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Becoming a first-time Chief Exec is as a bit like becoming a Parent..

by Kat Sowden, MD of Persona Care & Support @Personabury and Founding Member of @soclubonline 15/06/2017

People say they don’t write books on how to be a good parent. They do actually – lots of them. The issue isn’t a lack of literature on the subject it’s the lack of a book which caters for your individual response to your own journey of parenthood with your own unique and amazing child. That book doesn’t exist because it could only be written by you. It’s your journey – your challenge – your role to shape.

The same is true of becoming a Managing Director. Lots of books on the subject. No shortage of theory and shared experience. What’s missing is an appreciation that it’s a unique and personal journey. No two experiences will be the same.So becoming a new MD is a bit like becoming a parent.

For me the analogy couldn’t be more real. I became MD of a newly formed organisation at the same as becoming a mum again. It was like giving birth twice! The effort, the preparation, the all-consuming nature of creating something. The instinct to nurture and protect it combined with the desire to see it grow and flourish. The pleasure in seeing it thrive but the gut-wrenching worry when it stumbles along the way.

The realisation that all the planning and preparation you’ve done, all the theories you’ve researched, have only achieved a level of practically being ready to do it. The reality is something else. This is new territory. The books can’t tell you this bit. However much you’ve read, you’ve never done it before – not here, not in this organisation, not at this point in your life, not with this child.

So you are consciously lacking in both confidence and competence. You are the proverbial duck cruising on the surface with legs frantically thrashing below. Hoping you can do a good enough job for everyone who’s relying on you. Hoping you get it right. Hoping you grow into this role.

None of the preparation will avoid this. It’s your journey to experience and you have to develop your own unique formula that works for your specific circumstances.

One of the key learning points for me was that there is no right way. No foolproof formula. So what do you do? You take it a step at a time. Look at people who do it well but try to be them – understand their key ingredients and apply any which work for you.

Lose the idea that you are expected to be a certain thing or behave in a certain way and get comfortable with the fact that you are becoming your own version of that. Celebrate the days when you feel like you got it right, but expect there to be days when you don’t feel that good at it – but don’t beat yourself up about it.

Surround yourself with people who you can be honest with and who’ll be honest back. People who support what you’re trying to achieve. Don’t feel like you have to compromise. Develop your own narrative, one which says “I can and I will”.

Back to stepping out now