75.Adeyanju Olomola: Overcoming imposter syndrome

Sue Stockdale talks to Adeyanju Olomola about her transition from a twenty-year career in a corporate organisation to running her own business as a Certified Professional Coach.

Adeyanju reflects on:

• What imposter syndrome is, and how to overcome it
• The reality of how long it can take to get a paying client
• What she learned about life from her twin children

Adeyanju works with purpose-driven individuals and organisations to coach them discover what success means to them and identify pathways to growth. In addition to coaching, she supports learning and development programs within organizations through training and blended learning facilitation techniques. Prior to setting up her coaching practice, she worked in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry with 20 years of diversified experience.

A member of the International Coaching Federation, Adeyanju holds the Associate Certified Coach (ACC) credential and is currently on the path to Professional Certified Coach credential. She is the immediate past Vice President of ICF Nigeria Chapter, a certified John Mattone Intelligent Leadership Executive Coach, an Extended DISC & FinxS Accredited Consultant, a Narrative Coach Enhanced Practitioner, and a Team Coaching Foundations Certified Coach from GTCI.

Adeyanju operates a hybrid business model – as the Lead Coach and CEO of The Source Coaching Ltd and an Associate Senior Coach and Trainer with TNM Coaching, TBA Consults, CoachHub and BetterUp.

Connect with Adeyanju Olomola on LinkedIn and Instagram 

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Key Quotes

“You need to hear, and also speak your customers or your consumers language.”

“I was literally terrified every single day.”

‘Imposter Syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, their talents, and accomplishments, and they have a persistent, internalized fear of being exposed.’

“You actually forget who you are.”

“I realised – what I don’t know, I will learn.”

“The common thread is really about the narratives that have shaped us from an early age and into adulthood.”

“Overcoming it begins with self-awareness. To really be aware of who you are, and how you’ve come that far.”

Adeyanju Olomola Transcription

[00:00:00] Sue: Hi there. I’m Sue Stockdale and welcome to the access to inspiration podcast. The show where you can be inspired by people who may be unlike you. We hope that their stories and experiences cause you to reflect on your own perspectives about the world and make you think. Well, I’m delighted today that my guest for episode 75 is Adeyanju Olomola from Nigeria. Adeyanju is a certified professional coach based in Lagos and she explains what transition was like for her to move from the comfort of a corporate role into starting up business as a coach. Welcome to the podcast. Adeyanju it’s great to speak to you today.

[00:00:58] Adeyanju: Hi Sue. Likewise.

[00:01:00] Sue: Now I understand that I’m speaking to you in Nigeria and I’ve certainly never been to that country. So maybe it would be great to give us a sense of what life is like in Nigeria these days.

[00:01:10] Adeyanju: Oh, wow. Life is exciting here in Lagos, Nigeria. And as you would have with any emerging nation, there are numerous challenges that appear insurmountable, but as we say here in Nigeria, we move and we have such an enormous reservoir of belief and self confidence that every day we believe, , the next day is gonna be better and greater. So that optimism it cause through our veins that, you know, we’re always looking forward to what can come well.

[00:01:40] Sue: I love that sense of optimism that you’re describing there. One of the things we’ll be speaking about is around your transition from working in the corporate space and moving into entrepreneurship. I’d love to hear about your career journey.

[00:01:54] Adeyanju: I had an amazing 20 years. One month. I always think that adding that less one month has a nice ring to it. So essentially 20 years I worked in one organization. I worked for the CocaCola bottler here in Nigeria, in diverse roles. And it was very exciting in the sense that I transverse through three different departments. Started out in it for about two and a half years managing the help desk for the business, then moved on to public affairs and communications bear in mind. I have a degree first degree in industrial chemistry, which had no bearing to that career, but that’s where I spent the longest in public affairs and communications about 14 years.

And in the latter part of my career, because I felt what next? It was a support function. And I had reached the peak locally, and there were no roles at the group office. So I moved to sales. I wanted a GM role. So I did, I was heading the modern trade part of the business for about three and a half years before I [00:03:00] decided to start my own business in coaching.

[00:03:04] Sue: And in terms of that transition, that idea that you’re leaving a corporate organization somewhere you’ve been for many years. What were your feelings and your thoughts with the idea of stepping into the world of entrepreneurship yourself?

