If 30 years of working have resulted in any wisdom, clarity or vision worthy of passing on, all could be summed up this way: First, “Know the business and constantly seek ways to add value.” Second, and equally important, “Be comfortable in your own skin.”
The first piece of advice might seem a bit cliché, but, done well, it demands continual learning and analytical discipline. We must train ourselves to analyze issues and opportunities from the perspectives of multiple stakeholders, both internal and external to the enterprise. In doing so, we learn more about the subject, and we unveil opportunities to bring our skills and talents to bear in achieving desired business results. The organization wins, and our professional reputations are enhanced.
Second, and perhaps more challenging, is to be comfortable in your own skin. That one little phrase embodies a wealth of personal growth, encompassing core values, spiritual grounding, and cultural or ethnic anchors. After all, our degree of satisfaction in the work we do and, ultimately, our success at doing it are in direct proportion to the degree to which the work allows us to touch our real passions and affirm our sense of self. Functioning successfully as our authentic selves within the confines of corporate culture is possible. It starts with really knowing, liking and valuing ourselves before we are tempted to take the deep dive to think and act like everyone else. Being our authentic selves does not mean we never change. But as we grow and stretch our thoughts and abilities, we hold to the essence of what makes us who we are.
Clearly, every organization has its requirements for conformity; and, yes, we do stay out of trouble when we blend in. Unfortunately, we also stay out of mind when the business is looking for innovators; we stay out of touch with our own energy and aspirations; we stay out of tune with opportunities.
The good news is that the more we become comfortable in our own skin, the more we are able to leverage our unique qualities. We become to others “real people” in our whole, imperfect, authentic selves, amazingly capable of perseverance and resilience—two essential attributes for success in any arena.