“Be the change you want to see in the world.” -Mahatma Gandhi
In the spirit of complete candidness, I must admit that as I write this, I have Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done For Me Lately” lyrics rolling through my head. As you probably recall (yes, admit it), in the song, Janet Jackson lists all the things her significant other used to do that he no longer does. As we start a new year, you’re probably making similar lists to the things you want to stop doing (e.g., stop eating a pint of Häagen-Dazs in one sitting) and start doing (e.g., running a 5K every weekend). But, before your list becomes larger than your 2011 waistline, let’s shift the focus from what you need to do to who you need to be to create the change(s) you desire.
I don’t mean to sound new age or esoteric, but, simply, I’m advocating for awareness of how people experience you and how you experience others. As a warm-up exercise, consider the following: for the rest of the week, think about the people you deal with and how they make you feel when you’re with them. When you’re in their presence (or after being with them), do you feel energetic, happy, or calm, or do you feel lethargic, frazzled, or upset? How do you think they feel about being in your company? Is this image consistent with how you want to be experienced?
Obviously, the implications of your answers play a major role in your personal life, but think about it in terms of your career (your family and friends will always be more forgiving than your boss or coworkers). Even good work is often overlooked when the process to get to it is riddled with anxiety and stress. The truth is that most people’s hiring decisions are based less on a resume and qualifications and more on how they experienced you during the interview. Your interviewer is thinking: “Can I spend 40+ hours a week with this person? When the pressure is on, will they be a light and calming presence in the midst of chaos or will they raise the temperature in the room and create additional anxiety?”
Clearly, we’re all born with our personalities and no one is a delight to be around 24 hours a day, but if you’re seeking to create something special and different in 2012, then start living it and making it a part of your essence.
For example, if you want your team to be more creative, then foster an environment and temperament that allows for that. What are the characteristics of a creative leader? Some qualities may include: openness to a fresh way of thinking; a collaborative spirit with other people; a passion and persistence to advocate for an idea; etc. Therefore, be an open, collaborative, and passionate person. What you need to do will extend naturally from this place. For example, if you’re being collaborative, then you’re bringing the right people into the mix. If you’re being open, you will listen more and make time for people. Lead with what you want to create and then steps to get there will naturally come.
Have a prosperous, plentiful, and purposeful year!