Next Jump Co-CEO Update: October 2016

Our Co-CEO’s (Meghan Messenger and Charlie Kim) have created a monthly newsletter that we share with our staff and family, but also friends of the company (including past Leadership Academy attendees).  It includes a sampling of many things happening, summing up as part of our larger mission in changing workplace culture.

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NxJumpers + Family & Friends,

Meghan and I as Co-CEOs have found one of our greatest privileges is the volume of updates and info being sent to us from both inside Next Jump and also the greater community we have built outside. This can range from an act of leadership, kindness helping others, heroics with customers/clients or engineering a product…or notes from the many people we have given our time, resources, knowledge and capital to help.

It is hard to believe how much has happened in just one month since our last newsletter. Here is a sampling of what crossed our desks as CEOs, which we encourage for you to forward and share with your family & friends.

To start, the two of us were featured on the cover of Conscious Company magazine, under the “Game Changers” November/December issue (you can buy copies in bookstores and also at Wholefoods). Loved the quote on how firing is the easier option to develop someone.

consicous-capitalism

Super Saturday: 2x/year College Recruiting Event:


After pre-screening thousands of undergrad and grad students from top schools including Cornell, Columbia, Georgia Tech and Carnegie Mellon, the top 50 are invited to a 10 hour interview day at our NYC offices. In addition to the candidates, we had 18 VIP Guests observing the entire day including the Deputy Director of the CIA, the heads of Talent & Recruiting from JPMC, UBS, Fidelity, HPS ($40B hedgefund), The New American Academy (charter school).

ss-1

Feedback and Reactions from observers and Candidates:

CIA:

“Please let me thank you, on behalf of the entire group, for your hospitality, generosity, and insight last Saturday. Seeing your process from start to finish was eye opening for us, and something from which we will take valuable lessons. Looking forward to continuing our strong partnership in the future.”

Fidelity talking to Greg Kunkel:

She made a comment that what really got to her for the whole day was the war room.  She said, that she was impressed with tour, speeches, but couldn’t fully tell if real until she sat in the war room.  She said it blew her away – it was serious decisions, but everyone felt a degree of comfort in speaking their minds to each other that would never happen at Fidelity.  She couldn’t believe junior people were speaking up and their opinion was respected, people were challenging each other, debating but yet there was a level of comraderie.  She said when Charlie/MM talked on elite performance, she saw it in War room.

The New American Academy (charter school):

“I have been thinking about your organization a great deal since Saturday and there are two things that I would like to thank you for.

First, there is a hard-to-quantify/explain energy that comes when one is engaged in the learning process. I would leave classes energized and buzzed about spending the previous hour just thinking about stuff. As students we are allowed to get close to the material and we are in a space where we can mentally wrestle with it. I find this process or “space” is severely lacking in professional settings. Thank you for creating an organization that seems to not only has systemized that buzz but that executes and maintains ideas so that it doesn’t fade.

Second, I think whenever an organization (or a person for that matter) is doing something different/exciting/radical there may be a natural inclination for an outsider to discount its efficacy. Several times during the day I caught myself mentally “trolling” what you do – convincing myself that that we were experiencing was the shiny brochure-like presentation of your organization. In the past I was convinced this form of skepticism was a helpful, scientific-method approach to questioning a premise and therefore growing as a leader, but in reality it was probably just defending against my ego being bruised. During Super Saturday I tried to ask tough questions of the NextJumpers both to learn some fine details of your organization but probably also hoping to expose the cracks and therefore validate my suspicions and thus protecting my ego.

At one point I had asked our wonderful culture tour guide (and I apologize that her name escapes me) “so what is wrong, what do you guys do poorly?”. She answered my question so matter-of-factly and genuinely that I wanted to thank you for creating an environment where an outsider like me feels comfortable asking a challenging question like that.

So thank you again for a great Saturday, for all the stimulating conversation, for the great staff who took the time to expose us to your culture and organization.”

Candidate from Cornell:

“Super Saturday was an amazing experience. I learned about myself as much as I learned about Next Jump. I will apply every year until I get in.”

NEED YOUR HELP:

Tentative lateral Super Saturday in January. We’ve had thousands of applicants (non-college recruiting) looking for an opening to become a NxJumper. Looking to bring on the best today and more importantly, those with the highest propensity to learn and grow to become a future NxJumper. Please keep an eye out for future NxJumpers.

