Recently I sat down with BRENT SZALAY (FCPA), SEIVA Managing Director and discussed Leadership and Mastering a Growth Mindset.
This article was published in the LIJ with a focus on Lawyers in practice… however the principles we discussed apply to all #Leaders and #leadership. Especially for those of us who have moved from being technical experts into running our own #business and #practice.
When you run your own practice, you face responsibilities not associated with the profession you spent years learning. You’re expected to be a bookkeeper, HR director, marketer, office manager and more, and to keep the practice growing you have to learn these skills on the job. For many of the clients I work with, this can feel like entering the unknown – and I’ve seen people too afraid to take this step because it seems overwhelming.
Executive Coach Dr Marli Watt says it is useful to remember that “fears, anxiety and worries are very common for all of us”. Dr Watt points out that fear is an emotion caused by a perceived threat and is useful in an evolutionary sense, as it keeps us safe. However, it can be triggered by the unknown and in situations “where we’re telling stories to ourselves and predicting the future”. When that internal voice starts saying that we’re not going to be successful, it is out of fear. When this fear takes hold it can keep us from taking a new step. This is how we end up in the comfort zone.
“We’re wired to stay safe and stay alive and ultimately to stay comfortable”, explains Dr Watt. Fear is a powerful emotion that can stop us from growing, but moving past fear enables us to take the first step towards learning new skills and achieving our goals.
A new learning cycle
Before focusing on all that you need to learn, Dr Watt offers a way to view your situation. Consider running your practice as a new skillset that you are embarking on and that you are undergoing a new learning cycle. Learning cycles have four phases:
- unconsciously incompetent (when you don’t know what you don’t know)
- consciously incompetent (when you develop an awareness of a competence gap)
- consciously competent (when you have learned new skills but need to think about them to use them)
- unconsciously competent (when you’ve achieved competency and deploying the skills require no thought).
As a lawyer you have been through all these stages, and through years of study and practice you are now at the last stage, as a lawyer. With your practice, however, you may be at the first and second stages. With time, you will become more familiar with the skills and as you move through these learning stages these aspects of running a practice will become less stressful.
Moving through fear
Being a practice owner is going to challenge you in many ways and you may need to examine your own values and beliefs. To move through the fear, Dr Watt suggests:
- Consciously improving competence: Consciously improving your skillset and capability to help you to move through fears.
- Reframing failure: Adopting a belief that failure doesn’t exist; reframing unsuccessful outcomes as feedback opportunities instead.
- Developing a growth mindset: Dr Watt tells her clients that “nothing is fixed”. All behaviours can be learned and this can be very empowering. So instead of telling yourself, “Oh, I can’t do that” or “That’s not me”, say to yourself “I can learn how to do that”.
- One small step: Fear and limiting beliefs can stop us from taking a step, but you don’t need to take a huge step and master all new skills at once – take one small step at a time. It is much easier.
As soon as you start to take those small steps outside of your comfort zone, you’ll quickly find that you have changed your pathway. Running your practice can be scary, but with an open mind we can upskill with confidence. Getting a coach or learning from others who have walked this path can help you to work through these steps.