My tribute to Susan Jeffers

This is my Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway story.

I had just been appointed to my first management position. My appointment was something of a risk and many eyebrows were raised, but my new line manager wanted to change the make up of the team and to bring in fresh perspectives.

Whilst I reported to a line manager based in the South of England, my work base and my internal clients were based in the North West. It felt an isolated position to be in at first, but I felt confident in my capabilities and I had many friends in the organisation.

Given the importance of the role to me, the questions being asked and my sense of isolation, I was understandably nervous. My nervousness then increased as I prepared to meet one of my key clients. The man in question was a Regional Sales Director.

My line manager had briefed me on his eccentric character, so I prepared myself for an interesting encounter, thinking it would be friendly and perhaps a little fun. How wrong I was.

What I didn’t know was that the Regional Director felt I had been forced on him as his support manager. He also had a personal favourite in his current administrative team to whom he had promised the role.

My very first meeting with this man was not friendly, nor was it fun. I was ambushed on his own turf, in his office. He attacked me from the moment I walked through the door. Standing by the window, staring across the city landscape like an emperor surveying his kingdom, he immediately told me how he felt about my appointment.

To add to my discomfort, his favourite administrator, who was now one of my direct reports, was in the room. He said he didn’t want me in the role and would rather I ask for a transfer. His tone was threatening and he was a well-built man who utilised his physical presence to intimidate.

When I responded to his comments with measured and calm responses he turned and gave me a piercing stare, his face crimson and his voice now quivering with rage. I stood my ground and responded to every one of his points. On the outside I was calm and polite. On the inside I was screaming with fear and rage.

After the ambush, I phoned my manager. She was supportive, reassuring and pragmatic. Her pragmatism was based on the fact that this man was a top performer for the company and unlikely to be tackled about his behaviour in the immediate future.

Her advice was to stick with the job, see it through and start to prove myself through my actions and results. She would provide support through her connections at head-office and make sure that his behaviours were known to his management team. She was chipping away behind the scenes to change the organisation culture.

I also had another source of support at this time. My job involved a lot of driving so I was always listening to audio tapes in my car (my “university on wheels”) and one came in very useful. This was an audio tape of Susan Jeffers narrating Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. Her calm disposition and soothing voice worked wonders on my drive home that day.

The positive affirmations Susan described were to prove vital over the coming months. One, in particular, sticks with me to this day.

You see, this man’s office was on the 8th floor.  As I traveled from the lobby to the 8th floor, I would repeat the following (out loud if I was alone):

  • I am powerful and I am loving!
  • I am powerful and I am loved!
  • I am powerful and I love it!

Entering this man’s ‘empire’ was a tough ask day-in, day-out. Repeating these affirmations (literally “my elevator script”) allowed me to exit the elevator with a smile on face, a spring in my stride and confidence in my voice.

It took months of hard work and unflinching determination to get to a point where this man, his management team and his administrators,  accepted I was there to stay and that I could actually help them achieve their goals.

Twelve months on, his team won Region of the Year for sales performance and the Regional Director put on a celebratory dinner. The same man who 12 months ago wanted me to quit, stood up in front of 150 people and apologised for his actions and thanked me for my support in helping the region achieve success.

I have dipped into Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway many times since that challenging day. I have also pointed many people towards its wisdom as a coach and facilitator. No doubt I always will, given its timeless principles and accessible text.

Thank you Susan, you were there just when I needed you.

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