NxJ’s Senior Engineers – Competition Brings Out Their Best:


Eight senior engineers, all learned new coding languages and built mobile apps in both IOS and Android in less than 4 weeks (part-time).

Mobile Apps for:

  1. Hiring
  2. Recognition – Top10
  3. Performance Evaluation
  4. People Analytics – 411
  5. Feedback App (real-time)

* apps 1-4 built and launched in 4 weeks

It was truly elite performance.

The winning App was done by Lokeya and Nayan as TPs (talking partners). It blew us all away including the Deputy Director of the CIA who said he saw the future, he saw the people analytics system he has been dreaming about, talking about. A human couldn’t read all the data, it would take all day. The 411 App automates and summarizes “Your Feedback” vs the entire company, correlating trends in your fitness (vs the entire company), your recognition (vs the entire company, etc. (coming soon correlations to hours of sleep vs the entire company to your performance). It’s the Google Analytics of People

411

Separately, one of the top instructors from the Naval War College brought in a team of executives from Biogen to tour Next Jump in our Cambridge office. Asked one of the most commonly asked ques: “How do you measure ROI on culture investments?” Greg Kunkel, our head of office pulled out the app, showed them 411 People Analytics mobile app to  “awws and ahhs”

Several Leadership Academies in October


We ran several Leadership Academies in this past month, the main event: multi-day academy for the leadership team at JPMC. Many reactions and comments and a general disbelief that we would not charge for this experience.

My favorite quote:

“I’ve never seen such generosity and kindness in the business world.” ~JPMC after @nextjump Leadership Academy

Other Leadership Academies in October included: Jetblue’s HR team, McKinsey senior partners along with the head of Digital Innovation at Banco do Brazil (largest bank in brazil)

Also – Alex Kjerulf, author of Happy Hour 9 to 5, brought in a collection of companies:

happy-feedback

Impact of Past Leadership Academies


NAVY:

USS Michael Monsoor, the most expensive battleship built in history, is scheduled to present their leadership and culture work, influenced and helped by Next Jumpers to the Chief Naval Officer – 4 star admiral on the joint chief of staff.  Date TBD, but apparently HUGE honor

CIA:

Note to Meghan from an up and coming working mother at the CIA:

“Our trip to NxJ truly changed my life. I think back to that pivotal moment in spin class regularly. I’ve lost 15 lbs since our visit because I started giving myself permission to take care of myself. But more than just losing some weight, I’ve lost so much guilt. Your inspiration is spot on. Why can’t moms be great at home and at the office? And why can’t they do that without penalizing themselves? Being a better version of myself makes me a better mom. And a better employee. And a better wife, friend, etc. I know these are all things you already know and teach at NxJ, but I am 100% confirming and endorsing that for you!!

I’ve also implemented your advice about having a “free night.” Being able to stay at work late or catch the gym without worrying about dinner for the kids or making it home for soccer practice has been a game changer.

On the work side, we are slowly making little changes. It looks like one of our offices is willing to pilot their own version of coronitas and they’re talking about doing something like MV21. Baby steps, but they’re at least headed in the right direction.

When I think about my inspiration, you are definitely up there! It is so refreshing to find women in the working world who are balancing things well, and most importantly, lifting other women up while they’re doing it.”

Another note from an officer at the CIA:

“I was so very glad to see your email and am grateful for your openness and willingness to continue a relationship with CIA. I’ve though a lot about what I learned at Next Jump. I also have waited to press the elevator button as a matter of principal in the last two months (!), taken up mediation/Yoga Nidra with some regularity, worked to speak third or fourth in a conversation, and felt less guilt as a working mother. Your Academy has stayed with me as I’ve looked to apply the lessons and continue to do so. “

Frazier & Deeter (fastest growing accounting firm):

  • We are piloting the FLO model with some of our internal methodology projects in the audit practice – the largest practice at our firm.
  • Last week we piloted Yoga Nidra for 5 consecutive days and are receiving glowing feedback from the dozen who participated.
  • Internal project team focused on “Cultural Connectivity and Engagement.” This team is looking at how to begin piloting the Talking Partner and Situational Workshops across each of our offices.
  • Look forward to the additional culture apps your team will be making available in the weeks/months to come- especially the Contribution Evaluation app. We are already thinking through how we would use the app and hence change our performance assessment process to be much more effective.
  • And, last but not least, your continued emphasis and passion around Better Me+ Better You=Better Us had a real lasting effect on all of us. I hear Seth (and myself) referencing this often in our discussions with others.
  • More to come! A huge thank you again to you and your team. Your influence, “fire” and selfless sharing has had a significant impact in moving FD to the next ‘level of development’ – a place I did not think I would witness during my tenure with the firm.

