“I pray to be like the ocean, with soft currents, maybe waves at times. More and more, I want the consistency rather than the highs and the lows.” – Drew Barrymore
Two weeks ago I wrote about “winning” and equated the concept less with the sports or business arena and more with becoming a better version of ourselves. I both highlighted and reinterpreted a powerful model from Derek Sivers with four steps that build upon each other. Last week I penned an essay about the first of these, managing and directing our thoughts proactively. This week the topic is adding value and contributing to others. I’m going to zone in how we can do this the workplace.
We know most of the skills to possess in order to add value and achieve the ranking of a top-grade employee.
Hard work. Focus. Goal orientation. Highly productive. Bias toward action. Top quality output. Results oriented. Creative. Ability to work well with other people. Analytical. Problem solving. Persistent. Strong communicator. Ceaselessly energetic.
But the quality I’ve heard one, and seemingly only one management thinker and advisor to executives emphasize is CONSISTENCY. The person is Patty Azzarello. And in Chapter 11 of Patty’s book, “Rise,” she talks about personal branding. In short, we have a personal brand with qualities that people evaluate us on, whether we realize it or not. Just as we grow to love product or service brands that deliver unfailingly high and consistent levels of quality – think about The Four Seasons Hotel operation – we are heavily dependent on our work colleagues for showing up consistently.
How do we do this? We can be more intentional about the qualities we want to put out in the workplace every freakin’ exuberant or monotonous day. Oh, your kid projectile barfed on you as you were heading out the door in your fancy new $200 pair of raw denim jeans? Your car broke down on the highway? That BART seat you almost sat on was covered in asparagus-scented urine? Your first meeting is one you are dreading? Soldier through, tough people! It’s Nietzsche time.
In fact, Patty concludes you are better off performing consistently good or consistently bad, rather than inconsistently hitting one out of the park. This is because we humans don’t deal with uncertainty very well, and this extends to the colleagues we come to depend upon. “Being inconsistently good just pisses people off. It creates a high expectation and then a big letdown.” Actually, when talking about brands, the operative term is ‘trust.’ We may not like a bad product or service, but we really don’t trust one that is inconsistently good.
Note that when I talk about personal branding, I’m not suggesting one parades around the workplace touting or even mentioning one’s personal brand in narcissistic fashion. Instead, walk the talk far more than you talk it. As Patty writes, “Brand is about what you stand for and how you behave, not what you say.”
Getting personal as I inevitably seem to at this point when I am writing, one of the queues I received in the workplace that indicated I needed to work on my consistency (and still do – ahem!) was the semi-humorous but actually dead-on query I’d sometimes receive first thing in the morning, “So, which Steve Diamond IS IT that we are we going to get today – the lighthearted, funny and irreverent Steve or the intense and brooding ‘leave me the F alone because I’m trying to get stuff done’ Steve?”
Another factor to consider when working on showing up more consistently in order to add value to others is to put your manager’s and colleagues’ needs before yours, behaviorally speaking. For example this means that in meetings we have the 0pportunity to check the tone and signal of the room and the discussion – and then blend in.
Yes, we can make our points. Yes, we can have differing perspectives. And of course we have our own agenda of what we need and want to accomplish during our days, meaning that we want to be self-starting and self-directing. But have you ever noticed those people who seemingly can’t help being (air quote) “themselves,” regardless of what the hell is transpiring around them? They get multiple negative queues. They receive critical feedback from managers. And yet they do not get out of their own way because they insist on simply radiating out without tuning in. “Hey, it’s just the way I am.” But we know better than this. We know our thoughts and beliefs pretty much direct everything in our lives. And we can proactively guide them.
It is possible and arguably vital for us human brands to be both consistent and fluid. We must aspire to be dependable and trustworthy while responding if not behaving proactively to changing circumstances. The best business brands do this by soliciting feedback continuously. They anticipate and in some cases guide trends. We humans can do this too.
Why this pontification? Because when I think about the people who still put a smile on my face – those who I worked with and still remember by name at five different public companies, a PR firm, and the multiple clients I worked with while at that firm – they all had one quality in common.
I could count on them. Always. In so many different ways. And I cannot think of any higher value one can provide for others in the workplace than that.