Naked In The Crowd: The Risk of Revealing You

For years I felt that there was a standard or expectation of me that I should pay attention to.  I had “arrived” as a professional and so there were personas and ideals all around me about what it meant to hold that position, to share and belong in that community.  After all- this is where I wanted to be….right?

As an entrepreneur and clinician there was no shortage of opinions that not only is the customer always right- but that it is my job to be/do what they need.  If I wanted to get paid I would have to BE that for them.  So much emphasis is placed on these concepts that I think it drags professionals into places they don’t want to be and forces a standard that might be “right” but doesn’t fit.

Could it be that all our marketing and business planning efforts…all our codes of ethics and standards of practice are not the lifeline we hope for but a noose around our necks when we are drifting in the surf?

It’s been my observation that many professionals and business owners have a “best before date” to their passion.  At some point we lose sight of our true north and begin to be pulled by external forces.  As I do Force Field Analysis for different organizations I find myself including internal issues such as lack of identity, burn-out and distrust to that metric.  Internally  there is something off.  So much so that margins, employees and clients are all impacted.  Its time to look deeper. It’s time to look at you.

Often I find that the energy people spend trying to find solutions exclude them.  What I mean is they look to “fix” instead of “grow”.  How do we build strong businesses and exceptional services?  It’s not by firing your communications director (well-sometimes it is…let me explain).  Its about being reflective and honest about how you do or don’t match the initiatives that you are enmeshed in.

John Maxwell talks about the Law of Sacrifice in his book the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  The Law of Sacrifice is knowing that to do great things you must be prepared to sacrifice often more than you anticipate.  The difference between a leader who does “good” and one who does “great” is understanding that growing rather than fixing means getting uncomfortable, getting real and shedding the pretense of expectation that industry or we ourselves have used to limit our impact.  Sacrifice is not an attractive outcome for many and that’s why conformity is so highly valued.  If I look like, sound like and deliver services just like everyone else- then I have value.  What if that isn’t true?

What if the age old standard of “the bottom line” falls short of capturing the value of authentically building our businesses and our careers? 

What if we’ve missed the point all together?

In the past year I have felt as if I am standing naked in the crowd.  I made a decision to take the risk of being and living and building a business centered entirely on who I am and what I believe I can do in the world.  I knew that branding myself as myself was very risky.  It means that I have made myself a consumable.  That some people will take a piece of me and tarnish it, misuse it and abuse it; but others will take that piece and cherish it and hold it close because we connected and there is value in that connection.  The risk of revealing me is one of rejection, of heartache, of knowing some things just don’t serve me and to let go of that.  It’s knowing that according to the Law of Sacrifice I will have short term pain financially, emotionally and even physically in order to shed the expectations that are not empowering.  What is revealed then becomes far more centered and powerful.  It reveals both my strengths and my weaknesses (opportunities for growth) in such a way that making decisions about who to lean on and what direction to go in is far more successful than if I had referenced my industry standards or the opinions of others.

In business and as professionals we must choose where to spend our energy and find our purpose.  I would suggest that the most valuable place for you to focus on you.

From that authentic place your values, your strategic plan and your execution of  that plan will not just resonate but exponentially respond to you and your market.

Revealing you and getting “naked” is undervalued and under-engaged in successful professionals and business owners- they have "arrived".   However, it creates a ceiling for our performance.  It allows conformity and complacency to get a foothold.  It robs the world of our vision and innovation and ultimately makes our careers a soul-sucking experience.

Taking the risk to "Get naked" and reveal YOU is the missing foundation to building strong brand identity, loyalty and ROI into how we operated and build our companies.

Reflection Questions:

  1. How much of your business is based on what you value? Are you relying on formulas or coming from a place where who YOU are -is reflected in your marketing, products and policies?
  2. Do you find yourself in dilemmas when you see that there is something the industry or your colleagues expect that doesn’t match your values? How do you currently respond?  Is this how you want to continue responding?
  3. What “risk” would you be taking to shed those expectations and reveal who you really are? What is the fear that holds you back?  Are you prepared to make large scale sacrifice to honor your personality and integrity?