My favorite (they’ve already started paying it forward – Better You):

  • Last week Seth and I presented to 30 CEOs of Accounting firms our size and shared the work we’ve done, our learning, the organizations like Next Jump, etc that are paving the way for a new kind of approach in human development and work culture. They were ecstatic and told us we are going to “change the industry” among other things.

NJ’s Top Recognition: The 2016 Avenger – Vaishali returned from one week trip to Europe


Many of you were present in our July ceremony, after many months of votes and interviews, as NxJumpers selected the number one person that helped them succeed, our top servant leader: Vaishali. She was called on stage as her mother and father, flown in from India, entered the stage (from hiding) along with her husband, children and his family. This award is created to honor our Mothers – where our servant leadership “helping others” originates.

On the bottom right, Vaishali’s mother that evening said to her: “I never thought a woman, my only child and daughter, could receive such an honor in front of nearly 400 people.”

Her father said to Vaishali: “My life is fulfilled; I could die a happy man.”

vaishali

The grand prize is a dream vacation to honor Vaishali’s mother. We’re getting short notes – reflections…the first one from Vaishali’s husband Philip:

“It was one of the best and most memorable experiences of my life. It was the perfect vacation, the perfect adventure! From sitting in cafes in Barcelona; to being overwhelmed with emotion at the beauty of the La Sagrada Familia; to swimming in the Mediterranean; to rushing at the Vatican to not miss the cutoff time for the ship; to the meal to die for in Florence and gelato gelato gelato! We did it all as a family together and will always have the wonderful memories of this time forever. We travelled from New York, Jamaica and India and met in Barcelona. We saw so many amazing places and met so many genuinely nice people but the best part was being able to share these moments with our family. This would not have been possible without you, and we will be forever grateful and always treasure this experience.

I am already looking forward to next year’s avenger award and hoping that we can help another next jumper the way everyone helped and embraced us. Thanks so much for fostering this culture of sharing and giving and for celebrating family and what is best in us. It really means a lot to us and we feel very lucky to be a part of the NextJump family!”

NxJ “Kids Club” and After School Program – continues to grow


  • Bouncy Castles
  • Kids cooking classes
  • Drawing Stations
  • And more..

kids-club-1kids-club-2

Most kids visit the workplace of their parents on a single day “Bring Your Kids to Work Day”. The most common response from kids on work: “Your office is boring. All you do is emails, phone calls and meetings.”

Next Jump believes “Work is the New Community Center” – the central hub for our health, learning, family, giving, friends. As our Kids Club and After School program continues to develop, I often come home to my children asking me: “When can we go back to Next Jump? Can we go this weekend?”

Stay tuned: our Cambridge office is looking to rapidly replicate what was piloted in NYC. We hope to update you with pictures in our November newsletter.

Adopt-A-School: Year 2 for PS119, Year 1 for UK Netley School


New T-shirts printed for both offices, our staff, the children, the teachers & faculty in both the Bronx and the UK.

aps

NEED YOUR HELP:

We are looking to create a competition between the two public schools. NxJumpers on their Thursday visits would help coach the students in both the U.S. and U.K. public schools. Could be a “shark tank” style business plan competition. Could be a coding competition, a hackathon. Prizes could include a trip to the other school (UK à NYC or vice versa) for the winning team. Please send us your thoughts.

 COACHING TIP: The Art of Winning vs The Science of Losing


“A forehand that I’m happy with is nothing when my backhand brings it down to nothing at crunch time.” @nextjump PLB (Personal Leadership Bootcamp) graduate

Winning is an ART. You can do everything right, play the game of your life…and still lose. Healthy behaviors increase your chances of winning. Just like unhealthy behaviors decrease your chances. Bill Gates said it best: “I am incredibly disciplined in every aspect of my life. So that when the few big opportunities come by, I can pounce on them.” Many of us will be unprepared, overwhelmed…simply unable to take advantage of these few rare opportunities to win. Winning is hard and in the short-run is often unfair. However, in the long-run, it is similar to the World Series of Poker. How is it that in a game of “luck” with nearly 10,000 people playing for days, the same faces are able to show up in the final table. However, winning is so hard, it is often easier to start by learning to not lose (defense before offense).

