Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Stick & Move. Bob & Weave.

I have counseled, mentored and advised many business professionals, young and old, through the years. I still do. Even today I can count at least ten people that look to me for career advice and guidance. I also have a few special entrepreneurs in my life with whom I collaborate and develop long-term growth strategies for their businesses.
There is a really smart guy named David that I stay connected with as he continues to climb the corporate ladder. I hired him to work on one of my account teams several years ago. Though we’ve both moved on to other professional endeavors, we have a similar outlook on life and embrace some of the same business philosophies. Plus, I love his humor. He keeps me laughing with his wit and creativity. Recently David accepted a senior level position for a leading consumer products company. He was brought in to oversee social media strategy and corporate communications for two lines of business and he felt adequately prepared to step into this high visibility role. The position offered him solid opportunity for growth, a nice a bump in salary and a chance to apply some of the training he received over the years to a couple of well known brands. Though he researched the company and felt that he had adequate discussions with people on the inside, what David didn’t properly evaluate when he decided to take the job was the tremendous contrast between the corporate culture he left and the new one that he inherited. The agency he worked for previously, while cutthroat on some levels, was mild in comparison to the new environment where his peers judged him harshly as the new kid on the block. Hence, a new threat. David found himself working around the clock, not only to successfully manage his responsibilities, but to also navigate the treacherous waters he faced in this unfamiliar corporate environment. He calls me from time to time to share his frustrations about how it feels to swim upstream in weekly team meetings where his peers show him no mercy. News flash, David: They’re not going to. Period. It’s time to stick and move.
Here’s what I shared with David:
Not all corporate cultures are equal. I think a lot of people underestimate their peers’ willingness to do whatever it takes to get ahead. In my 20+ years as a professional woman I have made some great friends at work. But for all of the friends I’ve made, I’ve encountered as many ‘sharks’ who either smile in your face while plotting to take you down or they hold you in blatant disregard and make no bones about the fact that you’re a threat to their position in the company. It’s unfortunate, especially when you decide to take a new job and like the first day of school, you’re so excited that you can’t even sleep at night. You plot your own professional strategy to make a long term impact and impress your bosses and peers, just to find out that what you thought about the culture when you interviewed and talked to people on the inside was far different than the reality you came to know once you got your feet wet. Major disappointment to say the least. This is what David is experiencing. While I feel for him, I’m telling him to lick his wounds for a minute (and only a minute), then get up swinging. Corporate environments are not for sissies. [David, I'm not calling you a sissy, I promise.:)
When you come into a new environment especially at a senior level there will be haters all around. This is inevitable. You have to let their insecurities roll off your back. I say this for women especially. Women tend to get emotional and caught up in that ‘Mean Girl’ high school syndrome where we worry about who likes us and who doesn’t. I can honestly say that I have never, ever overly concerned myself with who likes me and who doesn’t unless they had the power to fire me. Then my whole strategy changes. While we all have shortcomings, I’ve always brought my best self to any and every work environment. I believe that when you’re confident about who you are and what you bring to the table, those who feel threatened really can’t touch you. It makes more sense to stick and move, bob and weave, than to get distracted by people who don’t care about you. It’s also in your best interest to create alliances within your own business unit and others. It’s unlikely that you’ll dismantle some of the internal cliques right away. (How high school is THAT?) But if you develop solid, credible relationships with smart, like-minded people who operate above the fray, some of the angst about you being there to take over will dissipate. People will slowly start to drop positive bits of information about who you are as a person which will, overtime, make you less of a threat. And always, always, beat folks at their own game by being well prepared. Moreover, don’t let them beat you at your game. Research the ins and outs of your brands, know what you’re talking about every time you open your mouth, listen and ask questions and don’t ever stoop to the level of those you are trying to take you down. Bob and weave… not in a literal sense. No office violence please. I just mean that when people are coming at you, trying to undermine your credibility or encroach upon your territory, stay ten steps ahead of them by being knowledgeable, approachable, mature, confident and poised. And kill the arrogance. Arrogance will undermine the trust and confidence you’re trying to build. Just be smart and beat them at their own game.
- LeslieWrites
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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Truth Seekers: 3 Things You Must Convince Yourself

I started writing poetry and short stories in the sixth grade and felt an immediate connection to the written word. In fact, I fell in love with writing the moment I allowed myself to try. For reasons that I don’t entirely regret, I decided to pursue a degree in advertising instead of journalism and then made my way into PR after college perhaps because I could only find a PR job when I got out of school and I needed to make money (if you consider $19,000 a year, money). I’ve considered myself a writer trapped in a PR practitioner’s body for at least 12 years now since I finished grad school. As I’ve gotten older, I have come to the realization that I HAVE to write. Not writing for me is tantamount to not breathing. In order to stay alive, I’ve had to convince myself of three things. And if you’re really good at something and it’s your life’s passion (and no, I’m not talking about a passion for shoe shopping, stealing somebody’s spouse or committing felonious acts), it’s time to take a long, hard look at yourself and join the Be True to Yourself Club.

Here are three things you must convince yourself:
  1. People give a shit. No really… you must convince yourself that people other than your mother or your best friend will give a shit about the one thing you’re passionate about. If you don’t, you won’t try as hard to excel at whatever it is you love. Some people (mostly my psychologist friends) will try to convince us that many people do the things they love for themselves or for the intrinsic value, but I would argue that this not completely true. Yes, we all seek self fulfillment, blah, blah, blah… But what gets 99.9% of the world’s population hyped and propels them to greatness is gaining the respect and adoration of their friends, family, peers and the world. Think about it. Think about people like Jay-Z, for example. Yeah, he raps because he loves words and he’s really good at what he does. I get that. But the real reason he worked so hard to get and stay on top is because he fell in love with the attention and he loves the reaction he gets from his millions of fans worldwide. So does Sting. So does Steve Jobs. So does Oprah. You can’t convince me otherwise. Everyone wants to be loved. Everyone wants to have fans, at least on some level. So convince yourself that people give a shit. This will make you work harder to hone your craft and people will start to pay attention either because: A) they are genuinely rooting for you, B) they are haters and want to see you fall on your face because it gives them something to talk about or C) you are doing something truly unique and they want to ride your coattails as you ascend (or they just want you to succeed). Take your pick.

    Jay-Z Addicted To The Game
  2. Your life’s passion has a real purpose in this crazy world. Whether you’re penning your memoirs, creating new apps that will propel modern technology forward or developing the real cure for cancer, if you don’t believe there’s a real purpose in what you do, you won’t be motivated to take it to the next level. Think about that wild man, Mark Zuckerberg for example and his Facebook comrades. Sure there were selfish reasons for developing Facebook but if he didn’t think his social media software would make it easier for college coeds to connect (and have lots of sex) with each other, he probably never would have put his all into it. This makes him a lot of things, good and evil, but above all else this makes him a billionaire… and a winner!

    Mark Zuckerberg
  3. If you DON’T pursue your passion, you’ll die a slow, painful death. Okay, this may be a bit extreme because I can be really dramatic at times but the point is that we have a finite time here on this earth. If you allow life to get in the way and extinguish the flame, you’ll look back at a life filled with regrets. Our passions and our talents are by design. They are not accidents and you must nurture these blessings. Ignoring them because you have to make more money or work in a profession that your father wanted you to pursue is a mistake. I’m not suggesting that passion should come before common sense. I’m simply saying that in addition to paying the bills and/or pleasing your parents you have to work hard at what you love or you’re living a lie. Believe that.