THE BLOG

Stepping Up: When Fear Becomes Your Greatest Ally

28/10/2014 15:50 GMT | Updated 28/12/2014 10:59 GMT

We've all been there. Maybe you were about to take to the stage for that audition, board that flight, dive from the highest board. Your palms (and pits!) sweat, your heart pounds in your chest, you want to run, hide...anything but this. For me, stepping up from a managing partner position to the CEO role at Maxus with no MD experience was a daunting leap. Accepting the WACL honour of presidency was another pivotal moment. And just last week I accepted the Worldwide CEO role at Maxus, despite limited global experience. All potentially terrifying. But hugely exciting and those nerves will make me try just that bit harder.

They say that fear can be crippling, and given the chance it can definitely limit you. But from fear often comes unexpected strength and creativity. The adrenalin kicks in, you choose fight over flight; you prepare to take more than just a tentative step - a brave leap. Yes, it's uncomfortable, but at that tipping point where discomfort dissolves into resolve - that "What the hell?" moment - you pause, take a deep breath....and go for it. It's never as bad as feared. And the next time you'll be twice as good.

I've always interpreted one of advertising's most brave and iconic slogan's Nike's 'Just do it' - as much more than a call to arms for fitness and sports enthusiasts, it's for everyone in fact, to push just past their comfort zone. Of all the skills you'll acquire along your career, learning to deal effectively with discomfort is one of the most valuable.

In a career context, fearlessness can be defined as stepping in front of the work 'product' to reveal your true self and what makes you unique. It can feel lonely and exposing - you and you alone are now held accountable, which is both exciting and scary.

Forming an identity outside of the old boys' network where nepotism and back-slapping are rife is yet another challenge. My approach was to create my own rock solid network around me - and I'm lucky to have forged many wonderful friendships along the way. Having support all around you - above, below and alongside, from people who are willing you to succeed - goes a long way to create the right conditions for fearlessness. The rest is up to the individual.

The great thing about fearlessness is that it is available to us all. It is a case of 'doing' rather than 'worrying', choosing to feel the fear and do it anyway. (If you haven't read it, I highly recommend Susan Jeffers' book of the same name. I'm usually a bit wary of the self-help genre, but this one should be compulsory reading for anyone looking to live at their fullest and best.)

As I take the reins as global CEO of Maxus, I am excited, honoured, and incredibly grateful to the brilliant team around me. I've made no secret of my ambition to take on this role - and I confess that now I'm here, there is an element of fear mingled with the requisite excitement. Above all, I can't wait to get stuck into the opportunity to lead change for the agency and our clients. Deep breath... and leap!!

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