Month: November 2009

Nurturing the Creative You

When we think of creativity we think of Artists with a capital A. Truth be told, I am guilty of this myself. I am enamoured with artists, which is most likely a sign of the frustrated artist within me.

But creativity is not the realm of the zealous few. I have worked with hundreds of people over the years, mostly in corporate America, and I have come to believe most people harbor an artist within. It’s a truly exciting idea–that as a species we are inherently creative. When I talk with people, it usually takes only a question or two to scratch beneath the surface and find the artist lurking there. (Most people don’t ask, but I do.) And I discover to my great joy that they are writing a screenplay or a novel, or they paint or enjoy photography, or sing or play an instrument or compose or make jewelry or lamps, or they build beautiful furniture. The list is endless because the possibilities are endless. For me this is part of the excitement. I’m a person who absolutely loves possibilities. And I get excited when I see others open to new possibilities.

I believe nurturing the artist within can help us with our careers even if we are not making a living at our art. Exercising our creativity in one area strengthens the muscle and helps us be more creative, more open, more flexible in other areas. And to succeed in any profession today we must be flexible.

Entreprenuers are a unique brand of artist. Even if they do nothing in a so-called creative field, they are literally creating– building businesses. And thank goodness! They create a means of earning a living for so many others. They bring goods and services to market that are necessary for, or enrich our lives. Even outside of entrepreneurism, today we must all create our careers and keep reinventing ourselves to stay relevant in the marketplace. Gone are the days of lifetime employment with a single employer.

So do your art, whatever it may be and do not apologize for it. You are strengthening the muscles you will need to sustain you today and into the future.

Strategic Self-Presentation

In the last post, I discussed ways to develop a more strategic view in business. Now, what if you already think strategically but you still have an image that says you don’t?

One of my colleagues had this issue in a previous role. When told by a trusted leader, “You need to be more strategic,” she was flabbergasted. When she started telling this person all the work she was doing that was truly strategic and affecting the direction of her division, the realization hit that nobody outside of a few people in her division knew about it. She had to start thinking strategically about who knew what she was doing.

I mentor through a fantastic leadership development program called WOMEN Unlimited. There’s a saying they use: it’s not what you know, it’s who knows you know. This is so true. Too many people hide their light under a bushel. Women in particular do this a lot, though in my career I’ve known plenty of men who do it too.

Let’s say you are thinking strategically, or adding strategic value to the business. Who knows it? Do your leaders one or two levels up know? Do people in other divisions know?

Some of you are starting to cringe and think “office politics–ewww.” I don’t call it office politics. It’s not empty glad- handing. It’s taking the time to think about and having the confidence to do something about sharing information with those who want to know and who may likely benefit by it. Your leadership team benefits by knowing what fantastic work you do. It may be something they want to implement elsewhere. It may be something that can help them highlight the value of your team (and that’s pretty important in today’s world of job cuts and what-have-you-done-for-me-lately?)

Is one of those people who will benefit by it You? Yessiree, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay. Each of us must take responsibility for the part we play in creating our own professional brand. That means thinking strategically about how and to whom we are presenting ourselves.

What are you doing strategically to create yours?