When as I was younger I enjoyed building things. Lego was a favourite, with the aim of building the longest bridge or the tallest skyscraper (the latter in their final stages would require a chair and inevitably wobble with the slightest touch).

Likewise in my business life I also find I enjoy building and seeing things grow, whether it’s people in a team, a practice area or a business. I enjoy thinking through and planning for success, developing new clients and a stronger brand. But I also have a characteristic that can be viewed either as a limitation or a strength, depending on your view-point:

I find it very hard to sell myself – I’d much rather say “We do this” than “I do this”.

In a business surrounded by a strong team, saying “we” comes naturally. But when I retired from Hymans Robertson and decided to focus on coaching on my own, I didn’t have that blanket of comfort. I found it extremely difficult. Yes, I knew I had to network and develop contacts and did that with some success. But when it came to articulating to the external world what I did and how I could help clients, I struggled.

I also found it a pretty lonely experience. Having worked with a great bunch of people, I was on my own. Even I, an introvert, like human contact, to bounce ideas off others, share successes and disappointments. But I also started to realise that I get a real buzz in working with others towards a common goal.

So I decided I had two options. Continue to work on my own, outside my “comfort zone”, seeking over time to increase my confidence as a sole trader. Or to acknowledge who I am and build on the strengths I have by seeking someone else to work with. I decided to take the latter approach, teamed up with Thomas Chalmers, and haven’t looked back.

So what does this mean for you? I guess the key questions to reflect on are: “To what extent do I really know myself – my motivators, what’s really important to me, my strengths, my true limits?” As a coach I’m the first to encourage clients to stretch themselves. But sometimes acknowledging who you are, your limitations as well as your strengths, allows you to take that critical step forward.

Author: Russell Borland

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