Losing is a SCIENCE. With 22 years of observing ourselves as well as learning and sharing with the top researchers, academics, industry leaders…we have learned that there is a repeated and thematic nature to losing. The one common ingredient in every bad decision made, every poor judgement call…is FEAR. And our inability to recognize the damage we are about to do when on “emotional tilt” – they say, when you are angry, whatever you are about to say next, are words you will regret. How do we recognize and then reduce our FEAR?

By the way, although, learning to reduce our fear will bring us back to “full capacity, get our full brain back”, it will not guarantee a win. It gets us back into the game – fully engaged.

In one of our weekly coaching sessions (SW: situational workshops), a young leader summarized it as:

“Overall, I’m realising that anything we work on will be crap, until we recover full judgement.”

terror zone.png

..when we are in our TERROR ZONE, we are at our worst (read: will regret what we say, what we do…often taking us backwards). If we stay in our COMFORT ZONE, we do not grow, in fact over time, our fear grows and the comfort zone shrinks, becoming smaller and smaller over time. We are at our best, in our flow in the COURAGE ZONE.

KEY INSIGHT: it often takes a tiny bit of fear reduction to go from our TERROR ZONE to the COURAGE ZONE. The most common mistake is to try and eradicate all the fear, 100% removal, to bring ourselves to our comfort zone. Not only is that a waste of effort, we often never get there. Fear will always be present. Courage is acting when fear is present. However when we act or speak in the Terror Zone, we are either reckless or paralyzed. How to dial down our fear…talk it out, the micro fears we have daily, with a Trusted Partner, your Team Player, your Talking Partner [your TP].


Our goal is to produce this monthly Co-CEO Update, to be shared with your family & friends. Let us know any reactions or feedback.

Regards,
CK & MM
ckmm

Frogman on the Roof: How a missile destroyer ship is shaping its culture

Next Jump’s mission is based on a simple idea: leverage our technology, people, learnings and resources to transform people’s jobs and lives at companies across the globe. We boil this integrated strategy down into a universal formula: Better Me + Better You = Better Us.

The following is a guest post by Nick Woolf, a Next Jump employee since 2013.

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Over the past several years, we have hosted hundreds of organizations in our offices – from Zappos to Whole Foods to the U.S. Department of Defense – to participate in our Leadership Academy workshops to help them take their company’s culture to the next level.

In the spring of 2015, we were introduced to the Commanding Officer of the USS Michael Monsoor – a missile destroyer ship designed for advanced land attack and dominance on the seas. The vessel is named after Michael A. Monsoor, a United States Navy SEAL who was killed during the Iraq War and awarded the Medal of Honor. Continue reading

Next Jump Co-CEO Update: September 2016

 

Our Co-CEO’s (Meghan Messenger and Charlie Kim) have started up a monthly newsletter that we share with our staff and family, but also friends of the company (including past Leadership Academy attendees).  It includes a sampling of many things happening, summing up as part of our larger mission in changing workplace culture.

==================================

NxJumpers + Family & Friends,

Meghan and I as Co-CEOs have found one of our greatest privileges is the volume of updates and info being sent to us from both inside Next Jump and also the greater community we have built outside. This can range from an act of leadership, kindness helping others, heroics with customers/clients or engineering a product…or notes from the many people we have given our time, resources, knowledge and capital to help.

Our intention is to publish a monthly “Co-CEO Update”, which we encourage for you to forward and share with your family & friends. Although it would be near impossible to add everything, we will try and grab illustrative examples of what we see from our CEO POV.

And what best to kick it off than a statement Meghan made during our last Super Saturday in March:

what-work-should-be

Greg Kunkel Spoke at Coaching Conference 2016 at Harvard on 9/17:


“Greg did well, big crowd, laughs and engaged questions after. Then Greg shared emotional training programs at next jump: TPs and SWs. 4 diff ppl approached to enquire about getting him/next jump to speak at more stuff and their organization.”

Key highlights & reactions:

  • Next Jump is taking adult development to scale
  • Well-held vulnerability: has element of danger and safety. Think of a time where you were not at your best, and in that situation there are ppl who see you in your limitations and still see you, respect you, and value you. For most ppl they find this at church, or sports, or combat, or therapy….but at work???? Crazy, imagine that.
  • How come you haven’t monetized this? Do you sell this? (Disbelief the academy and materials are free — audience were consultants and coaches) and then, where can I get more on this?