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Addressing Toxic Culture: When Your Competitive Edge Cuts Like A knife

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending a TedX event in Victoria BC.  One of the speakers had me sitting forward in my seat.  She was singing my song!  Her name is Nicole Sorochan and she is the owner and Creative Director of One Net Studios- a digital marketing firm and media powerhouse.  Nicole identified an issue that has really impacted me in my professional life with devastating effects in all areas of my life- the negative side to being competitive.

At first glance you might think that competition is motivating.  Sure- a certain degree of challenging one another can really boost performance and make goals more palatable.  We can push each other to reach higher, do more and think beyond our limitations.  In sports, competition is how players measure their success.  Gaining rank or recognition by using competition works.  It's the way that system is built.  In the corporate setting competition can have negative consequences for both businesses and people.

Competition is like a fire- when tended properly it can warm everyone but if it gets out of control it leaves nothing but ashes and devastation.

Nicole talked mostly about the issue of competition and women.  This really brought it home for me.  The helping professions (the one I spent 20 years in) are dominated primarily by women.  Teams of women working together.  If you ask anyone who works in health or human sciences invariably there is a comment about having that many women in the room.  There is a layer here that Nicole brings forward that requires our attention.  How much does competition "bleed us" or "feed us"?

I can recall in the not too distant past being introduced to a woman who provided a service very much like mine.  She spent that introduction name dropping and posturing.  It was very disappointing for me because I had hoped to connect with her- not compete.  Instead she shut down any opportunity for us to explore how we might support one another by clearly staking her claim to expertise and prestige.  Any attempt I made to add value was dismissed.  If there is one thing I have learned over the course of my career working primarily with other women:

It is your character not your credentials that will draw people to you.

Leadership can and should embrace a healthy amount of competition.  The difference between healthy and harmful is whether or not competition is used as a weapon.  When winning- in any industry or business- becomes more important than our core values and causes us to gain ground at the expense of others- it is toxic.  Incentives and rewards are only marginally helpful when they are divorced from the frame of "team".  In workplaces dominated by women there is an ironic lack of femininity and feminine "features" of leadership.

Competition has a way of leeching away empathy, healing, listening, self-awareness and other core concepts of leadership that can be seen as a weakness instead of a strength.

Forbes author Michael Blanding talks about the impact of competition on creativity within the marketing industry.  The "Goldilocks" effect is the need to balance competition so that it is neither too little nor too much for people.  If we apply this to women we might see that the intensity around competition in motherhood, the workplace and for love (yes I said it) creates so much intensity that we are willing to throw not just one another but ourselves under the bus in order to win.

Perhaps on piece of the puzzle in the room when parents (moms) sit down to talk about services with professionals is that- this is a room full of women.  Is it possible that the persona of "warrior mother" is a liability because of the intensity of competition to WIN in a meeting?  I have to wonder if this dynamic is the under-current to knowing what is in play when families and professionals are not working together as a team- it's a "woman thing" as much as it is anything else.  Are we judging each other as mothers?  Are we competing for love and attention?  Are we trying to stake a claim in the gender equality "fight" at the expense of one another?

Nicole Sorochan's presentation raised a lot of important questions about competition and women for me.  It uncovered a layer that needs our attention and challenged me to pay closer attention to my fellow woman and her experience along side mine.

Reflection Questions:

  1. When you think about empathy, healing, listening and self-awareness what are the negative connotations that you hear and feel around these characteristics?
  2. Think back to interactions you have had where you felt that competition and domination became more important than working together?
  3. What actions can you take to ensure that you are well-rounded in your need/drive to "WIN"?  What can you do to control your intensity so that you are not succeeding at the expense of others?

I'd love to hear if your experiences and thoughts are similar to mine.  Keep this conversation going by leaving a comment below.