[00:03:19] Adeyanju: It was scary, but I think I kind of like had been preparing myself and I was a bit prepared mentally for that transition in the sense that the year before I started, I left, I actually started making plans in terms of registering the business and all of that. And the fact that I got introduced into coaching five years, prior and had been coaching internally, I was certified to coach internally. It had also prepared me when I made that decision that I was gonna go into coaching full time. It helped, with that transition, making that decision. Now, what happened after is a different ball game, getting into the world of entrepreneurship and going after clients the first year or the first six months was. Kind of like brutal cos I felt, Hey, I have what it takes. I’ve got the network. Once I send in a proposal they’re gonna consider and I’ll land coaching, engagements. Nah, it didn’t work like that.

[00:04:27] Sue: There’s always that wonderful optimism that you talked about earlier on there, that belief that things will work out when you start up in business. And then sometimes we come down to earth with a bump when things didn’t business didn’t roll in, as quickly as you had anticipated, how did you cope with that?

[00:04:43] Adeyanju: It was tough. I mean, it was tough. I had already, mapped out how many clients I could take in a day. I had everything ready and one month, two months, three months, not a single client. I panicked. Even though I had decided I wasn’t going back into the corporate world. So it was an all or nothing thing I panicked. And I remember talking to a friend and, she laughed, we were hearing me moan and whine and scream and doing everything. And she, she just asked me a question, which I really could relate to that. What if the Coca-Cola inventor had closed shop after three months? Just because he hadn’t sold a bottle.

And that brought things, home for me that okay. He didn’t, so this is normal. Some people maybe first day they land jobs. Some people, it may take six months or even a year. So that made me breathe and take a step back. And realized that I was actually waiting for the clients, just send an email and expect that they would, contact me. So I started to be a bit more aggressive, started attending meetings and fairs and conferences where my target audience were HR directors, CEOs, and striking up conversations and talking to people. [00:06:00] And I landed my first job after.

[00:06:02] Sue: So it is funny, you’re saying around the difference between doing, selling for your own business. And when you were in sales, within the corporate space, it’s a little bit more difficult when you’re selling yourself as part of that service. It makes it a little bit different than selling a product. What do you make of that?

[00:06:21] Adeyanju: Yes, it is because I think I had disassociated myself from the product or the service that I was offering. And it was giant wake up call that it’s not just about the service I’m offering or the products from this service. It’s also about me and I needed to leverage the enormous Goodwill that I felt I had banked whilst working in the corporate world. I had to bring all of that and do marketing as well. I think it was almost like I forgot everything about selling and had to now bring myself back to say, okay, these are the things you need to do.

Who are your target audience? What exactly do they need? Can you provide that service? How can you speak the language? And that was something that we learned and also put in practice whilst, working with the beverage producer you need to hear, and also speak your customers or your consumers language. It’s not about, your own speak. So I had to abandon all that coaching talk and really speak the language of my buyers. So to say what it is they’re going through and how coaching could move them, to their desired outcomes.

[00:07:34] Sue: You’re reminding me of that importance of language. And sometimes the language that people do speak in corporates is quite different from other walks of life and being able to do that translation and step into your, your buyer’s shoes is so important. It is now the other thing that you just reminded me of, as you’re speaking there is around follow up because you were saying there that you’d sent out a proposal and then expected them to come back to you. And one conversation is enough. I’m wondering if you also find that with your coaching clients, that accountability and follow up is an important part of the whole coaching process.

[00:08:11] Adeyanju: Yes. Yes, I do agree because you know, life happens to all of us and the coaching engagement or the service I’m providing may not be front and centre. Most times it is. I think perhaps I was looking at almost everyone through my eyes. So if I tell you, I’m gonna get back to you. I have a mental reminder. I do get back. So that for me was a huge shift. You know, when someone tells you they’re gonna get back, you may need to gently prod or nudge them to do so.

[00:08:45] Sue: Yeah. As you say, it’s not through their lack of desire, it’s just practicality. If anything else. Yeah. I also understand that imposter syndrome is a topic that you’re spending quite a bit of time talking about these days with your coaching [00:09:00] clients.

