As I have grown throughout my career, I have discovered that there is a consistent pattern to employing habits that have lead to my success—not only in my professional life—but in my personal life as well. I am happy to share this list of 5 habits that have helped me to grow professionally and build lasting relationships with those I engage. It is my hope that by sharing these habits, they can help you too!
1. Be Natural
“By being natural and sincere, one often can create revolutions without having sought them.”
― Christian Dior
One of the hardest things to do in our profession is to be natural. It’s hard to not pretend to be something that we’re not when faced with so much competition. By being natural, it allows us to build sincere partnerships that benefit those we work and associate with. Taking a genuine, thoughtful and honest approach to creative challenges and problem solving allows for many positive outcomes that may go way beyond what we originally intended. Being natural also allows us to openly explore ideas that can reach beyond the scope of expectation and leading us to gratification while inspiring those around us. As mentioned in Dior’s quote, we can create revolutions serendipitously by just being natural.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
― Stephen R. Covey
God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we ought to listen twice as much as we speak. That is what my mother always told me when I never listened to her. And she makes a valid point. How can we as professional communicators offer creative solutions without knowing all the variables surrounding a defined problem? Listening more and speaking less allows us to absorb the details being presented, and also the time to think critically about what’s being said. Effective listening takes practice and determination to not be so eager to get our two-cents worth into the conversation. Listening and then digesting what’s been said before speaking can lead to clear understanding, stronger relationships, fewer mistakes and less wasted time—and it can save us from that proverbial headache in the future.
3. Be Vulnerable
“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.”
― Criss Jami
Criticism is a tough pill to swallow, but it can be an effective method in measuring results. Dealing with critique of our work is never easy. On the contrary, creative thinkers are generally convinced that their way is the only way. We feel we have put our heart and soul into the work. How can someone find fault with it? I have seen it all too often when a discussion amongst creative thinkers soon becomes contentious due to critical observation of their work. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Opening ourselves up to the whole picture, and not just seeing it from the creative side but from an outside perspective as well, strengthens our understanding of the feedback we receive. Rather it is positive, or negative feedback, making ourselves vulnerable can lead to empathy and clarity, which leads us to implementing the right solution and benefiting all those involved in the process. Through this experience we become stronger and better equipped to handle future conflicts with thoughtful and inspiring results. So Nietzsche is right! That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.
4. Be Courageous
“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
― Muhammad Ali
The status quo should never be our benchmark! Implementing methods that go against mundane paradigms will often led to successful results and often open the door to collaborative exchanges. Generally we are asked to create things that are safe and likely predictable. Don’t be afraid to explore outside of your comfort zone and present ideas that break away from cliché boundaries. And be prepared to go to battle in the likely event that these concepts are quickly discounted without much thought. Be courageous in your presentation and have plenty of research to back up your pitch. If done with genuine confidence, progressive ideas and new perspectives will come out of this conflict and will lead to a better solution for all involved. Once you have accomplished your mission, take a deep breath, get yourself a comfort drink, and quietly celebrate your victory.
5. Be Direct
“Nothing travels faster than light, with the possible exception of bad news, which follows its own rules”
― Douglas Adams
Being the bearer of bad news is disheartening and necessary. In the end, the truth never hurts. We must take pride in being direct and upfront with all parties involved in the effort, even if something has gone wrong. To reduce the sting of being direct, thoughtfully explain what went wrong and how you responded to them. Don’t offer false hope. Offer a solution that will address the problem and get the project moving forward. In the end, offer your gratitude. A genuine word of thanks creates a context of goodwill and may help to keep the relationship intact.
The most important message to take way from these habits is that of relationship building. We must value them as a part of our creative equity and strive to keep the dialog open with clients, colleagues and partners long after projects have gone out the door. A philosophy evolving around positive and open relationships with a goal to build and sustain effective communication will always lead toward continuous and successful results.