I was compelled to review the stops on my professional career, today, and really think about each workplace environment. What inspired this stroll down amnesia lane, you ask? The second part of a blog post by Keith Ferrazzi. You see, Ferrazzi, the best-selling author of Never Eat Alone, is a firm believer in blending both your personal and professional lives to maximize the potential networking pot-of-gold. He writes:
In Never Eat Alone, I argued against people trying to balance their home and work lives. Instead, I advised blending– integrating the two worlds so that you’re not constantly faced with choosing one over the other. Ideally, I want you to have close, personal, and authentic relationships with people in the work place – so why create a false divide? The title of the chapter clearly stated my feelings: “Balance Is B.S.”
Of course, plenty of people disagree. They think that it’s blending that’s B.S. – your personal and professional lives should rarely mix, if ever.
One week later, after asking his blog followers to offer their opinions on the issue, he was more interested in the negative responses to the idea of blending than he was in the supportive comments. Those negative responses fell into four categories:
- Hostile/Competitive Workplace
- Getting Stuck in the Mommy-trap
- Fish-out-of-water syndrome
- Blending is for the self-employed
As I considered Ferrazzi’s philosophy and the negative-response categories, I began this stroll through my mind’s eye, reminiscing about each of the workplaces I encountered up-to and including my present employer. Early stops in my career fell into the first category. And then something clicked…every negative work experience was entirely related to leadership.
Now this is important – most of it was bad leadership. The leaders in some of these organizations were cut-throat individuals who enjoyed the drama of surrounding themselves with sycophantic suck-ups. There were, however, some leaders who did not have a clear vision themselves – this was more a lack of leadership. And then there were those leaders whose values, I found after working with them for a while, did not match my own. Ultimately, these traits would permeate the office environment, poisoning the team. The general office attitude, after all, often does reflect leadership.
The two greatest steps I ever took for my career was to begin treating myself as a brand, as my own company; and to develop a network of trustworthy individuals. It did not matter if I were a 1099-employee or a W-2 employee. By clearly identifying which values were important to me, and what I wanted out of an office environment, the easier it became for me to manage the “blending” process that Ferrazzi espouses.
A good leader will surround themselves with good people, and good people seek out good leaders. Blending at that point becomes moot.
What do you think? What’s worked well for you?
[Sticky photo by Tony the Misfit – available through the Creative Commons License on Flickr]