- Who & Why?
Category Archive for: ‘Happiness’
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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Back in the days when I was a practicing lawyer in Washington DC, I used to straighten my very curly hair. Every day. I used to get up early, forsake sleep or a work-out, and stand there and sweat it out. Pulling. Tugging my hair. Struggling. Resisting my natural curls.
I thought that in order to be seen as a competent lawyer, I had to be serious. I assumed curly hair meant I wasn’t serious. Straight hair equaled serious and competent.
One day I woke up and changed careers. What followed was a return to my natural curls. No more waking up early to straighten the curls. My morning options opened up: I could sleep, meditate longer, work out more often.
Does that mean I am not as competent or serious anymore? Not necessarily. I’m definitely competent and you better believe I’m serious about my work as a brand strategist.
I just stopped taking myself so seriously and decided to lighten up. That meant accepting who I was naturally- curly hair and all. I stopped resisting my natural tendencies and started to “own” them.
You know what happened next? My curly hair became a part of my brand. Used wisely, I was able to balance curls as a complement to my branding strengths and talents. That meant in part that if my hair is curly, I made sure I offset the fun and free nature of the curls with a more smart visual brand (ie, no low cut tops, etc).
My curly hair is now part of my values and signals my creative and fun nature and expertise. No more resistance.
Yet, I regularly hear from so many of my clients that they want to seen as competent so they are working on being more “serious”. What does serious have to do with competence?
Being serious does not sell your brand.
Emotional resonance in brand development is what sells your brand. Emotional resonance is crucial. The only emotion that sells is happiness. So if you are telling me that your serious brand signals happiness somehow, then go for it.
Unfortunately, none of us really intend for our serious brand to be giving off a vibe of happiness. So our brand fails AND you are unhappy and confused, too.
Consider that our need for others to see us as competent is really our desire to be respected by others. It has nothing to do with being serious. Gaining others’ respect means we respect ourselves first. But do we respect ourselves enough first and foremost to own our own strengths (and curly hair)? No one can respect us otherwise- whether we are serious or not.
So what does this mean for you and your business, career, and your business brand, too? Stop and ask yourself:
- Where in your life and career do you think you need to be more competent? Why?
- Do you respect yourself to consider yourself competent?
- How are you trying to achieve this competence by being more serious?
- Where in your life and career could you show up more happy and sell more happy?
- What would your own brand and your business/career brand look like if you were more happy and less serious?
I love the Olympics. Summer, Winter, all of it. It doesn’t matter to me the sport or the level of competition. Thinking back, I’ve always loved the Olympics. Not only was it inspirational to me as a little girl to see the athletes, it was fun to get into the spirit of the celebration of working on a dream and setting out to achieve it.
Nowadays in my family, we still get excited to watch the Olympics. And there’s more of a reason to love the games.
My husband and I have both developed a theory around the Olympics: The Olympics are good for our individual brands AND for business brands. How? Why?
Consider that 78% of everything you and I buy is NOT based on the content, but on how the service provider or product makes us feel. The only emotion that matters, sells, influences, attracts and engages is happiness.
The Olympics are high-toned and happy. For the two weeks or so that the Olympics are on, the world is a happier place. As a result, people are more motivated- motivated to help one another, to cheer one another on, to take care of themselves and be happier.
As a dentist, each Olympic season my husband notes a noticeable difference in his patients’ tone and willingness to take care of their teeth and oral health.
People are better brands. They (consciously or subconsciously) want to be better and be a part of something greater than just themselves. The Olympics fosters teamwork and support, which then leads to better business brands.
How could you not watch the athletes, hear the stories of the years of sacrifice and training they have made and not want more for yourself, your family, your business and your colleagues/career?
Contrast this with politics and the 2016 Vote. Blech…
The Olympics have been such a nice respite from the mud-slinging, fake-ness and low-toned campaigns we have to endure. That’s all we hear about. As a former lobbyist in Washington DC, I didn’t like it then. As a branding expert, I really don’t like it now. Nothing about politics is high-toned, including the candidates’ brands.
What does this mean for you?
• If you have a business/are an entrepreneur, take notice of how your business does during the Olympics. You should show a sign of increasing profits and sales. This would be the optimal time to take the momentum generated by the Olympics and boost your employees’ morale and drive – this will impact retention and production.
• If you work for an organization, notice how the staff and your colleagues are performing. This would be the optimal time to take the momentum generated by the Olympics and create a brand culture based on values and what drives your team as people.
• Stop and notice your own brand. Do you and your brand sell happiness at some level by showing up as happy? You should be happier and more motivated to allow success in your life. Take this extra brand boost and run with it for these two weeks. Hopefully, it will become a habit for you beyond the Olympics.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Call or email me to discuss how to harness your own brand and that of your teams’ brand to be optimal and happier and succeed more.
Aside from being a wife and family member, I am blessed to have several leadership roles, including running a branding company. So often I’m trying to figure out how to lead well. If I trust my gut and stay self-aware, it’s easy. If I start to analyze and agonize, it quickly becomes very hard to lead- much less to stay present.
What’s the right thing to do in any leadership opportunity situation? Should I say something? Should I stay quiet and let those I lead figure it out? Should I say just a little bit but not give away the farm? What if they don’t like me anymore once I open my mouth to lead? Worse, what if they hate me?
And on and on and on….it can get maddening if I let it.
Here’s what I’ve learned through my trials and tribulations in developing a leadership brand that works for me.
First, I’ve discovered I have to have a general goal. My goal (and I recommend it for you) is to aim to have my leadership style resonate my brand. This really means making sure that your only goal is to develop a brand culture for whatever group you are leading.
This brand culture must come from values development. How? It involves the human element- does everyone you lead have their values identified? Are they allowed and proud to own their values? Do their values seep into the organization’s brand culture?
For instance, my number one value is integrity. My number two value is to have fun and be happy.
Once I’ve set my leadership branding goal, I now have a pattern to compare all my actions as a leader. This ensures my brand values (and company brand culture) syncs up with, and consistently resonate, all my leadership actions.
In the next blog, I’ll talk about what to do from this point to ensure a strong leadership brand for you and your organization/employees.
For now ask yourself:
- What are my brand values?
- Does my leadership convey my brand values?
- Do those you lead (your employees and/or colleagues) know their brand values and “own” them well?
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?