One of my childhood idols was Gidget, played by Sally Field in the 1960s television series of the same name. She surfed, she was boy-crazy, and she tried to give her solo Dad a tough time. The series finished production the year I was born, but it continued screening in Australia into my primary school years.
Reading Field’s book, In Pieces, I learned about her painful childhood. Her survival of many years of abuse. At times, it’s a harrowing read. But Field also writes about her significant acting career, her time working in television and her Academy Award–winning performances on the big screen.
My favourite quote from the book is Field describing the time when Gidget moved from a pilot show to full production.
“The voice on the other end of the line said, ‘Pack your bags, Sally, ABC picked up the show and they want you in New York by the end of the week.’ All at once, I took both feet out of my childhood and stepped onto that new path”.
Few of us get a career call like the one Field describes. Yet we do get career calls that simultaneously excite and scare us, where we have to make quick, maybe hard, choices. Where we have to step out of childhood and pull on our ‘big girl (or boy) pants’. I hear about this often in my coaching practice, from both individuals and groups.
How do you weigh up those choices? What are the questions that might help you to make a decision about what’s right to do?
In my view, knowing your values is central to such decisionmaking. When we know what we stand for, we can translate that to a life vision. Those hard choices become far easier. Identifying and feeling grounded in our values is like taking both feet out of our childhoods. Stepping onto that new path is when we know we are ‘adulting’.
The other key factor in clear decision-making is having a good support team. I like to think of these people as your pit crew.
In car racing, drivers need to stop at various intervals to refuel, change tyres or have engine checks performed. The pit crew are the people who perform these duties. They wait for the time they have to leap in to action. They get the driver back on the track fast with everything they need to keep going. They want their team’s driver to make it to the finish line without any obstacles.
Your pit crew is the team of helpers who stand in the background, watching your progress. They want you to keep driving towards your goal — to get to the finish line. Your pit crew focusses on giving you the equipment and resources you need to complete the race. They see their job as preparing you to sweep the obstacles out of your way.
They are your champions.
In my women’s workshops, we often complete a simple exercise. I call it a Champions Map. I ask participants to trace around one hand on a sheet of paper.
At the top of each finger and the thumb, I suggest they list a person they consider to be one of their champions. Along the length of each finger, I ask them to write how that person can help them. This shows the ways that person is currently their champion.
Women are often pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to find four or five champions who are in their pit crew.
On one occasion, a participant exclaimed, “It’s all here in front of me. I’ve been ignoring my champions. What a lesson!”
This simple activity visually reinforces an important concept for us. It reminds us that there are people in our pit crew. We do have a group of champions who support us.
They are the people who help us succeed in our race towards our goals. They give us advice, mentoring, information and networks. They champion us by putting us forward for new opportunities. They connect us in places we might not have otherwise gone to. They answer our questions and encourage our curiosity — they encourage us to ask more.
Naomi Maltby is a South Australian Saloon Car/Super Six Touring Car driver. She races at the state and national level. Maltby was asked the best advice she had ever received in her racing career. She said, “To keep at it. Very few people get in a car and are immediately winning races. Most of the faster drivers you see at club meetings are the ones who have been racing for years and learning their craft… get some expert one-on-one coaching if you can — precise feedback on what you’re doing wrong is worth its weight in gold”.
It sounds to me like Maltby has her pit crew sorted. She has the crew that helps her on the racing track. She also has the group of champions who provide her with expertise, sage advice and coaching.
Some of you will have done similar exercises in the past. You might have a handle on your values, and you may have identified your champions. Yet you might not have taken the next step of incorporating them into your personal vision. Pulling all of these elements together is a great way to develop your selfleadership and your direction, and to focus on the future.
Maree McPherson is a Gippsland-based coach, mentor, facilitator and trainer who assists both individuals and groups to aspire beyond what they believe are their capabilities. Visit Maree’s website here: mareemcpherson.com.au.