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More Than Just a Group Hug: Delivering Solutions Is The Goal Of Leadership

I had a phone call today with a business owner that I have done some work with.  We were talking about the viability of offering leadership as a part of his service model.  He explained to me that he gets a little bit “itchy” when he thinks that what is being proposed isn’t a solid, tangible result.  I could tell that his concern was that leadership has become such a buz word that it’s lost its relevance for the savvy business owner whose primary concern is viable impact within his margins and productivity.  It led me to think about the industry in general…are we talking to hear our own voices or do we have in our hands the answers struggling organizations are looking for?

"Leadership as a concept can appear as an “empty basket” to those who need it most if we can’t provide relevance for its application in their lives."tweet

The caution in the consultation industry is that conceptual knowledge doesn’t give business owners, decision-makers and people who want change the actionable steps they need to make change happen.  Within academic circles this can become a toxic cycle of concepts confirming concepts without us ever taking it back into the market place to find solid ground to run with it.  The practical application of leadership is listening to the business owner, the not-for-profit chairman or the CEO of the health authority and seeing where the barriers are for THEM in their roles and for their team.

Head knowledge without the “street smarts” of those who need it to work on the ground can do more damage than we realize because at that point “leadership” has lost its credibility.

I have had experiences myself as a business owner of being led through a process that sounded great but in actuality led me to no viable action plan.  That’s the call that leadership must answer.  If we are to demonstrate that shifts in corporate culture, profit margins and ROI are the result of applied leadership within an industry or organization- we must put solutions into people’s hands and empower them to use them.

This resonates within the health and teaching professions in a way that many clinicians have not considered.  Disability and mental health produces a ton of reports.  Just like within the business sector- those reports become irrelevant when they do not result in actions taken.  They make great paper airplanes and nothing more.  Rarely do I see a report that goes beyond recommendations and actually synthesizes the information with the intent of making the solution tangible- or as my colleague stated today “brick and mortar”.  This leads to low trust between families and clinicians and we have spent an enormous amount of resources managing this fall-out.  All because we did not understand or appreciate the impact of leadership and the signs that its missing.  Having a "team meeting" that costs thousands and doesn't change a thing is just as much a problem in hospitals, schools and intervention programs as it is in the world of the entrepreneur.  We have much to learn from the business world in the helping professions.

When we offer recommendations that are detached from the reality of the person who we think should engage we just add more noise to their already overwhelmed world. 

Whether we are talking about leadership within a corporate setting or evaluating the “tools of the trade” of leadership within any industry it is critical that those of us who aspire to influence do so with the intent to see those changes live- in real time- for real people.  When we leave leadership in the realm of “concept” we have failed to lead- how ironic.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Are the "recommendations" you are making based on concept or the reality of the person you want to engage?
  2. When you think about leadership- what does that mean to you?  Is it action or idea?  If it's just idea- how can you attach something "real" to it?
  3. Do you regularly measure the impact of your use of leadership recommendations?  If you are the consultant- do you provide this measurement?  If you are the client or professional- do you have a goal that you wish leadership to impact?

Change requires people to take action.  The goal of leadership is to offer a pathways to those changes where there were previously road blocks.

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Conflict: How To Manage It, Use it and Succeed As A Team!

Conflict is a natural part of being with people and is often thought of as something to avoid.

Do you aim to avoid the topics that create conflict on your team?  Sometimes conflict is the BEST way to generate ideas, address unspoken concerns and really get into the emotional grid of the people on your team.


Find out how to manage conflict HERE.

BUT- what do you do when it "goes off the rails".  The possibility that the meeting will go "off the rails" stops us from exploring just where conflict can take us and robs us of healthy outcomes for our team.

Join me in an exploration of how conflict creates opportunity and how to manage it in your next meeting.

If you like this post and the attached video please comment. I'd love to hear if your experiences are like mine.

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 Take an intimate look at your habits, actions and plans. Develop "Authenticity Actions" to demonstrate your character on a daily basis.