What Does Your Content Say About Your Company Culture

It’s more important than ever before to build a positive and inspiring company culture. The culture of your organization affects the talent you attract, how engaged your employees are at work, and also the customers who choose your brand over others.

Your company culture is a reflection of your core brand values and mission. And those values can be an important factor in the decision-making process when someone chooses to spend their money or do business with you.

According to a 2020 survey of consumer behavior, over 70% said it was important that companies they bought from aligned with their values.There are many factors that go into your company culture. It’s important to mold the working environment and the sort of business you do around the type of culture you want to cultivate.

But have you considered how the content you are publishing affects how your company culture is perceived?

Quick Takeaways

  • Expressing your true company culture is critical for attracting the right talent and the right customers.
  • The content you publish can be a valuable way to demonstrate your brand culture.
  • Get your brand values and mission statement set in stone to create a solid base for all your content marketing efforts.

Why Your Content Is a Reflection of Your Culture

Have a think about the brands you regularly consume content from and how the content has a unique personality that affects how you would describe the brand.

For example, take a look at this tweet from smoothie company Innocent Drinks:

Even if you’d never heard of the company before, you’d probably start forming an impression of their company culture just from seeing this small piece of content.

Some things that spring to mind include:

  • Young and fun
  • Friendly
  • Caring about the environment

A quick look at the Innocent Drinks page shows that this first impression aligns pretty closely with the brand’s stated values.

How about another example?

Social media automation tool Buffer actually dedicates a whole section of its blog to the importance of “open” culture.

You can see that Buffer values transparency, sustainability, and work-life balance from their blog articles on subjects including calculating the carbon footprint of remote work, moving to a four-day workweek, and why their transparent email policy stopped working.

Buffer is a brand that really understands the importance of content marketing and makes the effort to ensure that all content reflects its core values:

  • Default to transparency
  • Cultivate positivity
  • Show gratitude
  • Practice reflection
  • Improve consistently
  • Act beyond yourself

Does Your Content Promote Your Company Culture?

Take a look through some of your existing content online with fresh eyes. Does it really reflect your brand and values? If your content was all someone had to go on, would they have an accurate picture of what it might be like to work for your company?

Some brands naturally do a great job of creating values-focused content. The ones that do succeed not only because they have a talented team of marketers and content creators working for them, but also because they have a clear idea of the company culture they want to cultivate and promote.

So if you don’t yet have a clear handle on how to describe your company culture, or you’re waiting for it to develop organically, you must focus on building a positive culture first.

Your people are one of the cornerstones of your company culture so make sure they’re involved. Getting together to officially nail down your brand values or mission statement can be a great starting point for an official company culture to flourish.

But when it comes to brand culture, actions matter more than words. There’s no point in claiming you have an open and honest culture and care about the environment if this isn’t true.

Developing your true company culture will take some time, but it can be helped along by working with people who share your values.

Hiring the right people is essential, of course. But marketing to the right audience is equally as important. If you can create content that attracts an audience that shares your brand values, you’ll be well on the way to success.

Creating Content Around Your Culture

Once you’ve put the hard work into building a great brand culture, you can use your content to show off what a great company you are.

If you’ve come up with a list of official brand values, this can be a great way to get started with your content plan, as you can make sure any new content you create falls into one of these “buckets”.

Make sure to take advantage of content to tell the story of your brand. When working through your content strategy, it’s natural to want to make sure that each piece of content is fulfilling a specific purpose and aligning with the customer journey.

But not all content has to or should funnel a potential customer toward a sale. Your content should also work to build your brand slowly but consistently with each piece you produce.

Great authors don’t have to work to market their books. People eagerly anticipate them and buy them automatically because they know they like their style and subjects.

If you approach your marketing content in the same way romance novelists tackle their books, you’re sure to be well on the road to building a dedicated audience that is interested in what you have to say.

Activating your employees to create their own content is another fail-safe way of creating authentic, engaging content.

Nobody knows your company and its culture better than your employees. Utilizing their knowledge, expertise, and passion is often the most effective way to tell the world about your company culture.

At the very least, make sure your employees are involved in your content process, whether that’s by brainstorming ideas for content topics or sharing your content on their own social media accounts.

Ready to Tell the Story of Your Brand Culture?

