Living the Dream
This article was first published in early 2017 and has been modified from the original version
Who’s Got Next in HR was built upon the premise that professionals – particularly HR professionals – should always dare to ask ‘what’s next?’
I believe strongly that the status quo often lacks imagination at best, and misses the opportunity to tap into the best and brightest brains in business, at worst.
When you have strong opinions, it’s important to walk the talk. I’d like to do more than dream. My focus is on dreaming big, with deadlines. And, at some point, I’d like to actually live the dream.
I serve as the Chief Business and Talent Officer. It's a unique role that finds me leading in an array of areas - from Property Assets to Talent, and most recently, to serving as the Interim Fund Development Executive. This is part of me living the dream……it’s the most current answer to the question of what’s next’ in my own professional career.
I’m deeply grateful for my career moves. I’m proud of the hard work that was required to make them happen. And, I’m never satisfied. I’d like to inspire that same degree of restlessness in you.
Here are a few nuggets of wisdom, borne from my own experiences, to help you start living your dreams.
Have an Advocate
The importance of having an advocate to help you demonstrate your expertise and value cannot be overstated. What good is it to have gifts and talents which remain hidden from view because you never have a platform to demonstrate them?
Your advocate may or may not be your immediate manager. It’s certainly easier if it is. But, if that’s not feasible, search for an influential decision-maker in your company and build a relationship with him/her. They could be the very key to the right door of opportunity being opened.
In Joann Lublin’s book, Earning It, she quotes Carly Fiorina among the more than fifty trailblazing smashers of corporate glass ceilings in the book. Carly, the receptionist turned CEO of Hewlett-Packard and, most recently, Presidential candidate says: “You absolutely have to have people who will take a chance on you. Be open to people helping you.”
Don’t be too proud to ask for or willingly accept help. You’ll need it.
We oftentimes believe, even subconsciously, that the person who has willingly served to be our advocate is doing us an unmerited favor. The fact is, they are indeed performing a ‘gracious act of kindness’ according to Mirriam-Webster’s definition of 'favor.' It is kind and gracious to work on someone’s behalf for that individual’s personal or professional benefit. Anyone who is able to secure an advocate should be grateful and work hard not to let them down.
However, it is no unmerited favor. Never allow thoughts of doubt or a sense that you are undeserving to creep in…..kick them out before they take up residence. Always know that you are worthy of what you’ve received. Know that you deserve it, based on merit.
Let Your Work Speak
Ultimately, your work must speak for itself. Once the opportunity is presented, the rest is up to you. You either have to step up with the requisite skills and abilities, otherwise advancement is unlikely to happen.
The potent mixture of inherent skills, hard earned experience, acquired talents and grit, propels one to new levels….if you have the courage to demonstrate them.
Your work should serve as the loudest and most persuasive megaphone which lets the world know – in every conversation, in every meeting – that things are better with you at the table. Never underestimate the power of such a megaphone and keep the volume turned up.
What’s worse than turning down the volume on the megaphone pronouncing your work, is doing so as a result of false humility. Humility has its place, don’t get me wrong. It’s important to be able to look modestly at oneself and not operate with a sense of arrogance.
Constantly downplaying one’s accomplishments, giving the credit away or remaining quiet while fantastic work is described with no mention of the creator (if that’s you) – is folly. Every day I learn the importance of claiming my work, especially when it counts and key stakeholders are listening.
Start a new ritual...right now: Become more comfortable with claiming your work. Find creative ways to describe the outcome, what it took to make it happen and what impact it has/will have on the company. In addition to saying ‘we’ to share credit for important work and demonstrate a team spirit, insert an ‘I’, strategically, to claim it.
Each One Teach One
The phrase ‘each one teach one’ was birthed in the US by African-Americans during slavery. During the period where African-Americans were denied education, those who learned to read saw it as their duty to teach another. Each one teach one. It’s a powerful concept that speaks to the importance of helping a fellow brother or sister to go to the next level.
As a professional, you’re only as good as your ability to multiply what you’ve learned. Growth and advancement must be duplicated to have any real meaning. When others receive what you have, it spawns a new opportunity for greatness. It also feels good.
Each of us should be looking for others to whom we can impart knowledge and skills. It is a leader’s responsibility to shape and develop others – for their good as well as the entire organization’s benefit.
One of my favorite quotes on this matter is from the great tennis player, Arthur Ashe. He said, “From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.”
Find an advocate, embrace them and the help they provide – but without any feelings of unworthiness. Be sure to keep the megaphone up on your work and be careful not to give credit away needlessly.
Most of all, be intentional about living your dream in the remaining months of this year, and help others do the same.