The Art of Being Professionally Unconventional
These days leaving a lasting impression is more difficult than it was ten to fifteen years ago. People’s attention spans are distracted with the rising complexity of life. What can we do to respond to this growing epidemic and thrive in our business?
Answer: Be “professionally unconventional” in all aspects. I call this P.U. for short. That means stinking up the joint, leaving our mark.
Here are five strategies to being PU:
PU #1: Make conversations the core imperative of what you sell
If you’re focused on what you’re selling, you may be falling into a dangerous trap that impedes your personal freedom, and limiting the level of value you create in the eyes of your buyers. Your buyer doesn’t value what you do for the problems you solve for him, rather, he values your ability to make him think about and reflect on the challenges that he has before him.
One of my favorite coaching stories in the war chest was a remark I heard after asking my client Jim how he’d rate the quality of the session. He replied, “John this is the first time I’ve actually thought in three years.” “Thought?” I asked. He was sincere. This was the first time he had a chance to think about his current reality and his desired future. He said he’d gotten too busy being busy to do something that could make him a lot less busy. Work had become so incessantly frenetic for him that any pause became hostile territory. This led him to a sense of chronic powerlessness, worthlessness, confusion, and disappointment.
Getting Jim to consider his three year future, really see deeper into the roots of his challenges, recognize opportunities to harvest, and position his strengths toward his aims were the fundamental game-changers to the imprisonment of thinking he had no time to lead change. At this point it became clear to me that entrepreneurs who leave their mark have conversations that change lives, not products. And that business is a networked series of conversations strung together that position businesses for extraordinary value creation.
When we make conversations our top priority in what we sell, we get smart on better questions to ask. Not presentations, I said “conversations!” These conversations return a sense of power and hope in our clients. We empower them to get on top of solutions through settings we create for them to think clearly. And when we get closer to our market on the inside like this—their future, challenges, opportunities, and strengths, we have a rich landscape of ingredients, to create powerful recipes through our business solutions. We give clients what they really need in the 21st century world of complexity—power, confidence, creativity, and direction. And this makes us very difficult to commoditize.
PU #2: Conduct Random Acts of Appreciation that are Sincere
It’s been said that “what we appreciate, appreciates!” When we show others gratitude, we maintain their support and involvement as a key supply line to sustain our success. Often times, brimming new opportunities turns our attention away from who got us here in the first place. The natural order of such neglect moves toward shortages, not abundance.
Think of how many people’s unique and distinguished abilities were contributed to your life to bring you to where you are now. I’ll bet you could say five thank you’s a day from your heart to heroes in your life. They put their time, effort, money, and trust into you for a great value to them. They have helped you lead and help others, and pay forward the dedication and devotion to your place in life today.
So don’t forget what got you here. Don’t cut the supply lines of support and fanship that hold you up. Don’t hold onto something because you’re afraid others will take it away. Share it, and make space for new and more to come. Being grateful involves giving away what you have. It’s a principle of abundance and confidence.
67% of all relationships, personal and professional leave you because of lack of recognition. People have two needs you undeniably have to fill in your home and work relationships to keep them participating in your life. They need to feel heard, and feel important. Don’t be interesting, get interested. Really take a closer look at what you’re doing to meet these two needs. You want to be priority to them, meet these needs first. And if you want to have your needs met, start by meeting others’. You want to be listened to, start listening. You want to feel important, be considerate of people’s time, qualities, and gifts.
PU# 3: Focus on what you believe, not what you sell
Imagine going into any insurance agency to buy the lowest premium “the minimum insurance limits.” Suddenly the salesperson asks you permission to make sure he’s clear on your expectations. He begins his story by imagining it’s…
…“7am and you just picked up a cup of hot coffee from Starbucks and get on the 405 fwy at 70 mph. Suddenly your coffee spills all over your lap and it’s burning your leg. You look down to address the situation and seconds later KABOOM, you just slammed into the center divider, suddenly 4 Dodge 300’s slam into you. Do you want to pay for the parts of those cars or their drivers’ hospital bills as well?”
