Tuesday 19 November 2019

Taking a risk could help you find harmony in your career

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon. Write to Gina care of SundayBusiness@independent.ie Stock image
Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon. Write to Gina care of SundayBusiness@independent.ie Stock image

Gina London

In the hot, stuffy auditorium, we were struggling not to shift in our seats. That's because we were nearing the two-hour mark last Wednesday at my daughter's primary school's annual parental endurance ritual known as 'The Music Recital'. Chirpy child after chirpy child warbled a song or plunked on the piano. Each was a darling in their own way, I assure you. And we parents did maintain enthusiastic applause before and after each one.

But by the time the music instructor announced the last little singer, I am sure I wasn't alone in breathing an internal sigh of relief as we watched Nicolas take the stage.

This exercise in fortitude reminded me of a question I was recently asked by a friend. She wondered whether, after a year of writing this column, it was becoming "difficult to find something new to write about?"

Great question. Haven't I already provided a passel of information about why it's important to get training to develop your communications skills to better connect and motivate others - as well as yourself?

Haven't I offered tons of tips for how to improve your voice, your content, your business writing, your corporate social responsibility approach, your team-building, or your story-telling? Of course, I have.

But unless we're all perfect now, constantly remembering to actively listen and to craft and deliver communications that encourage and strengthen one another, I know there's still room for reminders.

Just because we read something - or in my case even write about it - it doesn't mean we practice it fully and consistently.

The day before the recital, I had coffee with a CEO of an Irish-based, global company. He is interested in having me expand and strengthen the inclusivity culture of his team.

He cautioned: "I don't want to only provide lip-service for this as I've heard other companies sometimes do."

He clearly understands that real change takes real effort.

Back in the sweltering assembly hall, the mother sitting next to me leaned over and whispered: "It's roasting in here."

I nodded as I tried to tip a last trickle of water from the plastic bottle in my hand down my parched throat. Thank goodness it was almost over.

I didn't have much expectation for our final performer. Nicolas is in my daughter's class. I know the little boy fairly well. He's a rambunctious fellow. More interest in soccer than singing was what I imagined.

He climbed up the stairs to the stage. His white school uniform shirt was untucked. His red tie was askew. He turned to face the audience and leaned into the microphone.

"I'll be your candle on the wateeeeer," he began. Suddenly, the room didn't feel so oppressive. People leaned forward on their seats.

Simon Cowell would have been impressed. Little soccer-loving Nicolas was good. He was very good.

In that moment, I was once again reminded how essential it is not to pre-judge someone. Not a colleague, not a co-worker, not a child.

Blame the heat or the duration of the programme, but I had let my communicator guard down.

1 Renew your commitment: Becoming a purposeful communicator is an on-going and constantly renewed commitment. Like the inclusion transformation my CEO wants to undertake for his company, it takes real work.

As I've (already, of course) written, it isn't instinctive to actively consider other people first. But it is a critical component of effective communicators.

This takes deliberate energy. Like sticking with a diet, you may feel frustrated at times - especially if you do not see immediate results or you slip up after a few weeks.

2 Envision the long-game: When, as my CEO was concerned, a company gives only lip-service to a programme or culture, it's because they are not completely devoted to investing in an on-going effort that permeates from the top through to every new hire.

To truly be successful, any positive organisational change takes long-term buy-in and dedication from the leadership and nearly everyone on staff over a sustained period of time to properly institutionalise it.

For your own goal, if you believe in your purpose, and have a good coach, you will make strides.

Don't compare yourself to others who might take short-cuts. Understand that breaking old habits and forming new ones takes time.

3 Start today: If you haven't yet made a commitment to becoming a purposeful communicator and leader (and if you haven't, then you can't very well take on my number one suggestion to "renew", can you?), I urge you to do it now.

If you're not where you want to be in your career, you can stay where you are or you can take bold steps to change it. Go for it. There's no real success without a little risk.

(By the way, my brand-new video series on Independent.ie powered by Jobbio helps you land a job you love. Check it out.)

As Nicolas beautifully and poignantly sang from the movie, Pete's Dragon: "I know you're lost and drifting, but the clouds are lifting. Don't give up, you have somewhere to turn."

We can be each other's candle on the water.

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