GK speaking at Harvard

 

NxJ’s Senior Engineerings back into Coding


Most development occurs in an imbalanced way. Then the act of getting balanced is when the results show up. Many of our senior engineers over the last few years worked hard to learn how to manage people, to ignite/inspire/build high performance teams. As usual on anything new, they did it so much, many of them stopped coding. They got imbalanced to focus only on being a LEADER but not a CODER/PRODUCT BUILDER. They are now jumping back in, starting with our 9 MV21 engineering leaders. And in true NxJumper form, Nayan and Lokeya as TPs moved so rapidly, they build a mobile app, one of the more complicated ones seemingly overnight. Just when we thought the Jedi Knights were all dead and gone, we are excited to see the “Jedi High Council”roaring back.

Next Jump Senior Engineers

 

2017 MV21, NxJ’s leadership team voted on by the employees


We started with 14 MV21 members and will look to add up to 7 more by end of Feb. Interesting STATs:

  • Average Tenure: 10.1 years at NxJ
  • Veteran to Newbie cut off: 8.5 years at NxJ

mv21-0165

NOTE from the CIA [July Leadership Academy @NextJump]


Wanted to let you know that ever since your course we have adopted several things within our organization to include:  better snacks, a Wellness Program (fitness program dedicated for civilian personnel–military personnel already have a dedicated command time fitness time and can PT during the work day schedule dependent).  The Wellness program is a pilot program set up by DOD and we are going to see what we can do to have them change it from a 3 month pilot to a full time program for all of DOD/DON.  We are starting a Coaching/Partnership Program on 1 Oct.  We also have adopted an awards recognition program similar to yours but unfortunately $50K family trip is not included but we have other means by which to award them in addition to the recognition.  We have other initiatives that your course spurred and created for us so thank you!

 

Michael Monsoor $2B Navy Ship – entire crew adopting & running like NxJ [Dozen interactions w/ Next Jump]


  • TruPer (Trusted Person) time is ongoing daily (our version of TP).
  • Our first bi-weekly situational workshop (SW) begins today with the CO, XO, and department heads
  • M-16 (short for MONSOOR 16), our version of MV-21, has been voted on and is set to have their weekend work session at the end of September in San Diego, CA
  • Frogman on the Roof is our version of Top Ten promoting our effort to recognize linemen not quarterbacks
  • First Friday seminars is where we invite outside organizations to come speak to us about their culture and processes thereby adding to the diversity of thought in MICHAEL MONSOOR.
  • Command outreach: volunteer work centered around fallen SEAL support organizations, public schools, and maritime organizations. Five to six times a week members of the command are doing volunteer work. Each Wednesday afternoon is set aside for reoccurring volunteer work. About once a month, the members of the command en mass come together for a volunteer project.

 

Next Leadership Academy


  • Oct 20 & 21: JP Morgan Chase’s 20 senior leaders
  • Nov 16/17/18: Military 20 officers

 

Adopt-A-School: Year 2 for PS119, Year 1 for UK Netley School


Our intent with this program: we imagine a day when every one of the 100,000 US public schools and the 22,000 UK public schools are adopted by a for-profit company. There will be a shortage of public schools to adopt.

NYC: We will continue our funding and running the after school program for the 1000+ elementary kids in the South Bronx: PS 119. As Meghan and I sat in August with Michelle the principal, she burst into tears as she could not believe the time and commitment Next Jump has given to her, the 100+ teachers & staff, and the 1000+ students. Seeing the inundation of requests and work we do with the Military, the CIA, companies like JPMC, Fidelity, Facebook, Tesla…she couldn’t believe how engaged we are in their “small school” and the impact it has made for everyone in just a year. It was a truly special meeting. This year, we intend to add short presentations by NxJumpers on “My Story” as the PS 119 children are looking for role models, examples of what work looks like and the journey to get there. NxJumpers already build “My Story” presentations for a 5 min program we have monthly called: 10X, we will leverage and share at the school.

  • In the 2015 Program, the top two themes in the thank you notes from students: (1) Thank you for the money to run our after school programs: chess, basketball, arts, music, etc. (2) Thank you for taking the subway each Thursday to come visit us
  • After School program for 2016 begins in October, Next Jump NYC office broken into 4 teams, each team will travel to PS 119 on Thursday afternoon to teach in the after school program. Each month, the entire office teaches, each week 25% of the office is at PS 119.

