- Who & Why?
Category Archive for: ‘Careers’
I remember graduating from law school and taking the Indiana bar exam. While I was waiting for my bar results, I couldn’t imagine what I would do if I didn’t pass the exam.
What else could I do? I had gone to law school so I could practice law and “be” a lawyer. Just the thought of not being able to “be” a lawyer freaked me out and it made me sad. A general sense of depression came over me as I waited for the test results.
These days within the practice of law, or when we discuss any professional exceling at work and working “hard”, we naturally (and unfortunately) tend to discuss the high incidence of depression in the workforce.
This depression can come about for other reasons, too. I was recently discussing this very topic with a lawyer whose spouse is in the military. Every so many years they must move as her husband gets new orders. Each move guarantees a high likelihood that she, as a lawyer, won’t be able to practice in that new state because she hasn’t taken that particular state’s bar exam yet. She noted how this situation causes so many lawyers in her position to go into a deep depression. I had never stopped to consider this fact. Yet, I totally see how that situation can cause depression.
Why does this sadness and/or depression happen to professionals regarding their careers?
I think this happens because we are too tied to our identity as a particular professional and career. We don’t identify ourselves as people first, rather we identify as our professions first.
For instance, when I was a securities lawyer in Washington, DC, whenever anyone met me and asked me about myself, I would automatically launch into a discussion of my legal career. Often, my response would start with, “I’m a lawyer”.
It wasn’t until the year I stopped practicing that I realized this costly misalignment in my thoughts. I remember the day so vividly. I was bemoaning to my sister how I was struggling with not practicing law, even though I had chosen to stop practicing and I felt it was right deep down in my gut. I remember declaring to my sister, “But if I’m not a lawyer, then who am I?”
This inquiry stopped my sister dead in her tracks. With a very shocked and sad expression she commented, “You are a human first and then a lawyer”.
What a wake-up call. That was the moment I really stopped and took inventory of who I really was and what I was about in this world. It took several years before I had real clarity.
I then realized that identifying so much with my career and/or profession had left me with a lack of my own identity as a human. Not a pretty or effective brand.
As such, it led to a sense of sadness and hollowness when I stripped myself of my title as a lawyer- an even worse brand.
What does this mean for you? Stop and consider:
- How often do you identify with your career, profession and job to the detriment of who you are as a person? Why?
- Does this identification help you be happy and balanced?
- How does this identification impact your work product and your brand?
- What would it be like for you to stop identifying with your career, profession and job?
- What’s one action step you can take now to have more self-awareness around who you “are” and what you “do”?
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I used to identify myself with my job and career as a lawyer. Whenever anyone asked me, “who are you?” my response would start with “I’m a lawyer”. It was really unhealthy. Worse was that I had no self-awareness of what I was doing to my self-confidence, not to mention my brand. That was so long ago.
Fast forward 15 years and an entirely new career. I LOVE and absolutely have deep passion for what I do for a living. I know it is a natural expression of my talents and of who I am. The expert branding advice I give comes with ease and grace.
Ironically, today I don’t define myself as my career and job. I had to work my brand backwards to get here.
Once I retired from the practice of securities law, I literally spent two years figuring out just who I was and what I was naturally good doing for myself and for others. It was a true (and often painful) exploration of the best of “ME” with no “back” button. It was so worth it to find my brand and my self-confidence.
Once I unearthed my brand, I then worked backwards to find out what would be a good work environment and a good fit for my natural talents and abilities.
It was so much easier to do this than what I find most of us try to do instead. Here’s what I hear all the time:
“If I just find a great new career and/or job, then I’ll be happy and can work on my own brand”.
IT DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY. EVER. WHY? BECAUSE THAT’S NOT NATURAL.
You first have to figure out who you are and what you can naturally tap into as your ability and skill set and zest for life in helping others. From there, and only there, can you then move on to create a career or job or business that reflects your natural abilities and love for doing so for others. That is your brand.
What does this mean for you? Stop and consider:
- What is that one thing you do every day that comes so very naturally to you?
- What do others compliment you most on?
- What is “it” that you are curious about in this world?
- What activity makes you the happiest?
- Now, how can you take these answers and channel them into a purpose and action that comes with ease, grace and benefits others?
Within organizations the one thing you can count on is change. Change is inevitable.
It comes often and is often painful. In the branding world, change is an indicator of brand flexibility: brands that go with change, evolve and survive to thrive. Brands that don’t bend with the wind, die out.
What kind of changes are we talking about? Such changes include a) reorganizational changes of any kind, like changes in management, buy-outs, downsizing due to economic factors or due to innovation b) technological changes leading to obsolescence c) pure economy dictated changes.
What do all these changes involve? Employees. Your best advantage and greatest asset- your talent pool.
Here’s the problem: The 2013 Gallup State of the Global Workplace report found that only 13% of employees are engaged at work. Engagement equals productivity.
So what are the hurdles to employee engagement and productivity due to change? Here’s what I’ve found happens when there is any internal change- and there will always be internal change:
- There is a fundamental shift in brand values due to change in management- often this is accompanied by mass confusion, often subconscious, among the employee pool. Why? Read on.
- There is no focus on the notion of building the “internal” brand first- since the brand of the employees/agents is behind the company brand and comes first, it pays to develop the employee brand first- this involves direct communication to the employees and inclusion of the employees in the brand value process. Leadership must engage employees in the exercise of discovering their values that coincide with the shift in brand values of the new management.
- There is a strong possibility that employees/agents go rogue and drift away from the corporate brand representation.
So what is management supposed to do about this? The first step is that “management” needs to stop thinking like “management” and start thinking like “leadership”. This means first and foremost having conscious awareness that a shift has occurred. This shift may not be well understood or accepted by your employees.
