Remember back in junior high or high school when you desperately wanted to be a cheerleader but you had zero flexibility, or you admired the lead in the school play but you didn’t have the voice to belt out show tunes? I used to care too much about fitting in and spent a lot of my energy back then wishing to have qualities I just was never, ever going to have. I was the studious, driven, and emotionally-attuned teen that got along with a variety of social cliques. But all I wanted was the agility to do that back flip and, let’s be honest, wear the cheerleader outfit that all the cute boys paid attention to. Many years later,
I realized thinking that way simply wasted time. I had several unique characteristics of my own that would ultimately make me good at other, arguably more important, things.
As I started growing and scaling my company, I began hiring dozens of people who had awesome qualities to offer our clients. One of my professional mentors, Rich Melman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, encouraged me to identify some “common denominators” that I should look for to make us more successful as a team. In the last issue, I talked about leading with kindness, showing passion for what you do, and always having “hustle” to get the job done. Now, I want to focus on the three other characteristics that I believe will help you get farther in life and especially at work—Creativity, Smarts, and Authenticity.
Find Your Creativity: I always have been an ideas girl—unabashedly energetic and coming up with the next promotional concept or campaign by finding inspiration in my daily life. Whether I’m watching TV, driving to work, reading a novel, ideas simply pop into my mind all day long. In fact, I carry a notebook everywhere I go to capture them. That creativity has been channeled to help me be a better PR professional and strategize solutions for brands and charities I support. Most everyone has God-given creativity. It could be a special way you approach things, a talent like design or writing, or it might be an aptitude to take something you see on Pinterest and whip it up on your own. Whatever that little creative spark is, identify it, channel it, and try to find ways to tap into it. I have found that creativity is like a muscle—the more you use it, the better you get at it.
Show Your Smarts: I also appreciate people who use their “smarts” to navigate the ups and downs of life. Now, this doesn’t mean you need a Harvard education to gain respect in the workplace—although kudos to anyone who has a brilliant mind and is traditionally book smart. I seek out and specifically appreciate those people who are street smart—individuals who use their past experiences to guide their choices. I respect those folks who know how to make a good, solid decision on the spot; someone who just has great instincts. Let’s face it, there will be roadblocks or issues in nearly every work week, but it’s how you react to them that shows your character and your “smarts.” I value members of my team who don’t come to me with an issue, but instead come with a solution or, even better, tell me the problem was already solved and they’ve moved on to the next assignment. So, look inward and identify how you make your decisions, how you respond to challenges, and how you leverage past experiences to be smarter in the future.
The Honest Truth:
The final value I seek out in the individuals who work at Henson Consulting are authentic souls—individuals who are emotionally open, honest, and truthful. There is obvious ease in these types of people because they live with transparency and are true to who they are. They don’t promise they can get something done if they don’t think they can; they say what they mean, and mean what they say. Whatever side of the political fence you sit on this election year, I think America is really embracing candidates who just say how it is and don’t tiptoe around topics or speak in half-truths. PR practitioners are often called “spin doctors” or people who spin what is said about clients, but I have always subscribed to just telling the truth and leveling directly with others—whether it is good news or bad. You can always place your head on your pillow and sleep soundly at night when you are open, honest, and truthful. I have never regretted making this a tenet in my adult life, and I encourage my employees—and my children, for that matter—to live this way.
There is only one you, so embrace your creativity and smarts and always live with truth. Most of all, be grateful for what makes you unique and own it. fw
Kathleen Henson is a wife, mother of five, and the founder and CEO of Henson Consulting, an award-winning national PR firm based in Chicago that employs 39 women and one very brave man. Her company just was named among 75 companies on Entrepreneur Magazine’s list of top company cultures nationwide.