[00:09:00] Adeyanju: Yes. Yes, it is.

[00:09:01] Sue: What makes that topic of interest to you?

[00:09:05] Adeyanju: I think it is. I haven’t experienced it when I got my first transition to a leadership role and feeling so excited. And then going through all of that, working through it. And when I transited, you know, to a different function, completely allowing myself to remember all the things that helped me through that. And then now moving into the coaching world, starting out. And I think it was perhaps during the pandemic that I started noticing it creeping up and I was wondering, Hey, what’s going on here? And listening to clients as well, and seeing how accomplished men and women go through those feelings of imposterism and you’re just, almost feel like shaking them, but you can’t because, and I remembered myself as. No one knew what was I was going through because I would show up at work. But claws that that feeling kind of like sunk it’s clothes in me until I sought help. and I was able to walk free.

[00:10:16] Sue: And for the listener that hasn’t come across this idea of imposter syndrome before, how would you describe it?

[00:10:22] Adeyanju: Okay. So I will say this, that it is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, their talents, and accomplishments, and they have a persistent, it is there it’s persistence, internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. So all of that is actually going on within, you may not see it on the outside. And if I would describe it, it’s like an accomplished swimmer with all the right gear, jumping into a pool of water and they’re thrashing about, and if they feel as if they’re drowning and they are actually going under or so it seems, and they discover later on that the water is knee deep, just as the sign said, but they saw the sign that’s why they jumped it hoping to stand, but they fell face flat. So it’s, you forget what you’ve accomplished so far, you lose your bearing for a short while. And for some people it extends into a long period.

[00:11:27] Sue: Even as I’m listening to you, I can identify a sense of almost panic that might be felt by the person.

[00:11:36] Adeyanju: Yes. Oh, yes. I mean, for me, when I my first experience of the imposter syndrome was I had just been promoted to head of function. I mean, this was something that I walked hard for. I looked forward to and I got it. And I think it was the first week I kind of like froze and I started having conversations in my head.

Oh my [00:12:00] God, they’re gonna realize they made a mistake. That GM is going to call me. I actually had the conversation typed out printed in my head. He’s gonna call and say, Adeyanju we made a mistake. We promoted you too early, but what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna have someone that you will shadow for a year and we’ll just give you another title.

So we’ll just move office. I mean, it was crazy. I would literally come into the office, not really be able to do anything, but I will sit at my computer, you know? Working or so it seemed, and this went from for weeks, for almost a month, until one morning. I said, you know what? I can’t continue like this, the phone rings, I’m jumping because I’m so scared that it’s gonna be the GM to give me those lines.

And I reached out to someone to say, this is what I’m going through. I need a woman who’s accomplished who is more or less at the top of our career. Is married. And if they have kids or not, it doesn’t really matter cos I didn’t have children. And the gentleman, linked me up with the MD of one of the banks here in Nigeria and incidentally, she’s now on the board of Coca-Cola Hellenic and I had a conversation with her for an hour and She set me straight.

[00:13:12] Sue: What did she tell you? That really was impactful?

[00:13:14] Adeyanju: She listened to me when I came in, when she was like, okay, I understand you wanted to talk to about really what’s going on with you. And there I was, my voice was shaking, cheery eyes and everything. She listened to everything I had to say. And she says, Coca-Cola. That’s the multinational. Multinationals don’t take decisions, lightly, this was well thought through. So first get it in your head. They did not make a mistake. So you worked hard for this, the felt you had the track record and the potential. And that was it for me. I can’t remember anything she said, but I just remember what she said that day about they did not make a mistake. They saw your potential and you got that role.

[00:13:53] Sue: And I’m wondering that when you then heard that message from an external source, did that help you then to start to introduce that into your own self talk? So you were then telling that message to yourself as well?

[00:14:07] Adeyanju: Oh yes. Yes it did because I actually remembered all the work I have put in to get this job and realize that I deserved this. I was the best candidate. So it wasn’t a case of, there were others better than me. I was the best candidate and I let everything grow and I set my mind to learning what to do and growing. And it helped me when I made the transition to sales. I mean, I’d never done anything in sales before. And I went in. A statement that I read. I think it was by sir Richard Branson, that when someone offers you an opportunity, say yes, and then learn how to do it. And another one was my mantra, which served me throughout that period and is still serving me. And it was what I don’t know, I will learn. So I came to the office every day. I had both by my desk [00:15:00] printed and it really helped me that if I don’t know something, I would ask and learn how to do.