If you are ready to get more traffic to your site with quality content published consistently, check out our Content Builder Service.

Set up a quick consultation, and I’ll send you a free PDF version of my books. Get started today–and generate more traffic and leads for your business.

By Michael Brenner

Marketing Insider Group

The Marketing Insider Group provides content marketing workshops and content development services. Scale your content and start showing Content Marketing ROI today. Free Consultation

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What kind of corporate culture is your organization emblematic of? Let us know in the comments, and hit that like button, too. Subscribe to Eye on Tech for more videos covering the latest in business technology, including security, networking, AI, DevOps, enterprise strategy, storage, devices and more: https://www.youtube.com/EyeOnTech Stay up to date on the latest HR software news: https://searchHRsoftware.techtarget.com/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/@TTBusinessTech Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TechTargetBu… #CorporateCulture #EmployeeRetention #EyeonTech

Five Ways to Help Teens Build a Sense of Self Worth Mindful

No one wants to hang out with me. I’m a failure at school. All my other friends seem happy. What’s wrong with me?

These kinds of negative thoughts are becoming more common in our homes and schools. Teens are experiencing increased anxiety, and studies indicate that college students in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States are becoming more perfectionistic over time, measuring themselves against unrealistic standards.

Why is this happening? We can’t say for sure—but we do know there are steps teens can take to improve their mental health.

2018 study of early adolescents suggests that self-concept (your perception of self) plays a central role in emotional well-being. According to the study, a supportive classroom environment and positive social relationships also affect teen well-being—but the impact is indirect. Positive self-concept seems to be the key variable in the well-being equation. If a student feels good about herself, then she may be more likely to connect with others and benefit from the supports provided at school.

So, how can we influence how students think about themselves? This may feel like a very tall order; yet there is a lot of research out there that provides some clues for supporting the teens in your life. Here are five ways to help tweens and teens move toward a more positive self-concept.

1. Get physical

Although you may have heard this before, kids really can benefit from regular exercise (especially when their tendency is to sit in front of a screen). A recent review of 38 international studies indicates that physical activity alone can improve self-esteem and self-concept in children and adolescents.

Apparently, the exercise setting also matters. Students who participated in supervised activities in schools or gymnasiums reported more significant growth in self-esteem than those who exercised at home and in other settings.

Adolescents’ self-concept is most strongly linked to their sense of physical attractiveness and body image, an area where many people struggle. So, encourage more regular exercise programs during and after school, and support team sports, strength training, running, yoga, and swimming—not just for their effects on the body but on the mind, as well. Getting out and engaging in some form of exercise can make us feel stronger, healthier, and more empowered.

2. Focus on self-compassion (not self-esteem)

Because self-esteem is a global evaluation of your overall worth, it has its dangers. What am I achieving? Am I good enough? How do I compare with my peers?

What would happen if we could stop judging ourselves? Researcher Kristen Neff claims that self-compassion—treating yourself with kindness, openness, and acceptance—is a healthy alternative to the incessant striving and performance orientation often tied up with self-esteem.

In her study of adolescents and young adults, she found that participants with higher self-compassion demonstrated greater well-being. Why? They were okay with their flaws, acknowledged that they struggled just like those around them (“Everybody makes mistakes; you are not alone”), and treated themselves with the same kindness they would extend to a friend (“It’s okay; you did your best”).

Participants with higher self-compassion demonstrated greater well-being. Why? They were okay with their flaws, acknowledged that they struggled just like those around them (“Everybody makes mistakes; you are not alone”), and treated themselves with the same kindness they would extend to a friend

If you are interested in specific techniques and strategies for enhancing self-compassion in teens, take a look at the work of psychologist Karen Bluth. She recently developed a program called Making Friends with Yourself. Youth participating in this eight-week program reported greater resilience, less depression, and less stress at the end of it. However, if there isn’t a program near you, consider sharing this self-compassion workbook with the teens in your life.

3. Avoid social comparison

When we focus on self-esteem, we tend to get caught up in comparing ourselves to others. Teens, in particular, often sense an “imaginary audience” (i.e., “Everyone is looking at me!”) and can become highly sensitized to who they are relative to everyone around them.