Next, leadership needs to take steps to make sure the brand values shift is a) communicated well and b) open to revision by employees c) based on the ability to have the employees develop their own brand values and contribute to the new direction of the company’s brand. This is where I come in to assist the leadership team.
What happens if management does not become leadership and apply these steps? From my experience, the best that can happen is employees leave the company. The worst that can happen is that employees stay, become disgruntled which in turn leads to apathy, lack of productivity, and low morale. All of this inevitably leads to a decline in profits.
So what does this mean for you?
If your organization is going through change, make sure you consider your employee brand values. They must be in sync with your organizational shifts and the brand value changes they bring. These changes must be communicated to your employees and your employees given the ability to participate in creating the evolved organizational brand culture.
When I was in private practice, I never paid much attention to values. I had no time. I do remember we used to talk about our mission and vision for the law firm. We even had a mission statement. After that, nothing really happened. It was a hollow experience.
What does branding have to do with values? Brand development is all about the people. We work with individuals by looking on the inside first. Looking inward is all about discovering individual values. Once you are clear about who you are, why would I hire you and where you fit into the business brand/corporation/firm, then we can take your brand and market it to your target audience.
Businessdictionary.com defines “values” in part as “[i]mportant and lasting beliefs or ideals shared by the members of a culture about what is good or bad and desirable or undesirable. Values have major influence on a person’s behavior and attitude and serve as broad guidelines in all situations.”
When used as a development tool or an intervention for change and innovation, leadership is the grandfather of all values. Leadership is the most important value to cultivate in your organization. Once leadership is truly mastered within an organization, it will lead to other values. All such values can then drive profitability.
No matter what else they do or what else is printed on their business cards, senior leaders in the most successful socially-responsible or values-driven companies see themselves as “Chief Culture Officers.” These people take time to cultivate leadership in others and make sure they lead as an example, always.
The notion of responsibility goes hand in hand with integrity and creating an even playing field. The definition of responsibility includes the word, “control”. If I have to be responsible for you, then I must control you. If that doesn’t sit well with you, then perhaps choose to see your level of responsibility in your organization and career differently. Even if you are not a formal “leader” in your practice, where can you take more responsibility for the overall business success? If no one takes responsibility, assuming others will do so because they are officially named firm leaders, then the values system breaks down and profitability takes a hit for certain.
Part of responsibility is stepping back to see where you can grow personally. Some of the most amazing masters I know acknowledge they are not perfect. They turn to coaches and others for support to make them even better. Where are you not taking your personal growth seriously? Why not? I acknowledge it is very scary to admit to ourselves -and then to others- that we could stand to be better, however there is great strength that comes from doing so. Not only do others respect you for your honesty, and your firm values are more effective because you are working on improving yourself.
As humans we are so very hard on ourselves. As professionals, we are even more hard on ourselves because we are seen as counselors and advisors to so many. Consider forgiveness as a very important value for yourself. Learning to forgive ourselves allows us to choose to see others differently. This value then allows us to be kinder on others in our firm, which drives morale. Prospective clients are attracted to the energy around a firm where people get along.
So stop and ask yourself:
- Do you really live your business values, as a person? If not, how can you do better?
- Do you live leadership as a value, whether you formally lead others or not?
- Do you take responsibility for your life and career?
- Do you practice forgiveness- of yourself and others?
It’s January and it seems lots of us are goal setting. I remember setting goals. It was just awful. I was always at a loss for what goals to set. I had all sorts of thoughts swirling in my head, like: Should I aim for lofty goals or manageable goals? What if I failed at achieving my goals? Did I have to share my goals with my team/boss? How much faith was I supposed to have in my goals being “good”? What if my goals didn’t feel real for me- was that ok?
And on and on and on it went….just like a bad movie that never ended.
Until one day when I stopped setting goals. Here’s why.
Setting goals does two things:
1) You don’t achieve your goal and so you feel like a failure. Great. Just what you wanted, right?
2) You don’t achieve your goal because it wasn’t your goal in the first place. Your boss and/or team insisted on you setting goals. So you put down something that has no meaning or passion for you and you obviously don’t achieve it. Failure again.
Instead of goal setting, I decided to focus on stories and outcomes that made me happy. Why?
In my formal and informal research findings, I’ve discovered the higher your stress, the lower your self-confidence. The lower your self-confidence, the less your brand emotionally resonates with me and the less effective your brand. So why would I set goals if they cause me stress and reduce my self-confidence and emotional brand resonance?
Instead, I now envision what I want to happen and write the story of how it will play out. I encourage all my clients to do the same. This method puts you in control of your life and restores your personal power and creative vision for yourself. It’s also just fun to have a blank canvas on which to create your future- as you want to have it happen. It nicely follows my blog regarding how you want to be remembered.
What does this mean for you? Sit down with a blank screen. Ask yourself the following questions and start creating your 2016:
- What one or two things do you see yourself doing really well in 2016? It can be personal or business. Write it down and also write down why you do these one or two things well in 2016? These should be things that bring you true joy in your life. Don’t hold back.
- What kind of work do you want to do in 2016? Be specific. Type out all the details.
- What type of clients and colleagues do you want to work with? Again, specific details create results.
- How many hours per week do you want to work and play? Why? Write it all out.
- Do you want to relocate in 2016? If so, are you changing homes or cities or states or maybe even moving to a new country? Why? Write as much detail as you can.
- What are you going to do JUST for yourself in 2016? Why? With Whom? Creative use of our right-brain makes for great brands.
Don’t hold back. No one is going to read this but you. If at first this is too hard and you start to get twitchy, that’s great! You’re on to something. Keep writing. You’ll know when you are done.