A couple of years back, I got hired to mentor someone we’ll call Reynard. He was sent to me because he felt ill-at-ease, lacking in confidence and that his career was going nowhere. When we first met, he surprised me by asking for a view on what he was wearing. He did not stop talking and I liked him enormously. He was uninhibited, emotional and extrovert.

As our sessions progressed it became clear that his organization was introvert and analytical to a degree that it destroyed hope (any analysis of the present can destroy the ‘what might be’ of the future). His skills of engaging people, trend-spotting, collaborating and facilitating held low value there.

Now accidents of birth usually foster a sense of knowing our place. We are soon to have a Royal Wedding in the UK, and our government is headed by two old Etonians. Plenty of scope here, then, for us to be nudged and reminded of our place. And the best intentioned family and friends can put unconscious limits on ambitions. There is nothing like a ‘We think you need to be more realistic’ to smash a crack in a vision.

This isn’t confined to class either. A middle-class background can help with confident social skills, understanding of networks and contacts for work experience – but it may impose its own cages of ‘we are a family of doctors/teachers/lawyers’ or ‘make job security your top priority ’.


Action for Unknowing

This post then is a suggestion to unknow your place, where a sense of it is holding you back. You may experience a creeping unease of your potential to be effective: your self-efficacy. You could usefully:

-find an Encourager, to explore your ideas with. Someone who doesn’t default to a critical position quickly. Every tale of success against overwhelming odds features an Encourager.
-seek out a situation where no one knows you and has any sense of – or much interest in – your limitations.
-the biggest disincentive for aspiration is loneliness. Explore solitary activities to help with this.
– go and experience or learn something peculiar for your age, gender, social standing.
-observe yourself as a research project when you do this: what works well? what could you do more/ less of? how are you surprising yourself? is your endeavour helping you morph into someone slightly different?

And back to Reynard. With courage and determination he has kept plugging away in the areas he champions and believes in. He has resisted negative and absent feedback to network tirelessly with others who share his zeal. He has an excellent reputation in more progressive versions of his own employer in different parts of the UK. And best of all, a global organization specializing in his interests has asked him to be on their board. His superiors back at the ranch are astounded.

There has been regime change at the top of his organization – and I hope his skills will be more valued as a result . But whatever happens, his journey of courage and tenacity has paid off. This week’s suggestion to Reynards everywhere then is this: find your fellow foxes. Could be the season for you to go hunting.

By szcz

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