Thursday, February 19, 2009

How to Fully Integrate Your Humanity into Your Profession

Nobel Prize winner Dr. Albert Schweitzer famously suggested the following:

“Search and see if there is not some place where you may invest your humanity.”

Now, although that quotation is over forty-five years old, it couldn’t be more relevant today.

In a business world that’s getting faster, less personal and more anonymous, we owe it to ourselves, to our customers and to our employees to STOP BEING ROBOTS.

With the exception of Johnny Five, robots are chumps.

People buy people first. Period.

SO, THE QUESTION IS: How are you fully integrating your humanity into your profession?

Whether you’re a salesperson, entrepreneur, leader or service provider, let’s explore five practices for becoming less robotic and more authentic YOU...

1. Communicate less perfectly. This isn’t Toastmasters. If you use vocal fillers like “uh” and “like” and “you know,” nobody is going to crucify you. Just let it go. Stop telling yourself that eloquence comes from flawlessness. It doesn’t.

Eloquence comes communicating your Truth in a way that’s relatable, digestible and influential. Even President Obama says “uh” in every single interview he does.

THE TEST: Before sending every (major) email or memo, read it aloud twice. Then be honest. Ask yourself if it sounds like you. Ask yourself if it sounds like a human wrote it, or if it sounds a template from Microsoft Word wrote it.

THE RESULT: Customers will be less likely to delete your messages.

THE QUESTION: When does the feeling of formality keep you from communicating freely and honestly?

2. Lead with vulnerability. The willingness to admit that you’re scared, exposed and even in some cases, helpless, instantly humanizes you. Contrary to popular conditioning, vulnerability is attractive. Vulnerability is approachable. Vulnerability is strength.

And when you have the courage and candor to integrate that openness into your daily conversations, two things happen:

(1) you grant people permission to disclose their own vulnerabilities
(2) they will respond to, and have more respect for you.

THE TEST: If business is a little slow right now (which, unless you’re a foreclosure company, it probably is), own that slowness. Demonstrate your commitment to honesty, not your commitment to appearing successful. And the next time someone casually asks, “So, how’s business!” respond with:

“Actually, business is a little slow right now. But you know – I welcome that challenge. And the good news is, I’ve been putting in overtime on elevating my visibility. And I’m confident that, with a lot of hard work, I’m going to overcome this slump.”

THE RESULT: People will respect and, more importantly, REMEMBER, your integrity.

THE QUESTION: Are you someone others can be vulnerable in front of?

3. Pepper in ordinariness. It’s true that nobody notices normal. It’s true that uniqueness is what attracts people’s attention. It’s also true that unless you regularly exert your ordinariness, people wall have a hard time spotting your humanity.

There’s a balance. It’s between being admirable; yet relatable. Not being utterly boring; yet not being terminally unique.

THE TEST: Remove everything from your purse, bag or wallet. Spread it out on a table in an orderly fashion. Then take a picture of it and post it on the “About Me” page of your website. Check out this killer photo stream. I've always thought it is a remarkable, yet regular expression of people's humanity. Totally cool.

THE RESULT: Your customers will get to know the REAL you. (NOTE: If you’re one of those people that always carries an ice pick in your bag, consider skipping this strategy.)

THE QUESTION: How well do you merge ordinariness with remarkability?

4. Publicly celebrate mistakes. Doing so makes other people – especially your employees – more likely to open up to you with their ideas, thoughts and concerns. Why? Because you’ve PROVEN to them that you support failure.

It's only when you’re willing to surrender to your own humanity that people trust you more. And the cool part is, the more you practice this, the less judgmental YOU become in the future when THEY screw up.

THE TEST: At your next sales or managers meeting, go around the room and require each person to (1) share a mistake they recently made, (2) offer three lessons they learned FROM that mistake, and (3) suggest the practical application of those lessons to the other people in the room. Then, later that week, create a hard copy of all the mistakes and lessons shared during the meeting. Staple a $20 bill to it and send it to everyone who attended. And what you do is, attach a sticky note that says, “Thanks for being human!”

THE RESULT: You’ll make company history. (And nobody will ever miss another meeting again!)

THE QUESTION: When was the last time you rewarded someone for making a mistake?

5. Scrap your title. Nobody cares. Nobody even remembers it. Titles are worthless. Their sole function is to give people a reason to pigeonhole, avoid or judge you.

Instead, practice leading with your person and following with your profession. That means values before vocation. Individuality before industry. Personality before position. Humanity before statistics.

THE TEST: Whenever possible, wear hand-written nametags. They’re easier to read, more human and more fun. They’re also less threatening than those fancy, corporate badges. And by virtue of your unique handwriting and design, they allow you to exert your distinctiveness. Ultimately, handwritten nametags level the playing field by eliminating title hierarchy. As The World's Foremost Expert on Nametags, I wrote a neat little treatise on the topic here.

THE RESULT: You will prevent that let’s-see-how-many-extra-ribbons-I-can-add-on-to-my-badge-pissing-contest between competing members and employees.

THE QUESTION: What unnecessary title is preventing people from getting to know the REAL you?

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REMEMBER: People buy people first – especially the people that act like REAL people.

Not robots. Not monuments of flawlessness.

People.

So, that's your assignment. To be more human. To be more YOU.

In a rapidly changing business world where approachability is so rare that it’s become remarkable, I guarantee that if you start doing this – if you start BEING this – people will notice. And people will remember.

Search and see if there is not some place where you may invest your humanity.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How are you fully integrating your humanity into your profession?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS...
For a list called, "11 Ways to Out Google the Competition," send an email to me, and I'll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

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