The salesperson gave me the sincerest look in his eyes and said, “I’ll only insure you if it’s right, otherwise we can’t work together.” I respected his convictions. I believed in what he was believing, so I bought the “right” coverage. His belief and his story to illustrate it made me emotional. I didn’t buy insurance that day, I bought the preventive cost of those people’s hospital bills, and did the right thing.
People don’t buy what you sell, they buy the way you sell. And the way you sell is underscored by what you believe. They buy what you believe, because this way they do it for their reasons, not yours.
PU #4: Listen from Heart and Soul, not the Head
The greatest gift you can give someone is a listening presence, not a listening person. A listening presence is a stance in a conversation where you’ve suspended all your judgment. You’re poised as unconditionally constructive. Try to assume that the person is doing their very best despite the fact that what you’re getting may not be.
Listening presently means to detach from the past. It means to let go of the control over any outcome in the future. Being present with someone brings our highest capacity of being out because we’re not worrying over what they think of us, and what we think of ourselves. What’s left is just presence, as if every fear, cynicism, and judgment were stripped away, and what’s left is you as the source from which your attention arises. You must have the courage to step in this way. Be bold enough to face yourself; no impressions or projections.
But this takes some practice to lower the chatterbox of your head and attend fully with others. Create a space daily of 15 minute intentional silence to strengthen your levels of awareness. When you’re standing in the presence of the open heart, and the open will, you’re attending from the other person’s world, not your own. The downloading of all the rules, dogma, and thoughts no longer drive your responses. You enter with alacrity, full embodiment, and openness, as if the words were flowing through you like a deep channel. When you connect with this place, your inner knowing emerges, and you listen peripherally from a larger context.
You begin operating from the standpoint of being in the world, and the world being in you. Like the sculptor Erik Lemke would say, “my hands are suddenly taken over by a natural order and would know what to adjust, as if I was pulled by something more than my own doings.”
When you attend to another human with such willingness and simply listening from them, you become a powerful sounding board to track with what they say. They can see themselves through you in profound way. You may find that as you open yourself and become vulnerable without all the answers, you find a strong sense of connection to the person you’re with. They sense the tenderness in you, the kindness, and generosity that helps them seek a relationship with you. By letting your guard down, and being reachable, so are they.
This means being respectful of other people’s time, and keeping your agreements. Be polite and say thank you, and finish what they count on you for. When you do this, it compliments them so highly. In fact they’ll open any doors for you, because they can depend on you and you’ve gone beyond what a normal person would do.
And never underestimate the power and reach of a small act of kindness. That smile you gave to someone crossing the road could be the resurrection to a hidden suicidal person whose just given himself a second chance at life because he looked into you and woke up. If each person is a carrier of a sacred project, honor people for the vast treasure-chest of something so pregnant in them; they’re bringing something to the world that no one else can. You’re like a mid-wife in this aspect to others’ personal gifts. When you see this in them, you’ll outgrown all your shame and come to see your own gifts too, shining outward in the fullness of your potential.
PU #5: Throw out best practices, do it your way
Best practices are at best, a myth. Many entrepreneurs in our coaching program the VIP Coach are seeking answers and looking for the “best methods.” They argue they want short cuts, “don’t reinvent the wheel.” But what they don’t realize is the practices they seek are from the past. These served someone else’s goals, not theirs. This is why so often best practices fail by falling short. What people really want is deep involvement, and having a sense of what matters helps engage you in this profound way with the life that’s here.
We seek answers because we don’t trust our own. Rather than enjoy the journey, and experiment, we get locked into a series of shortcuts, seeking to lower failure. Figuring it out is true innovation. It involves rethinking things, throwing out the past, re-circuiting around existing constraints, acting instantly and working through the learning process of causing some thing desired to exist.
Geniuses are not copycats. They come by their work in an authentic way. They develop their own tempo and unique style as a function of how they create. Every creation whether it be a relationship, art, or any subject matter they seek is its own universe, from which they take specific actions, and they live within it after it’s created.