We were on a road trip recently, with plenty of windshield time to talk about big topics, and really explore conversations that we could go deeper on than we would over morning coffee during a regular week. During the road trip, the conversations ranged in topic and one that kept coming up was the idea of feeling "less than" towards ourselves. We talked about imposter syndrome and self-worth, fear and judgment, confidence and value, among other topics. Those are some big topics with big feelings around them, as we strive to be strong, powerful women leaders and those topics can uncover thoughts and emotions that are deeply imbedded into our perception of who we are.
We started talking about the idea that our career is like an epic road trip, not just the 4-hour drive to visit family, but the big journey across the country, stopping and exploring places along the way, the kind that you spend significant time dreaming about, planning for and navigating through when you finally set off on the trip.
We talked about the barriers and road blocks that come up (like fear, confidence, imposter syndrome, uncertainty, judgment, priorities, just to name a few!) and how they can stop us before we even get in the car. That led us to a conversation about what if we invited those things to be in the car with us, but only as passengers, on our terms? So often, we put those things into the driver seat, letting them take over and decide where we are headed, which often leads us to a destination we do not want to be at, feeling like we are stuck here because we are not in control.
Think about it - imagine that you are in control as the driver, and you get to decide who is in the car, how much power you give them (are they a co-pilot? are you just letting them ride this leg? do they get to pick the music or topics of conversation?) and how many of them get to be in the car at once?
Changing how you think about these barriers and road blocks doesn't just change that moment, it changes the game. Allowing those thoughts to exist while achieving results, building teams, establishing trust and defining your path is the very outcome you are trying to create as a leader. And yet, when we choose resistance, we make it harder to reach the outcomes we are working so hard to achieve.
Both of us are navigating big changes at work right now - new roles, new teams, new areas of focus and responsibility and we are living these thoughts and emotions on a regular basis. That is part of what prompted us to dive into both where we were meeting resistance and how we could better navigate it to create success. Here is the roadmap we created to help navigate all the thoughts and create the success we know we are capable of achieving.
Start with the end in mind: like all good road trips, you have to know where you want to end up so start with that in mind. Knowing your goals as a leader, and knowing what you want to accomplish, will help you anchor yourself as you navigate the change.
Acknowledge your thoughts and decide how you want to let them exist: one of the things we learned (and learned the hard way!) is that you cannot ignore the thoughts of doubt and insecurity and find your way to success. You have to be aware of them and then decide what you want to do with them. One trick we use is to write down all the thoughts we are having and then ask ourselves "does this thought serve me in this moment?". It does not make the thought go away but it does give us agency over it and remind us that we get to decide.
Choose an empowering thought that anchors you: this is a simple step that we can often overlook as things seem to be going well, or we are making progress. The opportunity here is to create that thought before things get tough, which they will! A couple examples of thoughts we use include 'my self-confidence is the most powerful tool I have' and 'I am figuring out how to build the outcomes I want'. How we talk to ourselves, particularly in moments of challenge, can determine how things turn out, beyond our own experience.
Find your circle: this can be a trusted advisor or mentor, a friend who knows how to listen and challenge you or even a coach that you choose to work with, the important thing is that you have a network you can tap into to talk through challenges. It is important that you separate this from colleagues, where discussing challenges can veer into gossip, complaining or general feeding the issue, instead of finding strategies to solve it.
These four steps are some of our most successful strategies for navigating challenges and avoiding the common traps that change can bring about, especially if we do not spend some time preparing ourselves for what's to come. We also know that when we hit the inevitable speed bumps, detours or unexpected delays, these tools ensure that we do not lose sight of our goals and we put these to work to help us stay focused and moving.
The next time you get stuck with barriers and road blocks, like your thoughts and beliefs that may not serve you (we are looking at you right now self-doubt!), try tapping into these tools so you can take back control and be in the driver's seat of your own change. Taking back that control will empower you to own the actions and results you create, and help navigate that change with more success.
If you are a visual learner, you might also try getting creative with how you "write" this out and use visual drawings to reflect your goals, your empowering thoughts and the key milestones you want to achieve along the way. Maybe even a fun road map like the old triptiks that we used to create before those big travel adventures! We might even try that and share our with you in a future blog!