My Lobster Moment
So. If you know me a little (or even at all), you know how much I loathe the word "authenticity."
I'm also a really big fan of bringing your whole self to work.
When I worked at good ol' Whirlpool Corporation, my tattoos saw the light of day most days (even on days I met with the VP of Marketing). I sat two desks down from the Director of Mass Brands, so even if I wasn't in a big fancy meeting, the bigwigs knew that this girl was a little bit of a rebel. My boss (once removed) even knew me so well that he lamented over not being able to buy me a bottle of whiskey for Christmas (because I was under 21 while working at Whirlpool and he'd bought everyone else their favorite liquor). Once I did turn 21, during our monthly cocktail hours, I'd show up and sometimes there'd even be a glass of whiskey - sometimes w/ rocks, sometimes neat - waiting at my seat. Even when I moved on from Whirlpool, my coworkers have never wondered who I really am.
As I've transitioned to the entrepreneurial world full time, y'all have gotten to know me for who I am. My relationship of two years ended last summer and I was honest and real on Instagram about how the breakup impacted my business. I've even written an ode to my favorite liquor brand online. Suffice it to say, I'm not really good at keeping my passions secret.
Beyond that, though, we all have layers. There's more to bringing your whole self to work than just being real. If we're being honest, "authenticity" is bullshit - it's the notion of "this is me" that really works.
This is my lobster moment. (Big Magic, anyone?)
This past weekend, I launched my new about page. It's sassy, biting, a little on the boozy size, but 100% me. I also refreshed my homepage with new copy that's 100% more me. I did this knowing that who I "really am" can be a bit polarizing - not everyone wants their strategy served up with a side of sass. (More on this later.)
More than anything, this new about page is a microcosm of a larger set of experiences in our industry. We're tired of hearing the word "authenticity" but not seeing it reflected in the content we're receiving. There's definitely a line between sharing too much and sharing just enough and I'm 100% an advocate of staying on the right side of that line, but bringing your full self to work each day is so important.
So how did I come to the decision to be "100% me" in my business and how do you know if it's right for you? Here are some of the questions I considered (all of which I answered a resounding "yes" to).
- Is the person I am in business similar to the person I am in real life? For example, in my case, I often use real life stories to make business points and/or find myself the only person drinking whiskey straight up at creative conferences.
- Would my clients be confused if my "real life" person slipped into my business interactions? I'm a potty mouth. What would happen if a client heard me say the F word? Were they prepared for that to happen, knowing it was who I was, or would it be a huge shock?
- Is not talking about my personal life somehow limiting my brand development? In my case, the moment I rebranded from LE Consulting to my own name, it felt natural to start sharing more about my personal life. Especially as a nomad, people want to know what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.
Notice that I didn't consider whether or not my personal life was interesting or whether or not it was sexy enough to make it a part of my brand. My main focus was on client experience - does it make sense for my clients to see "the real me" as we're working together.
my corporate clients were less shocked than my entrepreneur clients
Wait, what? Yep, you read that right. My corporate clients were attracted to me because I gave them that rock and roll vibe. They liked my work and found my corporate-meets-rocker personality attractive, because their stodginess and my rough around the edges-ness would blend to create a campaign that's just edgy enough to get approved by corporate while still kicking ass. They appreciated the fact that I wasn't afraid to show up to a meeting with my tattoos showing (while still bringing the top-notch professionalism they'd grown to love). In fact, they even told me that they'd have trusted me less if they'd found out about my tattoos later, because that would have meant I was subconsciously hiding things from them. Not a good start to a client relationship.
But it all makes sense. When I was in undergrad, my Bachelor's Thesis (yep, I went to a college where graduating with honors meant writing a thesis) was on "The Implications of Body Modifications on the Hiring Process." Many of the things I found out by launching this new about page (like the honesty factor) were things I'd similarly found out while writing that thesis - people love the raw and original version of you, as long as that raw and original version isn't a hot mess.
In other words, I still have a messy life. I have days where I cry, moments where I fight with my family, times when I hate my body or my hair or my freckles or 47,000 other things. What's important is that I don't just vomit my mess online - I share the message I found in the mess. Bringing my whole self to work doesn't mean airing my dirty laundry online - it means telling y'all things after they happen and I've had time to process the experience. That is how you bring your whole self to work, friends.