Take a view from the edge and see the power of difference!

We’ve had a great couple of days at the HRD summit in Birmingham this week.
The conference kicked off with a key note from Rita McGrath, an international expert on ‘strategy, innovation, and growth with an emphasis on corporate entrepreneurship’’.  She talked about her new book ‘Seeing around Corners’, and used some great case studies to highlight that the ‘old style’ business model of information getting to the top ‘CEO, Board’ and those people then making business decisions top down are long gone.  Nowadays, new technology and trends appear from anywhere or anyone, can start very small and grow very quickly. To ‘see round corners’ a CEO can’t possibly have all the information and knowledge. People are the innovators and leaders need to provide the cultural environment for their people to create, innovate and take risks with openness, support and collaboration in place, and remove any fear of failure. Leaders then need to look to the periphery, and get ‘insight from the edges’ where stuff will be happening to keep in touch and inform the company’s future strategy.
Her talk really aligns with #BeYourselfAtWork: be yourself, be different, to really add richness and value to a business. For us all to be open and appreciate the difference that we all can bring.
The opposite of that is conformity, fitting the mould, doing what you have always done, stagnating, and missing out.

We exhibited at the HRD Summit and it was disappointing to see how bland and boring some of the stands were, especially as these companies were there to showcase what they did!  Our stand was the exception of course (!), but we saw the same format everywhere: branded posters, employees manning the stand in grey suits & fixed smiles, bowls of sweets to tempt punters: looking like everyone else, all the same, and meaning that everyone successfully conformed.

To create a bit of interest and excitement on our stand we were showcasing our Affirmation Flash Cards (contact us if you would like to buy a pack!) – and the man and fish card shown above really resonated with us whilst there.

Our research shows that the first question on our Courageous Counter, ‘I am different to others and I like my uniqueness’ can frequently score below 50%, and especially in ‘corporate cultures’.
Research into sales situations and interviews point to ‘difference’ being a key tactic for success.  And yet we know that the vast majority of us spend most of our time trying to fit in, not stand out and be just like everyone else.  It takes courage to stand out, and yet if we stand out in our authenticity and strengths, wow, people stand up and listen.

Elisa Steele, chief executive of tech firm Jive Software, talking to the BBC recently says that “companies that don’t try to encourage staff to express themselves at work, and instead try to force them to fit into some kind of corporate clone – doing what they’re told to do without questioning – will lose out.’’

So, what makes you different?
How can you consciously maximise and amplify your difference to positively impact on your success and the success of others?
Here are some tips to help you.

  • Who is the inner you that you show to your friends and family, what is this person like?  Are you this person at work – especially when things get tricky?
  • What two things make you different?
  • What would it look like to others if you amplified these? Be conscious of dampening the natural you and conforming in meetings. Do you change when you enter the building at work?  What would you be like if you didn’t?
  • Show people that you like them!  The minute that you engage, listen, smile, show others that you see the spirit and potential and real person in them – you build their confidence, remove self-doubt and open the encouragement door for them to be themselves.
  • Build belief in others.  See the best in them when they can’t see it in themselves.
  • If you were being your most courageous at work, what three things would you do?
  • Which one will you go and do now?