and well-meaning Nanna already had a four picture photo frame up on her wall with the graduation photos of my brother and two cousins with one blank spot left in the bottom right for her youngest grand child – me!
Needless to say I felt pretty compelled to fill that spot.
I can remember sitting in the lecture theatre on my first day of University (second time around) feeling ill.
I was saying to myself 'I really don’t want to do this degree, this does not interest me at all'!
Yet somehow I managed to complete that three-year degree with a Distinction average and land a role with SA’s leading medical imaging company who were my first choice of employer.
At my three-month review as a Graduate Radiographer I was asked what carer path I wanted to follow.
Usually the response would be another technical modality like MRI or Ultrasound. I surprised my managers by saying ‘I’d like to step in to management.’
Finally my child hood dreams were starting to break through and because I’d indicated this desire and started taking an interest in the business and what made the cogs turn, I was promoted very quickly.
At the age of just 24 I was managing my first Medical Imaging clinic.
Stepping in to a leadership role at any age is tough.
It can be even tougher for a female in the still predominately male dominated world of management.
Tougher again when you are managing staff who have been in the organisation longer than you've been alive!
I quickly learnt that being a manager was about more than just but being handed a title and a set of keys, and as reality hit - I started drowning.
I thought I needed to know everything when in fact I had everything to learn.
I thought I needed to take on the traits of other leaders I could see around me, usually men, who had completely different personality styles and values to me.
I thought I needed to appear perfect, not letting any sign of vulnerability or weakness shine through.
I was wrong.
I quickly began to feel alone and like I just wasn’t good enough.
I didn’t want to share what I was feeling with my peers/managers in case I got ‘found out’.
This instantly put a barrier between myself and some of the members of my team.
If you’ve ever been in a situation where you were in conflict with a work colleague or two, you’ll know that it’s enough to completely derail you.
At my lowest point I was publicly yelled at by a member of my team and told on a separate occasion that one day I’d realise ‘I just wasn’t cut out for management.’
I attended leadership courses and received a heap of great tools and techniques but I was without the confidence, self-belief or understanding of human behaviour to be able to effectively implement them.
After one particular leadership and management diploma level course I reached out to one of the facilitators
‘How am I ever meant to gain the respect of these people? Why does this feel so hard?’
In hind sight this is where the seed was planted for me because his answer just didn’t cut it.
‘You’re young. It’ll just take time'
I became filled with dread and fear at the thought of going to work each day and I very nearly gave up.
My once healthy, balanced lifestyle was thrown out of whack, and I wasn’t feeling confident and connected to the way that I was living.
I was compartmentalising to the point that I’d forgotten who I actually was in any part of my life and life seemed to drift away while I was constantly chasing my tail and trying to juggle the balls.
My relationships and my mental and physical health were suffering.
After 10 years (and counting) of personal and professional development, a long list of qualifications, a bit of trial and error and learnings from those who are living and leading with success, I now know what it’s like to thrive in leadership and life.
I know what it’s like to connect to my role as a leader and to feel excitement at the challenges that I’m faced with rather than dread.
I understand my own strengths and what I have to offer as a leader without having to try to be someone else.
I have a clearer understanding of human behaviour and what triggers us to act and react in the way that we do.
I know how to help people to solve their own problems, empowering them to be able to do that over and over again.
With this transformation came further promotion to manage a portfolio of five medical imaging clinics across South Australia - and then to build three more!
Clinics with millions of dollars in revenue that consistently smashed KPIs.
My relationship with the person who publicly yelled at me improved to the point that she was promoted to be my direct report, and those who were once my harshest critics opened up to apologise for their bullying behaviour and compliment me on my level of resilience and my turn around.
I knew I was on to something.
Soon after the birth of my little boy Flynn, my second baby was born; A business connecting and supporting Women in Leadership; helping them to find the confidence, clarity and fulfilment that I had finally been able to find for myself.
If you're looking to thrive, not just survive, in your leadership journey whether you are twenty years down the road or haven’t quite stepped up yet please don’t hesitate to reach out, I’d love to hear from you!
I am now taking enrolments for my 2019 LEAD ID program, I'd love to see you there.
Blaze your trail.