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Every morning when I walk into my office, the first thing I see is a painting done by my father. Growing up it was hung outside my bedroom door and in my father’s memory it has moved with me from home, to home, to home. It is always in a prominent location to remind me of my relationship with him.
Tucked into the frame is a picture of Dad and I when I was in elementary school. I think it was grade eight based on my height, clothing and hairstyle. This photo makes me laugh, because my outfit is such a mismatch. It brings back memories of the desperate need to fit in and my unsuccessful attempt to look like everyone else. But instead, most of my wardrobe was a compilation of the Cutrara’s hand-me-downs. (In retrospect I’m thankful my hand-me-downs came from my cousins, not my 3 older brothers).
Back then, when we were kids everyone wanted what the other’s had. Back then, being alike was what made you part of the ‘in’ crowd. I think those days were easier, because you just needed to follow what was already working. Now days its much more complicated.
As I walk the streets of Toronto, or travel the world, I’ve noticed being alike, or looking like someone else no longer has a place in our society. People are acknowledged, rewarded, and celebrated not because they are the same, but because they are different.
This creates an increasingly more challenging situation as Boomers and Gen-X’ers manage the millennial generation. This newer generation has grown up with a completely different value set and although they are often criticized for their perceived inability to conform, perhaps we can learn a thing or two from their quest to be unique.
The reality is, as an employee, leader or company you need to be different to ‘fit in’ and get noticed.
The hardest thing to do is to be someone else. Understanding and learning to tap into your authentic self is the best, and only way to capitalize on your unique qualities, the special things that make you different.
So who is your authentic self? Have you given yourself permission to FULLY be YOU? The answer to this question varies and is often influenced by a variety of factors based on gender, culture, situation and experiences.
There is some good news about getting older. We often care less about what others’ think. Finally, a reason to celebrate wrinkles! Time and experience inadvertently gives us permission to be our authentic selves.
As a leader in any situation, you are mandated not only to give the best of yourself, but also to bring out the best in others. As a leader, do you encourage conformity or promote individuality amongst your team? The reality is without some conformity chaos can exist, and without some individuality mediocrity will persist.
How do you as a leader foster both? The answer is a key factor to attracting and retaining staff.
To find your Edgeness™ as a leader (an enhanced version of yourself – and/or company – discovered at the edge of your comfort zone), perhaps you need to look at your most valued resources differently – your employees.
- You viewed each person in your organization as a resource for innovative ideas, rather than filling a specific defined role?
- You created the opportunity for different departments to brainstorm innovative solutions to problems or opportunities across your organization? (Yes, that means putting the sales and marketing teams in the same room. You may want to lock the door behind you.)
- You create a forum where all employees are encouraged to share ideas in the spirit of improvement on any area of business. Reinstall that ‘suggestion box.’(NOTE: You will have to implement some of those ideas to demonstrate authenticity.) You could even celebrate quarterly or yearly the most innovative idea(s) to implement.The more acknowledgement the better for Millennias!
- Your new hires shadow various roles outside their immediate area of responsibility as part of your new employee orientation strategy. Or every year or two spend a day or two in another department with a pier, superior, or underling. This would assist with increased appreciation of the complexity of another’s job… and relate how each role is co-dependant on the other.
- You provide opportunities to change jobs within an organization to reduce Millennia’s need to move on?
- You didn’t judge someone or the situation until you completely understood their motivations or the complete circumstances?
Could leadership Edgeness™ be achieved?
Now, as a leader, if I wore that plaid skirt and bright blue blouse I would definitely stand out – but perhaps I will stick with my red brand instead.
Ignite Your Edgeness™
(An enhance version of you realized when pushing your edge.)
As leaders we too often want to be like others, and we settle for status quo. To be a good leader however, we need to continue to challenge ourselves to lead to where the company, market and employees are going. Take an idea in each of those areas and execute just one step ahead, so the people that follow are beyond you, not lost trying to find you.
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Suzanne F Stevens CSP*, Cultivates conscious contributions™ and influential communications. Suzanne is an International Speaker, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Host, Co-producer and Chief Edge Optimizer for Ignite Excellence Inc. Group. She is a recipient of The International Women Alliance World of Difference Award in 2013 – in education. This acknowledgement recognizes people who make a difference in women’s economic empowerment international. To find out more visit: www.suzannefstevens.com.
Suzanne is one of 60 Certified Speaking Professionals (CSP) in Canada and is included in the 10%of individuals who have this designation internationally.