It's almost seven years to the date when I walked into work on my first day as CEO to lead an organisation I had already been a part of for seven years previously. I wholeheartedly believe in the vision and mission of the work and had originally applied for my first role as I wished there had been a service to support my family during my adolescent years of struggle.
Those seven years have passed by in a flash, they have been characterised by rich learning opportunities in an undulating and at times seemingly unrelenting landscape. At times it has been glorious and at others it would seem the storms and darkness would never clear.
I threw myself into the role with all the enthusiasm and gusto of, well...a first time CEO.
Here are 3 of the many things I wish I had known.
1 -This will be tough
Not just "tough" but "T.O.U.G.H". In the way people tell you how tough it's going to be when you become a parent for the first time but nothing really prepares you for it. It will be tough and at times it will be lonely. You will doubt yourself and feel as if you are failing yourself and others.
Tough, is how this rolls. Tough is good.
Tough is how we break the mould, how we achieve change.
Tough requires courage and there is no courage without vulnerability.
If we embrace vulnerability we also open the door to doubt and to shame.
Shame needs us to play small, it's a vampire that cannot survive our stepping into the light.
Some of the biggest challenges you will face will be with yourself.
Self-care isn't a "nice thing to do", it's essential. It's your preparation for the journey. Be well resourced physically, mentally and spiritually.
2 - You are enough
I cannot count the times I was told I had "big boots to fill" and how that fuelled my need to prove I was as "good as" my predecessor. I guess that at that time "as good as" meant "the same as". You are uniquely you, you cannot be and will never be anyone but you. By all means learn from others but please know that you fill no ones shoes but your own.
Roles are a lot like shoes. They might feel tight and slightly uncomfortable at first, good ones you can wear in but if they keep giving you blisters, don't keep on trying to walk in them. There are other shoes out there. Go get a new pair, a pair that makes you happy.
3 - Trust your intuition
If something doesn't feel right. It's probably not. It you may not be right about it, you just may not have all of the facts. Trusting our intuition isn't about forging ahead and making decision with blind faith, it's about recognising our emotional responses being attuned to those of others around us and staying curious.
Build a network of people you can trust, find mentors and peers you can call on to rumble with, sense check and learn from in these moments.
Finally, I want you to remember.
You chose this role because this is work you believe in, you were given this role because someone believed in you.