[00:15:06] Sue: Those are such useful tips to remind our listeners about the other point that I think you bring up in, what you say is the word potential. And that strikes me that that employers don’t necessarily always hire the fully formed, complete package in somebody they’re actually hiring somebody who’s got potential to grow and develop. So if you were already fully formed, why would you take the job and I’m wondering whether you would agree with that view as well.

[00:15:35] Adeyanju: I would agree. Yes. Part, depending on the role at times, you either hire someone who is fully formed because you need to hit the road running, but also that person’s got potential. And I really believe that employers hire for potential.

[00:15:52] Sue: And if you’re enjoying this episode, You can listen to other episodes featuring the subject of transition. Back in episode two, I spoke to Harriet Minter about career change and transition. And in episode 11, also, I spoke to Deb Downing and Dennis Borner who transitioned from the world of work into a Caribbean selling adventure. So there’s plenty, more episodes that you can find if you hop on over to access to inspiration.org and you’ll see them all listed there. So when you’re working with clients these days and they start to open up and reveal that they maybe are feeling like an imposter, what do you do or say to help them overcome that feeling?

[00:16:40] Adeyanju: I think it starts first with self awareness and helping them. To really be aware of themselves, who they are, how they’ve come that far. And we begin to look at what I’ll call the truth and the facts. So it’s various means I could ask you and this, I learned from a friend, so do a list of your accomplishments. And usually the numbers scare people, 50 accomplishments in the last two years and they go, ah, 50, that’s a lot but I then qualified to say it doesn’t have to be something massive, like winning a Nobel prize, anything you learned how to make a muffin, you learned how to drive, or you taught someone how to drive and you’d be amazed how much people would then sit down and begin to think about and write down their accomplishments.

I went work the group of ladies. And I said, okay, because it was a group session, it was 10 accomplishments and what they came up with was truly amazing and just got them to read it out, to the rest of the group, just by hearing themselves and what it is they had accomplished and the fact that they had disregarded it and just chalked it as, oh, it’s no big deal. It is a big deal.

[00:17:57] Sue: And in terms of where [00:18:00] imposter syndrome may manifest itself, Are there any particular areas, if you like that you find that people experience imposter syndrome more than others?

[00:18:10] Adeyanju: Not really, but I think the common thread is really about the narratives that have shaped us from an early age and into adulthood, the stereotypes, the self talk and what has been said to you, and by the time you internalize all of that, And you are then faced with things that you’re not familiar with. New terrains, new circles, new roles, even being in the presence of other people. I think those are some of the triggers that enable the imposter syndrome, to manifest itself. Cos you’d look at some people and it’s like, they have no business feeling like a fraud, but they do.

[00:18:56] Sue: You mentioned the word narrative there, and we’ve got to the stage in your narrative in your story that you are an entrepreneur and you’re beginning and starting up a coaching business. So as we always like to know in a story, what happened next ?

[00:19:11] Adeyanju: So I did start my business is about four years old and I guess really sitting and deciding what I wanted for myself as a growing business. And is still key to the trajectory that I am on. Now. I decided in terms of the vision for my business, that I wasn’t just going to be a local coach. I wanted to be resident locally, but operating globally. And I think it was about 18 months into my business that adopted or changed my business model and made it a hybrid model in the sense that I do. And I will go after clients locally or internationally as the opportunities rise, but also I will collaborate with bigger coaching firms and that has really worked well for me in terms of exposure, being able to coach across different cultures around the world.

So. That is where I’m I’m at now. It is exciting and I’m growing professionally. Also, my business is growing as well.

[00:20:19] Sue: One of the questions I often ask my coachees and I’m gonna put it to you and see what you make of this one is what do you believe that the world is calling you to step up to these days

[00:20:30] Adeyanju: to enlargement not holding back, lengthening my chords and strengthening my stakes. So it’s expansion and not holding back.

