Many people are feeling disconnected and disheartened at work.
You may be one of them.
You’re tired and looking for more.
You’re questioning if you should stay or if you should go.
You’re wondering how you could bring back that spark, connection, and enthusiasm you once had to your work.
I’d like to offer you an empowering idea to solve this challenge so that you can bring your best, add value to your team and clients, and walk away at the end of each day feeling fulfilled, knowing you made a difference.
A little over ten years ago I found myself in this same place, again. This feeling of disengagement and discouragement wasn’t a one-time event. It was a feeling experienced frequently throughout my two-decade career in financial services. At times the contributors were things like a bad boss, intense sales target pressure, a mismatch of personal values with the company, or executing on an incongruent sales strategy. Sometimes I’d push through it, knowing change was inevitable as long as I was patient. Other times I’d bail and move on to another role, department, or team, hoping the grass was greener on the other side. But, the most rewarding moments were when I stayed and figured out how to just be with it. Let me explain.
Over my long tenured career at the bank, there was never a shortage of hearing things like, “no we have not done that before,” or “no we can’t do that here,” or “no that won’t work.” Most times I’d shrug it off and lob out another idea at the next team meeting. But there was this specific moment during a leadership meeting when we were discussing how to increase sales and market share for a campaign we were running. My team had implemented a strategy that was working, and we were seeing positive results. I raised my hand to share this idea. As soon as I voiced it, the manager running the meeting immediately dismissed it. A few moments later I chimed in again, telling the room of twenty leaders about this idea. Once again the manager, with growing impatience in his voice, shut it down. I could have left it, but I had something I knew that could help this group that was struggling with their sales. It wasn’t in me to drop it. So once again, I expressed this idea. This time the manager turned his body towards me, put one hand on his hip, while the other reached out pointing his finger, as if he was speaking to a toddler, and sternly said, “that is enough, I said no.” I sunk back into my seat with my face flushed and body engulfed with the heat of being mortified in front of my colleagues. I sat there quietly for the rest of the meeting, bewildered, and dejected.
I’ve had my fair share of these kinds of experiences, not feeling seen, heard, or understood. You can relate, right? Over time, I started to attribute meaning to these events. If the ideas were bad, if they were wrong and invaluable, then maybe there was something wrong with me. I started to make up a story that perhaps this work, team, and industry weren’t for me. Alternatively, I’d work hard to contort myself into who I thought I needed to be for them to accept and value what I brought to the table. Neither route was working. It wasn’t until I decided to stop running and hiding that things began to shift.
A fundamental leadership rule is ‘know thyself’. Understanding who you are, what your strengths and weaknesses are, how you communicate and connect with others, how you solve problems and process your thinking, are crucial in today’s work world. According to a Harvard Business Review publication written by organizational psychologist and NYT best selling author Tasha Eurich PhD, 95% of people believe they are self-aware, but only 10-15% of people actually are. You don’t know what you don’t know, is a place where many get stuck.
I desperately wanted to solve this conundrum, so I dove deep into the world of personal development, reading ferociously, taking courses and several personality assessments. A specific assessment hit a nerve. It told me I was a ‘Trendsetter’, a forward thinker with big ideas that challenge the status quo. In that moment it was as if the sky opened up and the sun shone through, I could finally see.
All these years, it wasn’t that something was wrong with my ideas or broken with me. Picture a ‘trendsetter’ working in a bank, right? Square peg, round hole. We manage people’s money. They need to trust us, they need to feel safe and secure, have peace of mind that their money will be there to meet their needs. As an institution, of course we would prefer to safeguard it with reliable and familiar methods. It all made sense why ‘no’ was a default response.
Now you’d think with this newfound insight, I’d leap out of banking and find another industry or fintech that would appreciate my ‘trendsetter’ qualities. Even though the bank leaned into the tried and true, I knew they needed the new and innovative. What I also discovered was that I had room for improvement. People didn’t see the world the way I did, and when I was presenting my ideas, often I would lose my audience. My brain goes from A to Z very quickly and as a result, I miss steps, leave out details, and forget to connect the dots. Sometimes I don’t even know how to connect the dots, because I don’t know how I got to the solution.
Instead of taking my empowered ideas and insights elsewhere, I stayed put to figure out how to convey them in a way that people would hear them, understand them, and say yes to them. A short time later, I found myself in front of two executives pitching an initiative to help them improve talent retention, increase engagement, and advance their high potential employees into leadership roles. Within twelve minutes of the meeting start, they were asking how to implement the initiative — not only to the employee segment I was proposing as a pilot, but to all of their 350 employees across their region. They got what they wanted – a way forward to engage and empower their employees, while I got to experience the impact and value of bringing what today I call my Brilliant Difference.
Your Brilliant Difference is the special gift you bring to make this world a better place. Your work and your career are one of the best places to exercise and deliver on your Brilliant Difference. Your Brilliant Difference is unique to you; it’s a compilation of your strengths, experiences, and expertise. It’s also not about you; it’s about the people who will be impacted. Your Brilliant Difference is about the ways in which you, uniquely, will solve big problems and help clients get more of what they want.
Discovering and naming your Brilliant Difference falls on you to figure out. It’s not up to your employer, manager, or colleagues. If your work is about more than having a job and collecting a pay cheque, then you will want to use your strengths, bring value, and have more meaning in your life. Your Brilliant Difference is your way forward and I encourage you to invest the time, energy, and effort to get clear on it.
I want you to stop running and hiding. Instead, figure out how this situation can help you become more of who you want to be and the impact you want to be having.
There you have it: discover your Brilliant Difference to find more happiness and fulfillment. I believe what makes you unique will make you successful.
Now it’s over to you. Reflect on your current situation: how is this happening for you and not to you? In what ways could you use this to learn more about your Brilliant Difference?
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