I am not a brand

I have recently discovered the joy of listening to podcasts. I have several favourites that I subscribe to including one called SHIFT  that covers quite a few of my areas of interest. SHIFT focusses on using social tools at work and how this impacts on organisational cultures.

The presenters of SHIFT are Megan Murray and Euan Semple and the podcast is essentially them chatting about a theme. A recent episode covered the topic of conflict (Episode 35) and how to manage difference and dissent at the workplace. A good subtitle for this episode would be ‘how to write the perfect passive aggressive email’ but it was also about how to be yourself and how much you can be yourself at work. There’s a point at which you need to restrain yourself from give voice to your honest opinions about projects or the actions of others as it can definitely be career limiting.

One of my favourite parts of the podcasts was where Megan Murray was talking about being real and she says…

I am not a brand, I’m just a person trying to participate in the world.

I really like this statement. I’m think putting it on a sign and hanging it over my desk. People already think I’m a bit weird, so it wouldn’t matter.

It reminded me of a situation years ago when I went to a professional development day with other educators at the local technical college. I was teaching on the welfare diploma and we did a round table introduction at the beginning of the day. As we went round the table person after person described themselves in relation to either their qualifications or their professional life, or both. When it came to be my turn I was so annoyed at them all trying to show off and outdo one another that I just said ‘my name is Margaret and I am a person’. Quite a few people laughed, but one person told me later that she never forgot me making that statement and it reminded her that being a person was enough.

It’s a bit like that lovely moment in the film Notting Hill where Julia Roberts says to Hugh Grant… “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her”. I love that bit and I think it’s okay to be just a person.

We seem to be constantly encouraged to develop our brand, to make it consistent and make sure there are no cracks in the image, but surely the cracks are just the vulnerable bits of ourselves that make us human and loveable?


Is creativity valued at your workplace?

I’d like to share a fascinating post by Keith Sawyer in which he talks about the fact that Americans value creativity more than just about any other characteristic.

83% of Americans think that creativity is important in their job and 91% think that its even more important in their personal lives.


This strikes me as interesting because people in creative roles often say that they are regarded as slightly unreliable and prone to fluffiness (for want of a better word). They even reported that they had missed out on high level management positions precisely because they were considered to be slightly less solid and responsible.

A lot depends on how you define creativity. If you think that being creative is about being flexible, looking at problems from a range of perspectives and exploring options, then clearly being creative is a a great skill to have at work and at play. Most of the books I read about creativity stress the fact that what makes the difference in most creative endeavours is discipline, so I would argue that being creative is easily as useful as having good management skills.

And finally, neither of these attributes are going to make you a success in your work or personal life unless you have warmth and compassion for your fellow human beings.