The entire company was invited to a corporate town hall where two senior leaders would be discussing their thoughts and the company’s position on the rash of police shootings of unarmed black citizens. Wow! I was surprised, but incredibly encouraged that a corporation as big as this would take the brave step to hold a town hall and listen to people’s thoughts and feelings (most corporations simply avoid hard societal issues). As I sat in the auditorium, it became clear that a company-wide communication was being discussed, but individual brand responses had not yet been considered. After an hour or so they opened up for questions. My heart was heavy. I wanted to stand up and say that the brand I managed (which markets to African Americans) had a responsibility to do more in the community. Should I take the risk? Should I share my true voice? How will others view me? With thousands watching I slowly but confidently raised my hand, stood up, and spoke my truth.
In life, there are moments where individuals can make a lasting impact by simply being true to themselves. Opportunities for your unique voice exist all around if you are brave enough to express it. Unfortunately, far too often fear holds us back from consistently being ourselves.
By definition, working for a corporation means your core motive is to drive shareholder value. All of your actions and behaviors then need to align with this North Star. As a new hire or an outsider looking in, this can translate to, “I need to change who I am in order to be what they need” or to a current employee this can feel like, “I need to be a different person to advance my career”. The truth of the matter is, for the company’s sake and your own sanity you need to just be you.
Now there are 2 caveats to being yourself you need to understand before we proceed:
- You need to know who you are in the first place
- What do you stand for? What are your gifts? What are you passionate about? See my previous article for thoughts here.
- You must have graduated yourself into a state of knowing you belong
- You may be the only woman, person of color, veteran, LGBT, Christian, disabled etc., but know they hired you because you can do the job.
With that understood, here are 3 actions you can take today that will push you closer to being yourself at work:
- Speak up, with facts to match
- If you are using your truth to change corporate strategy, be prepared to share your truth supplemented with data that demonstrates how it can drive shareholder value.
- Share your experiences
- Often reservation comes from a place that people won’t understand or approve. However, I find most people can empathize if you take the time to start a dialogue.
- Don’t play make-believe
- Pretending you agree with a strategy, are BFF’s with your manager, or even love golf just to climb the corporate ladder, eventually comes out and makes you look like a fraud.
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