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Going Solo Seeking Help

I started reading the book, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, and right at the very beginning she talks about how in her early life there were lots of coaches and mentors for the men in the various corporates that she worked in but not so much for the women.

It got me thinking about my life and what I've done and how that makes you a different person. I started off my accounting career, I was the only woman accountant in an office of 50. The other women on staff where in those days secretaries or the receptionist. It's like world of men, young men, the old men partners. Like it was a male dominated world.

You know what, I had no idea about mentors or coaches, that they even existed until many, many, many years later. So last year I was on a panel with American Express with Jo Burston from Rare Birds and I can't remember exactly the name of her other company. She talked about how she had a mentor right from pretty much from the get go in her business and she's in her, I'm guessing thirties and I thought, what a difference the decades make because she obviously knew that those people existed. Someone reached out to her. She reached out to them. I'm not sure how it happened. But she had a mentor helping her in her business from day one, someone who'd been there, done that and was able to help her to build and scale that business more quickly, more successfully than she would have done if she'd just perhaps done it alone, maybe not, but I would suggest that the mentors do fast track your process and that is something that a mentor can do.

As I say, I didn't have the luxury of that when I was in my early days in employment, in business. I know there are people that will mentor other people coming up the ranks in corporate and there are people that will mentor people in business by that wasn't around in my day. So that coupled with an upbringing where I was brought up to be independent, to rely on myself, to make my own decisions meant that I didn't seek help. I didn't ask questions and I made all the mistakes myself, which on the one hand has made me who I am and it has given me the wisdom and the knowledge that I can help other people perhaps not do the same things that I did, not make the same mistakes I made.

But it's built a resilience and a strength of character that perhaps would not have been there if I hadn't had to do it myself, make those mistakes, work out how to get out of the messes that those mistakes put me into. So I absolutely see the power of the mentors.

In recent times I've done a lot in teaching myself about marketing, about other aspects of business and in more recent years, done a lot of personal development work and the value of that, I used to [inaudible] and say, "Oh yeah, that's for people who need help. That's not for me. I don't need help. I just, I know what I'm doing. I'm fine." It was interesting when he was the coach I'm working with on personal development at the moment and I've been working with her for 12 months now, she's not the first I've worked with, I've worked with someone else before that but this particular call last week and we're having our usual conversation and I said something glibly, passed over it, kept talking and my coach stopped me and said, "Just stop a minute, Amanda." I'm like, "Okay. What have I done?"

She said, "No, just want to back up because you said something and I want to hold you accountable to this and bring this to your attention." So we went back to what I had said and she said it back at me. Well, yeah, she remembered what I'd said. I hadn't. That was just the interesting part for me. I haven't noticed what I've said. It had come out in a stream of sentences and I haven't noticed what I had said. She quoted me back at me. Wow. I heard it for the first time but knowing that I have said that sentence, used that excuse thousands of times and probably in my subconscious mind a million times, millions of times, that negative self talk, that excuse talk that we use, that goes on in our mind all the time and I hadn't noticed that I said it. I wasn't conscious of it. But the moment she said at back to me, I went, "Oh. That's why I'd struggle with this. I struggle with that. I struggle with the next thing. I struggle with this."

Why all the things that I find I struggle with, I can ... The root of that, the cause of that, the fundamental building block in my mind that is stopping me is this one little sentence. It was gold, absolute gold. Because whilst I may not be able to eradicate it out of my mind immediately the moment, the fact is that I know that it's there. I'm more conscious of it and so when I hear myself about to say it, I can change the way I say it and change the way I react and do things and do things differently.

Now, if you'd asked me a couple of years ago about the value of a personal development coach as I would have said no, but I know that over the last couple of years I have done a lot more than I would ever have done if I hadn't had a coach pushing me, prodding me, encouraging me, supporting me to do things.

That's the first thing. The second thing is that the mentors that have been in my life probably over the last six, seven years now have also had major impact. So if you're in business and you feel like you're going solo and being your own boss in your own business, I'm fine with that. I'm not talking about that going solo. That's cool if that's your thing and it's my thing so I get you. But it's about having people to support and encourage you to have coaches and mentors, to have mentors.

So to me the difference, a mentor is someone who's been there, done that. Someone who you potentially aspire to be like or can learn from the lessons that they've learnt without having to make those mistakes yourself. The mentors are one that will give you their knowledge. A coach is someone who helps you to identify what you already know and helps you to see what you perhaps don't see in yourself. So for me, the personal development coach has been a lot around learning about things that I say or think that I am not consciously saying and thinking. I mean, but it's not really, it's not really going in here when I say it. It's more that it comes out without it me being conscious of exactly what I've said and ultimately then the self talk that goes on, just letting that chatter, chatter, chatter, chatter in the background without any consciousness about it.

The value of both is massive and I just wish that when I started out my employment days, in my career all those years ago, that there were more people that could help the women who were starting out, women who were very much in a man's world. There were four girls at university in a class of two, 300. Think of that. We were the odd ones out. We didn't have support. Yeah, we did band together a bit through university, not a lot but a bit and one of them certainly became a very good friend of mine, but we were the lone soldiers out there doing it tough without the support and as Sheryl Sandberg says, we've come a long way since the '60s and '70s when the women's rights revolution really took place. Although there was a lot of that that took place a lot earlier as well. But when we really started to demand more equality and fairness, but the reality is we've got so far to go. As women we have to support each other. We have to encourage and support the younger generation coming through, provide them with the mentorship or the coaching, whatever your capability is to help the obvious coming up the ranks.

Because the guys are getting the help, without a doubt they're getting the help and they getting the promotions like Sheryl says, on on possibility, on their capability for the future and where is women get the roles if they get them based on what they've done in the past. It's crazy. We have a lot to learn, we've got a lot still to do. But in reality, whether you're a man or a woman, it doesn't matter. Make sure you've got a mentor in your business, someone that you can turn to that can help you to make decisions, to help you to identify and [inaudible] some of the struggles that you may be dealing with. Potentially, look at a personal development coach as well. Someone who will help to make you a better person, push you out of your comfort zone from time to time and help you to realize how you can improve and be a better person.

So go solo in your business by all means. Absolutely, if that's your thing as a say, I'm like you, it's my thing. But do get around you not only your friends and accountability buddies, but also mentors and perhaps personal development coach and see whether it makes a difference for you.


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