My coaching journey started with a coach opening a door for me and inviting me into a world of personal development that I hadn’t even known existed.
After university, the only formal development I’d experienced had come via employers. It was more on-the-job training than coaching, and focused on skill-building: time management, marketing, budgeting and the like. For a decade of my corporate existence this was the only path to professional development I knew. (This was before Google and YouTube of course!)
Until that coach opened a new door.
After that I took it upon myself to knock persistently on doors that would lead to new speaking and work opportunities.
Then I reached a point in my career that placed me on the other side, more often with the opportunity for me to open doors for others. I was working with young people in schools and supporting young people around the country through coaching programmes.
Despite being on the ‘right’ side of the door, I found I was not able to have the conversations I wanted. So now I was in the room, but not really at the table. It was at this time that I was inspired by the quote by Shirley Chisholm: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
I started my own social enterprise. Which, in hindsight, was less about bringing a folding chair and more about building my own table! I had strong and clear ideas about how I wanted to help young people.
Starting a social enterprise was so far out of my comfort zone, and there were obstacles around each and every corner. While this path wasn’t easy or smooth, I knew it would allow me to do the work I wanted to do, in the way I wanted to do it. And isn’t that, ultimately, what makes the bumpy path worth it?
And, because I ‘built that table’, new doors opened. I was offered the opportunity to work in a bigger environment serving the people I wanted to serve with the backing of a large budget and a team. I only got this opportunity because I had pushed myself out of my comfort zone, started the enterprise and put myself at the head of that table.
Knocking on doors for new opportunities and walking through is instrumental for success. It takes courage and clarity; pro-actively deciding where you want to enter, and whom you want by your side. It means nurturing the right relationships, using your voice and being unafraid to show your expertise and knowledge. To stand in your power and make things happen for you in your own way.
As a black woman in business I encounter many spaces where I don’t see anyone like me, and I’ve been suspicious, sometimes, of why a door is being opened to me. When I tone down my ‘suspicious’ energy and seize the opportunity anyway, what I’m learning is that I can make a difference and open more doors for people like me.
It’s absolutely vital for women and black people not to give in to the feeling of being ‘shut out’. We can set the tone for the next generation by being proactive, being resilient and using our voices.
I want to encourage you to start each stage of your journey knowing clearly where you want to go, whom you want with you, and the difference you want to make.
Look for the doors, knock loudly, stride through, and hold those doors open to others.
What doors do you want to open?
What’s on the other side that will change your life, your business, your legacy?
What doors can you open for others?
Have a think and share your thoughts with me – I’d love to know and see if I can support you!