Life is a funny thing. But the one thing it has taught me is that the only constant is change. It doesn’t come easily to most – not least of all to me. It can be a terrifying prospect, a leap into the unknown, and an utterly overwhelming inevitability.
I started out my career with laughable delusions of grandeur. Blame the television series LA Law. I became besotted with the idea of transforming into a major league criminal litigator, dressed to the nines in a form-fitting pencil skirt and killer heels, with a sassy attitude to match.
The fact that the actors in the televised drama were all either suave, sexy or killer handsome added fuel to my raging fire. Oh, but how reality let me down…
I didn’t cut it beyond second year law at university, too busy was I at attempting to ferret out my own male version of a legal eagle. So I dropped out and opted for the next best thing: crime reporting. Perhaps not much by the way of picture perfect men, but sleuthing at least in some shape or form.
Crime reporting possessed its own macabre adrenalin rush. It opened my eyes to a world unfiltered by the niceties of life. It was most often savage in its cruelty, and sliced and diced the lives of the hapless individuals in its path.
But the tenacity that held me steady throughout my years in newsrooms eventually gave way to an aching vulnerability impossible to blend in with my chosen career. I tried hard to disassociate from the pain and grief of victims of violence, but found myself oddly drawn to them.
This, of course, can never work in the field of hard news. Cast iron stomachs don’t go well with feeble hearts. So I left the cut and thrust world of news broken-hearted and unable to drop anchor for many years.
I lectured in journalism for a while which, in hindsight, probably provided the groundwork for the way in which I now make a living. But I quickly became bored. A five-year stint on talk radio was my next proud moment, and I discovered that I relished it almost as much as the newspaper ink in my blood stream.
Writing for magazines came somewhere in between, something I can’t say I took to with the same intensity of churning out hard news. Then it was a brief and highly unsatisfying affair with Public Relations. It took three months for me to decide that it wasn’t in my DNA to work on campaigns I didn’t believe in. And I was adrift again.
My beloved late Mom believed emphatically that every step you take happens for a reason, so perhaps working for an agency was the catalyst I needed to start my own business as a media and communications consultant.
The first two years were a rollercoaster of unpaid bills, unpaid rent and shattered nerves. But the tenacity I’d learned as a reporter paid off. It’s more than 20 years down the line, and I often have to pinch myself to come to terms with the fact that I’m still in business.
I’m a no-holds-barred straight shooter, and my clients know me for it. I beat them up in on-camera simulated interviews to prepare them for the real thing. I was called a “terrier” in the newsrooms in which I worked. This has now evolved to “bulldog” in the training space. It’s a good thing I love dogs.
I tell things like they are. Ambush and guerilla tactics are my bread and butter.
So it came as some surprise to be asked to provide one-on-one mentorship sessions for high level executives. It was even more astonishing to discover that I have the capacity to validate the people I work with and to somehow intuitively understand what they may need from me.
It is such a privilege to be in a position to help someone terrified of public speaking, who struggles to maintain eye contact, and who drowns in corporate speak, to become sufficiently poised to stand confidently before an audience and engage in real conversation.
I watch as C-Suite executives shed their corporate armour, forget their unrelenting stress – if only for an hour or two – and share their biggest fears with me. Some are tougher nuts to crack than others, but like everyone else, they too are vulnerable.
They dutifully come into each session with a togbag full of clothing – in colours they would never have dreamed of wearing. After a flurry of wardrobe changes done at speed in the office bathroom, they settle into their new ‘skin’ and embrace their audience with an authenticity that could never be fudged.
It is an honour to be called upon to help people fulfil their purpose, to overcome their fears, gain perspective and more importantly, believe in themselves.
We are all so focussed on winning the corporate war, that we lose sight of the individuals in our armies.If an organisation’s most valuable asset is its employees, then an investment needs to be made in its people.