[00:20:43] Sue: Wow. And have you got any thoughts about how you’re going to accomplish that or what directions that might pull you in, in addition to what you’ve already told us?

[00:20:52] Adeyanju: So I see it in also speaking opportunities apart from coaching and [00:21:00]just building, a network of individuals. it was in 2020. I established a platform that also building and marketing and it’s called professionals in motion. And it’s really kind of like a community where professionals can come learn from one another and also from me and individuals that I bring onto the platform. So it’s about people. Who knows that they were built for growth or development and they can come and join that platform.

[00:21:32] Sue: So you’re taking steps in different ways to grow and expand both for yourself and your own capabilities. It strikes me as well as your business. Yes. So there’s the self and the organizational sense of it. I also know you’ve grown in terms of a family and you’ve got twins. Am I right? Yes. two boys. Tell us about that.

[00:21:55] Adeyanju: Woo. I always say that if I could survive the first two and a half months after I had them, I can survive anything. Cuz one of them was not sleeping. He literally will be. All night, my sisters named him lantern, because if it was, as if he was missing out by sleeping and I would, and he would not fuss, he wasn’t crying or anything, but his eyes were wide open and I would beg him. I remember one night I was sobbing. I opened the window. It was dark. I said, look out, see, was sleep at this time in this part of the world, we sleep at this time. Help me. And I, it was like, he really listened and two and a half months he started sleeping 11 to 5:00 AM, six hours straight. And that was, oh gosh, it was a huge relief cuz I love my sleep.

[00:22:50] Sue: I can imagine, when you don’t get sleep with one child, it’s harder, but when you have two to be looking after as well, it’s probably double trouble.

[00:22:57] Adeyanju: Gosh, it was, it was tough.

[00:23:00] Sue: And what do you think your twin boys have taught you about life?

[00:23:04] Adeyanju: Oh, patience. They’ve taught me resilience and that we have an unending reservoir of love. They’ve taught me humor as well and acceptance, and the fact that the uniqueness in every single human being, cuz they are so diverse in terms of diet likes. And it is almost frustrating having to make different meals because one person doesn’t eat this and the other person likes.

[00:23:33] Sue: I’m imagining our listeners are identifying with what you’re describing there.

[00:23:38] Adeyanju: It seems almost like that expansion philosophy also works in the home too, where you have to be expansive in what people are looking for. If you were going back to give the young audience you some advice from now where you are in life, what would you give to your teenage self?

I would tell [00:24:00] Adeyanju don’t stop dreaming, breathe. The life is a marathon and to embrace the journey fully and have fun. No regrets.

[00:24:11] Sue: It’s been fun speaking to you today, to get a sense of how things are for you, how you’ve made that transition from corporate to being a coach. If people want to find out more about you and the work that you do, how might they do that?

[00:24:25] Adeyanju: Yeah, I’m on LinkedIn. That is my primary abode and it’s my full name. Adeyanju Olomola on LinkedIn. So easy to find there on Instagram. It’s a mix of lightness and fun. And it’s just me talking about what I love most food football family. And yes, I do talk about coaching. And my Instagram handle is at Dayon jewel, D E Y a N J U O.

[00:24:52] Sue: Wonderful. It’s been lovely to speak to you today. I wish you well with the business as it goes forward. And that ambition to be expansive, maybe this podcast will help with that to expand your reach into other places as well, to tell your story to new audiences.

[00:25:07] Adeyanju: Thank you so much for your time. Thank you, Sue.

[00:25:10] Sue: It’s been a pleasure speaking to you today. Well, I hope you enjoyed this episode with Adeyanju and I’d certainly encourage you to write down a list of your accomplishments. If you’re having a day, when you doubt yourself, there is nothing like looking at evidence to prove that you can achieve things.

And if you’ve missed out on any of our earlier episodes, we’ve now got 75 episodes that you can find by going on over to our website@accesstoinspiration.org, you can also download a copy of our impact report there, which will tell you about the impact that this podcast has. Around the world next week, I’ll be speaking to Susan Murphy, a broadcaster who’s spent many years helping people to discover how they can communicate with an authentic voice. I hope you can join me then.

Sound Editor: Matias de Ezcurra (he/him)
Producer: Sue Stockdale (she/her)