We are our own worst enemies.
I think it’s a cultural thing — part of where our society is right now. When we see beautiful highlight reels on social media showing all the COOL stuff other people are doing (You met who?? You were speaking where??) we question our own legitimacy.
When I first started Unreal a couple of years ago and offered coaching services as an add-on, I hadn’t offered formal consulting before. One of the first clients to sign up was someone who had a multi-million dollar exit just a few years earlier.
This really threw me for a loop. What could he possibly learn from me?
I started to really get into my own head before our first call. I had to hype myself up…I had to make him believe that he made a good choice!
My coach would say that I was trying to “prove” that I belonged.
Over time, I began to understand something that I now call “experience ladders.” Imagine a wall with a whole row of ladders lined up next to one another.
Obviously, we all have our own particular set of skills. We have a perception of our own skill level, and of the skill level of those around us. Same goes for the people we work with!
Think of each of those skills as a ladder. We ballpark our position on a ladder relative to others pretty much constantly, in all aspects of life. And when we think someone is higher on the ladder than us, we look up to them and try to learn from them.
Often, we hire them.
Here’s where things get sticky. Sometimes, when imposter syndrome rears its stupid little head, we consolidate the ladders into ONE ladder. We begin thinking of an absolute “skill score” and estimate others relative to ourselves.
This is what I was doing with my client. He was miles ahead of me in terms of hiring, running a P&L, and a lot of other things too. On an absolute scale, I was thinking, “How could I ever help this person?”
But that’s not what was happening in his head. He’s looking at the ladders where I’m a couple rungs higher and saying, “I could use your help in getting up there.”
To be successful in working with and solving problems with others, you need to be confident and secure in your position on the ladder. And not just on the ladders that you are perched high on — but also those where you are behind your client.
Understand that you aren’t being hired to help every aspect of someone’s life or business. They are hiring you for very specific ladders (skills) where you excel.
Instead of posturing and “proving” that you can swing on every ladder, be secure in the fact that you have a ladder you were hired for. You don’t have to help on all of them.
In fact, recognize the client for the ladders where they can help YOU.
“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t. …Respect their knowledge and learn from them. It will bring out the best in all of you.”
— Bill Nye, UMass Lowell 2014 Commencement Speech
Focus on where you can help the most. Be confident and secure in those skills, and you’ll do better work (and enjoy it more too).