UK: After reviewing and interviewing many public schools, they will be adopting the Netley Primary School and Centre for Autism, a 500 student elementary school. They already have an after school program in place, so our team will begin by adding to the existing program on Thursday similar to the NYC office. We developed a curriculum with the help of Peter Hallock, the top teacher who helped in PS 119’s after school, who also interned with us this past summer. As the UK program grows, we have ear marked a budget of $300,000 for them to add greater value as we learn more about the organization.

 

Next Jump “Kids Club” and After School Program


As more NxJumpers have family, we have begun to build an after school program along with “kids club” in our offices. The program kicked off a few weeks back with a Friday 3:45pm Hip hop dance class w/ one of NYC’s best instructors. Kids snacks ordered and shortly a KIDS FRIDGE being built. Other program additions in the works:

  • Kids Club gameroom: 3 flat screens, xbox, Nintendo, wii [conference room next to Mirage]
  • Kids Club: mirage is being converted and designed for arts, blocks, lego, games..exploring installing a bouncy castle in it
  • Future After School program ideas: “Cooking class for kids”, Boxing, Aerobics, Yoga, Coding/engineering, [swimming & gardening w/ the new Flagship space]
  • To start: available only to children of NxJumpers, but soon to add friends/guests w/ a NxJumper present

My 7, almost 8 year old son Jackson said today: “Dad, you may be the boss but I advise the boss. You need to buy the purple pirate’s booty, the blue ones are not as good.”

COACHING TIP


FEAR is the number one driver of losing. Fear drives bad/weak ideas and strategy. Fear drives no/weak execution. However, what is counter intuitive…rather than run away/ avoid your fears, go into it even harder. Mitchell our winning dance instructor always says [picture CK sweating, nervous, feeling like this dance is like learning foreign language]: “Ladies & gentlemen, the good news is when I play the song, it is much slower. You’ve been practicing at twice the speed.”

A good article that highlights the science behind this:

A Harvard psychologist explains why forcing positive thinking won’t make you happy [by Susan David, author of: Emotional Agility, spoke at the same conference at Harvard that Greg Kunkel spoke 9/17]

http://wpo.st/fWg12

 

Summary Highlights


  • A lot of our cultural dialogue is fundamentally avoidant, so people will just say things like, “just be positive and things will be fine.”
  • We will find ourselves in situations where we will feel anger, sadness and grief and so on. Unless we can process, navigate and be comfortable with the full range of our emotions, we won’t learn to be resilient. We must have some practice dealing with those emotions or we will be caught off guard. I believe the strong cultural focus on happiness and thinking positively is actually making us less resilient.
  • The next point — and this is very important to me — emotions like sadness, guilt, grief and anger are beacons for our values. We don’t get angry about stuff we don’t care about. We don’t feel sad or guilty about stuff we don’t care about. If we push these emotions away, we are choosing not to learn about ourselves
  • What the research shows is if we push away thoughts and emotions, they will come back magnified. For example, there is a study that shows what happened when someone who was trying to give up smoking tried not to think about cigarettes. What happened? They started to dream about cigarettes

As mentioned in the beginning, our goal is to produce this monthly CEO update, to be shared with your family & friends. Let us know any reactions or feedback.

Regards,
CK & MM
ckmm

My Battle with Imposter Syndrome

Greg’s note: This is a guest post by Henry Searle, our co-head of Next Jump’s UK office.  His post speaks to the power and impact of creating an environment of authenticity.

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I’ve been working at Next Jump for 3 and a half years. 9 months ago, at the age of 26, I was humbled to have been voted by my peers on onto our 21 person leadership team (MV21). However what should have been excitement, was overridden by fear.

I didn’t feel ready. In fact, I wasn’t even sure why I had been voted on in the first place and deep down I was worried everyone else would also realize I wasn’t ready. I’ve later come to learn this is known as “Imposter Syndrome” and I am not alone with these feelings. Insecurity (in my case, of not being accepted) holds many leaders back from fulfilling their potential.

So shortly after being voted into leadership, I’m in my first strategy meeting. I sit nervously watching everyone else ask questions and comment. I have questions jotted down, but I’m too worried about what others will think of my questions to ask them. I don’t speak up for the whole 2 hour meeting and leave thinking “I’ll ask questions next time”. I did this for the first 5 consecutive leadership meetings.

