Differentiation is the answer to the common business strategy question - How can we as a company, stand out in a crowded marketplace? There is a classic list that companies draw from – bigger, better, faster, decor’, innovation, location, value, etc. Interestingly enough, this question can also be applied to individuals, not just businesses. Heading into a New Year always offers an opportunity for pause and reflection. Perhaps, the following will allow you to further your personal points of difference.
Start deeper than the mirror -
When you reflect upon the entirety of your budding (or mature) career (as we all are supposed to do on birthdays and at the start of a New Year) temporarily remove monetary expectations from your review process. By making compensation part of the background, it may be possible to bring to the front those things that bring you the most fulfillment, joy, and promise.
In a faced-paced world, we often forget the importance of contemplation. Contemplation and reflection are symbiotic. The act of mulling alone can add logic to a particular decision or thought process, and provide great clarity. As an act of self assessment, begin thinking about what you value beyond work, and where you would most likely be able to make this type of contribution. Is there a job title for this? Where does the best chance exist to make this job a reality, or which company offers the best opportunity to start in that direction?
Recruiting professionals are charged with matching skills and experience. However, we find it to be of equal importance to determine the match between the individual’s values and those of the company. When that happens, individual performance becomes aligned and connected, and both parties benefit more deeply from the cohesion.
Make ready –
If has not yet become apparent, those who prepare for action in advance tend to fare better than those who do not. Life is full of fire drills, some real, some metaphorical. The possibility that you will be caught in a fire is small, but if you’ve ever witnessed how an out-of-control fire behaves, or how humans behave in such a fire, you’ll be grateful that you knew what to do. Exercise, proper diet, positive mental health, engagement and enjoyment are just as important to individuals as scenario planning and strategy execution are to businesses. If you seek a raise, a promotion or a new job, make yourself ready by practicing what you will need at the next level, including preparing someone to take your place.
From our earliest days, humans have shared stories around the fire. It is an accepted and powerful means for creating a connection. As you narrow down what matters to you, it becomes easier to separate those things from the daily slush. Most everyone can prattle on about what they don’t like, but can you speak clearly about how you have made a difference or how you are better today than yesterday? Every person has unique talents. What are your unique selling points (USP)? Discovering your skill set or talents and weaving your experiences into your story and being able to hold someone’s attention though the telling - is a differentiator.
Make a list of attributes, or characteristics that you believe are your strengths. Think about your career, and recall situations where you leveraged those strengths to make an impact. Clarify the impact by aligning it with competencies like the ability to solve problems, build teams, effectively communicate, and drive results. Now, craft your story. In fact, craft five or six stories.
By preparing personalized stories with professional significance, you will be able to take pride in past accomplishments while emphasizing your ability to take on new challenges. You will become more confident and you will make a greater impression. Not everyone can do this. If you can, you will set yourself apart.
Pluck isn’t just for feathers -
People can have pluck. (Go on, look up the noun not the verb.) Sure, it’s an old fashion word for irresistible qualities. Difficult times require leaders with nerve, courage and resolve. In other words, pluck. Imagine listening to a couple of folks talking and one says “I hope we find our way…” and the other states “We’re going to make our own way - come hackers or high-water!” Which one is expressing leadership qualities? I’m not saying that every one filled with confidence knows all the right things to do, but it is pretty clear that when times are tough people gravitate towards anyone who can help them out of the mess. You can be that person, if you show some pluck.
One or two degrees –
We’ve heard the phrase that everyone is praying to someone when they're in a foxhole and the bombing starts. People are getting “shelled” by life everywhere around you, and you have the power to provide some cover. Next time you’re down in the dumps, swing by a children’s hospital, foster-care housing, homeless shelter, even a funeral. You don’t have to get out of the car, just watch who goes in and out. I think you will realize that there are only one or two degrees of separation between you and them. Many lives are changed by moments, some horribly bad and some unbelievably good. What would it take for you to trade your TV/lounge/ veg’n/ kickin’-back/chillin’-time in order to make a great moment for someone else? (Remember, not a day, week or month, but a moment…) The people who create this goodwill are involved in a personal brand extension – one that reaches into the unseen – perhaps far enough to reach back when it’s your turn in the foxhole.
The present –
Most people spend gobs of time dwelling in the past or dreaming of ideals. The foundation of your future starts with the work you’re doing now, as well as your ability to take corrective action when appropriate. Make the most of your “now” time and refresh your thinking. Clear your mental and physical work space. Purge unnecessary clutter/rust. Celebrate and rejuvenate. Then, establish your game plan for next year, including introducing yourself to 3 new people each week, jumping in the digital river and joining networking groups, or commenting on blogs can all help to refine your focus. Don’t try to have all the answers. Ask questions and listen to the responses. You may find a new perspective.
Some people view the holiday season as a time of year to receive gifts. Others take great joy in the act of giving. One of the best gifts for anyone is the chance to maximize/reprioritize your time, recalibrate, appreciate and cherish every moment... and you can give that to yourself.
This is a collaborative posting. About the authors:
Chase LeBlanc is the founder and CEO of Leadagers LLC, http://leadagers.com/ a business consultancy serving the hospitality industry. He is the author of the book, HIGH IMPACT HOSPITALITY: Upgrade Your Purpose, Performance and Profits!
David Rose is the Vice President of Recruiting with YELLOW DOG Recruiting, http://yellowdogrecruiting.com, a national recruitment company specializing in the placement of leaders in the restaurant, on-site foodservice and hospitality industries.