The REAL Reason Why Your 'Professional Image' Is So BORING!

Recently, I had lunch with a coachee, and as I listened to her talk, something struck me that I found distressing …

She was discussing her role in a high-profile project that’s poised to make a huge and positive difference in the lives of many children. But you’d never have known that because all she talked about was numbers, outcomes, reporting parameters, and scaling results.

Not a single mention of the larger “why” behind the project—let alone a single word about any personal pride, excitement, worry, or hopes she felt while bringing this project to life.

As I listened to her talk, all I could hear was “Blah, blah, blah.” There was zero energy in the conversation.

Why? Because she was using “business talk.”

You know, Business Talk.

That style of speaking we ALL default to when we’re trying hard to look and sound oh-so successful and professional. Sanitized. Politically correct. Practical, never emotional. Just the right blend of looking smart, insightful, strategic, collaborative, and (above all else) competent.

But here’s the thing about Business Talk—it’s completely BORING!

And what I found distressing about this conversation is that this woman used tocare.

She had a dream. Before. Her work had meaning. Before.

Once upon a time, she was fascinating to talk to (and I used to walk away from conversations energized to tell others about the amazing work she does). Now … not so much.

If she’s no longer inspired by her work, how could I be? And how could anyone on her team? Let alone any potential project investors?

What happened to her? (And what does this have to do with YOU?)

As a coach, I’ve seen this happen time and time again. We pursue a profession because, in the beginning, we truly care. We’re lit up and on a mission. And we’re certain that we can affect change and contribute to our chosen industry in a unique way.

And then, little by little, we conform. We lose our professional innocence and find ourselves going through the day-to-day motions instead of changing the world.

We learn to keep our head down, “just get through the day”, and keep moving. And (instead of trying to make a difference), we refocus our energy on mastering the art of perfecting our “professional image.”

And, as we all know, hiding behind THAT is how we survive in the business world.

We’re taught from the start of our careers that a well-formed professional image is essential to our success. We shape it quickly and, like a mask, wear it proudly, and in doing so, we trap ourselves in the increasingly suffocating box of “should.”

I should say this, I should not say that. I should do this, I should not do that.
Sound familiar?

And in many ways, it does help us succeed. We become like everyone else.

But our professional image also deadens our awareness of our core power.

This core power is our passion, our sense of inspiration, our way of being unique, imperfect, vulnerable, and ultimately, human. Our core power is the difference andthe contribution we make in this lifetime.

In short — striving for a strong professional image disconnects us from what matters most.

And that’s when you get BORING!

So, I got a little passionate with my coachee, somewhat politically incorrect even, and I reminded her why she started this work in the first place. I pointed out how boring our conversation had become. And I reminded her that caring is what makes her (and each of us) INTERESTING.

I’ve seen this same thing happen with entire teams and companies. Once individuals lose sight of their goals and their sense of purpose, they wither and die a slow death. And that ripples out to affect the energy of the team, and then the entire culture of the company.

That said, I’ve ALSO seen the power of leaders and teams deeply connected to their aspirations.

And in those spaces, I’ve seen miracles happen.

Yes, certainly, miracles from a business perspective (the kind with multiple zeros added to the bottom line). But also human miracles.

The kind where you’re eager to remain part of a team—whether they’re creating tech widgets or saving lives in remote countries—because those team members never bore you with business talk. Instead, they inspire you with the stories about the real benefits their work brings to the world.

They light you up and energize you because THEY are truly inspired personally (and, therefore, also professionally).

Living and working that way takes effort and courage. Numbing out is easy. But when people risk being authentic, they move beyond the category of “business professional” and elevate to amazing leaders.

So, what’s the moral of the story?

It’s time for YOU to reconnect to what inspires you. What’s your truth? What fuels your joy? You are more than a task list and a bunch of polished business talk. Who are you? And why do you get up every morning and do what you do? Life (and work) are only boring if you let them be.

So, reconnect with the amazing leader within you. Now.

And if you can’t remember who that is anymore, I’m just an email away or stay tuned for a future blog on the topic of purpose.

Nathalie Salles helps global leaders and diverse teams elevate and harness their innate excellence in order to make dynamic progress toward their specific goals, strategies, or vertical growth vision. Visit her website to learn more.

This article originally published on LinkedIn
Photo: iStock

 

Categories: Career Happiness, Coaching, Leadership, Women at work

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