At Next Jump, we have ten minutes left at the end of meetings to give each other feedback on a mobile app. Below are some of comments left by my peers. ‘Does not meet expectations: Did you speak up at all?’ – hiding my point of view was clear for everyone to see.

henry comments

I read this and wanted to change. But unfortunately it’s not that easy. Willpower alone wasn’t enough to make me speak up. In the next two meetings the feeling is even worse, now I feel like everyone is watching and waiting. I continue receiving the same feedback in the app, from my peers, my coach. Receiving such consistent feedback wasn’t easy, I got fed up and frustrated with myself. Why am I so worried about voicing a point of view?

I went home that night and really started reflecting deeper. Suddenly I started seeing how this has affected me in other areas of my life. For instance, when I’m with friends I never brought up topics or my own express opinions, I just built off what others were saying.

I then started to realize that it’s not just a problem at work. It’s affecting me everywhere. I started to reflect more, particularly on the relationship I have with my parents.

Growing up, I was accepted in every way by my parents, except in one area. I came out to my parents as gay when I was 16. We lived in a small rural town and my parents had a very tradition upbringing. They didn’t understand what it meant, they didn’t have anyone to speak to about it, and they didn’t accept it.

I vividly remember sitting in the car with my Dad after I came out. For the first ten minutes, I tried to tell my side; to help him understand what it meant, that it wasn’t a bad thing. I realized very quickly that he wasn’t going to accept it, I knew he wasn’t listening to me so I stopped speaking. I just sat and listened. We were parked up outside of the house for another hour where I sat in silence while he told me why being gay was a ‘bad decision’.

Over the next few years, this became the norm for me, every conversation went the same way: I would sit in silence while my Dad told me that being gay was ‘the wrong decision’. This led to a very unhealthy relationship between us, we effectively stopped talking for a few years because that was easier. I don’t blame my dad, he came from a time when being gay meant you had a difficult life in a lot of different ways and he didn’t want that for me.

But the lesson I took from this experience growing up was that if I speak up and say what I’m thinking, I will not be accepted. I took this lesson in all aspects of my adult life, at work, with friends, and with my family.

Fast forward to work, I knew I had to start changing this internal narrative. I started to look online for people who had gone through similar experiences, and I found a TED Talk by Andrew Solomon called ‘Love no matter what’. He starts the talk by reading a quote from TIME magazine in 1966, the article says that homosexuality is a disease not worth curing. He compares that article to now, where gay marriage is legal and asks a simple question: how did we get from there to here? Watching the video I answer out loud: because so many people spoke up for they believed to be true and right.

Suddenly I’m in tears, I realize how many people sacrificed and spoke up for what they believed so I can live the life I do now. For me to be in work meeting not speaking up, is such a huge disservice to all those who sacrificed before me. This has become the driving force for me to change my narrative and speak up in all aspects of my life.

I know that I’m fortunate to work in an environment like Next Jump where feedback is baked into our culture, and I’m surrounded by people who help support my growth. That means people who will give the uncomfortable truths, not comfortable lies.

Here’s some practical advice, which might help when receiving feedback:

  1. Recognize that there’s always grains of truth when hearing difficult feedback.
  2. Understanding the root cause; In my case – it was the realization that the reason I wasn’t speaking up is because I was looking for acceptance from others
  3. Reflecting on the origin; what were the situations in your upbringing which helped forge the wrong narratives?
  4. Finding the drive to change that narrative

I’ve just gotten started but some of the things I’ve done which have helped so far:

  1. Investing in 1 person I trust and can say anything to about home or work. It feels uncomfortable but getting the ‘I’m not good enough’ and insecurities out helps met get out of my own head.
  2. Practice being the first to speak up (in meetings, with friends). This is difficult and feels very vulnerable, putting your own opinion out rather than building on others. But the more I’ve done it, the more natural and less scary it seems.
  3. Telling others about my story. This was hard at first, but each time I share my story it becomes easier to voice, and reinforces why I want change.

To be clear, this hasn’t been an easy journey. But I have found that through practicing consistently, I’m starting to see the rewards in all areas of my life. Outside of work, I’ve built deeper, more meaningful friendships and a much stronger relationship with my parents. I’ve learnt that the battle with imposter syndrome is a difficult, but when you’re committed to change, the battle is worth it.