When women come to me wanting to develop their leadership potential, the first thing I ask is, do I have permission to challenge them.
This is a fundamental precept of coaching - a willingness to be open to feedback.
Step 1 in developing your career or role in an organisation - is to understand yourself. This includes how others see you, and even more importantly how you see yourself.
Many people speak of experiencing "imposter syndrome" when they step out of their comfort zone and take on new challenges. We feel exposed to criticism from others, and even more strongly from ourselves. This can erode our confidence, and have us reluctant to take risks at work and in life.
Being unwilling to take risks, undermines our confidence and capacity to lead change: in our working life, our organisations and our community. It stops us from applying for new roles and opportunities, from implementing new policies and strategies, from challenging the status quo.
Our fear keeps us small, feeling undervalued and unappreciated. It stops us speaking up in a meeting, from getting the resources to pursue our ideas. Ultimately, it stops us following our dreams and standing up for what is right.
However, understanding and appreciating yourself, your values and strengths, provides a foundation from which you can step forward and lead change.
In coaching, there are moments of vulnerability - when something new is learnt or uncovered. In this safe space, you develop the capacity to be OK with these discoveries, and develop small, modest tests to allow others to see this new you.
By understanding our "self", we have a new capacity to navigate the various roles we play in work, home and life.
One of the best compliments I ever received as CEO at Milk Crate Theatre - was from a community member who said they liked that "what you saw is what you get".
When others see and appreciate your authenticity, you begin to develop a culture of trust, from which we can communicate and make change in partnership with those around us.
We can stop holding back, afraid of what others will think, and do what needs to be done.