When I was thinking about starting my own business, through coaching I realised I was facing a limiting belief; that it is not possible to be fun AND professional at the same time.
Joking aside.... I'm naturally a very easy going and fun person; I love to make jokes, I love comedy and improv and it makes life better to laugh. I've been very fortunate to have many fun colleagues throughout the years but as I found myself moving into management level...
I became more self aware of that side of me and suppressed it, ultimately becoming quite a different person, especially during my time in a high stress situation
Due to my general appearance (petite and young looking for my age), it is difficult at work to be taken seriously, especially in a male dominated environment. As well as ensuring I work very hard, I always maintain the height of professionalism in my meetings; I take notes, I listen, I summarise, I ensure that everyone is clear about who is doing what, I'm on time, I follow up. But I felt that it wasn't possible for me to make jokes easily in this scenario.
Now that I am my own boss, I don’t have to fight to be seen as a professional employee; I can write my own script. I found myself thinking about what kind of experience I want to give to my client once we work together and during a coaching session, I found that I was censoring my own ideas. I was becoming frustrated; the only ideas that were coming up were a bit like writing a story together, 'the hero's journey'. But people wouldn’t take that seriously…. Right?
Stand and deliver I was frustrated so brought up my case again with my peer coach, Steve. He asked me some questions which really resonated. At first he asked, 'what does professionalism mean to you?'. Of course I considered that I would have to firstly look the part - smart clothes, neat hair, all the logos, bells and whistles. But then I also considered that my manner during interactions would be important too; turn up, be present and engaged, show empathy and leadership qualities and importantly, deliver.
When asked about the 'fun' part, I believed that others would not take me seriously or ultimately, trust me with their thoughts and feelings. Being fun I associated with being immature and irresponsible.
But being fun is such a huge part of who I am and I had found recently that when I tried to suppress myself to have a 'coaching persona', I felt so drained afterwards.
What do you value?
Through my coaching evaluations, I had been trying to coach more as myself as opposed to a robotic version and it had been so liberating and so freeing, with such wonderful reactions and results. My coach asked me, at the perfect moment, 'What do you value in coaching?'. And I knew that authenticity was right up there at the top, along with presence, deep listening, giving an air of calmness and empathy.
And then, 'What does the client need me to be?'…… this was the moment of realisation…….. They need me to be ME. I'm not only fun, I'm also professional. It’s a core part of myself to be on time, prepared AND to laugh when its funny and to care about what others are saying! I will always ensure that I will be there for my client completely and this is what really matters. I want the client to feel like they are writing their own story and that they are the hero but if this is uncomfortable for them, then this likely won't be the right client for me!
I had been fighting against who I am in my career for years and now it is time to choose myself first
I know how to create relationships with others and I do that with vulnerability, authenticity, honesty, laughter and my professionalism. There's no other way that I know how to be.
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