Instagram and other social media platforms don’t necessarily help. Some research suggests an association between social media and depression, anxiety, loneliness, and FoMO (fear of missing out) among teens. Their posts may not rack up the number of “likes” that their friends’ posts do, or they may feel excluded when they see pictures of classmates happily spending time together without them.

A new app for teen girls called Maverick may be a healthier option than Snapchat or Instagram. On this social media platform, teens can connect with role models (called “Catalysts”) and explore their creativity (such as designing their own superhero or choosing a personal mantra). Of course, there is always the option of taking a break from social media, as well.

Related stat. Page:

https://dealsoncannabis.net/blog/social-media-and-mental-health-statistics/

Regardless of what teens choose to do online, many of our schools are also structured for social comparison. Grading, labeling, and tracking practices (grouping students based on their academic performance) don’t necessarily honor the stops, starts, and inevitable mistakes that are a natural part of the learning process.

Here are some school-based alternatives designed to reduce social comparison:

  • Don’t make grades public.
  • Provide opportunities to revise and redo assignments.
  • Avoid ability grouping as much as possible.
  • Focus on individual growth and improvement.
  • Acknowledge students’ small successes.

4. Capitalize on specific skills

If you keep your eye out for teens’ talents and interests, you can support them in cultivating their strengths. Your son may think he is a terrible athlete, but he lights up when he works on school science projects. Then there’s that quiet, disheveled ninth-grade girl who sits in the back of your class. She may feel socially awkward, but she wows you with her poetry.

Researcher Susan Harter has studied adolescent self-esteem and self-concept for years. She claims that self-concept is domain-specific. Our overall self-esteem or sense of worth tends to be rooted in eight distinct areas: athletic competence, scholastic competence, behavioral conduct, social acceptance, close friendship, romantic appeal, job satisfaction, and physical attractiveness.

Talk to the teens in your life. What are their personal values and priorities? Share surveys with them like the VIA (which identifies character strengths like bravery, honesty, and leadership) or have them take a multiple intelligences quiz. Celebrate their talents and tailor activities and instruction around their abilities as much as possible.

It may not be easy to shift teens’ global sense of self-worth, but we can certainly highlight and encourage areas of interest and particular skill sets so that they feel more confident, capable, and inspired.

5. Help others (especially strangers)

Finally, when teens reach out to others, they are more likely to feel better about themselves. A 2017 study of 681 U.S. adolescents (ages 11-14) examined their kind and helpful behavior over a four-year period. Researchers found that adolescents who were kind and helpful in general had higher self-esteem, but those who directed their generosity toward strangers (not friends and family) tended to grow in self-esteem.

Last Friday, I joined my daughter and her peers during the “action” phase of their “Change the World” project. Their social studies teacher, Tim Owens, tasked the eighth graders with choosing a sustainability issue, researching the problem and possible solutions, planning action, and implementing the action.

These middle schoolers spent a full day canvasing their neighborhoods to advocate for policies that protected people they don’t know, like local refugees and homeless youth—as well as animals used for product testing. I’ve never seen my daughter and her friends more energized, confident, and engaged with their community.

As adults, we can actively support service learning projects in our schools and our teens’ interests in advocacy and civil engagement. Adolescents around the world can also work remotely with non-profit organizations like DoSomething, “a digital platform promoting offline action” in 131 countries. On this site, young people can choose a cause, the amount of time they want to commit to it, and the type of help they would like to provide (e.g., face-to-face, improving a space, making something, sharing something, etc.)

When teens regularly contribute to a larger cause, they learn to think beyond themselves, which may ultimately help them to be more positive, empowered, and purposeful.

As many teens struggle with anxiety and perfectionism, our urge may be to jump in and fix their problems, whatever we perceive them to be. But a better approach, one that will hopefully help reverse these worrying trends, is to cheer them on as they develop the mental habits and strengths that will support them throughout their lives.

This article originally appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, one of Mindful’s partners. View the original article.

Teens Are Better Off When Parents Practice Self-Compassion (Study)

School’s Out for the Summer. Why Aren’t Teens More Chill?

Source: Five Ways to Help Teens Build a Sense of Self-Worth – Mindful

Your Enterprise Network Is Haunted — Here’s How To Banish The Darkspace

The first step to solving this problem is to understand what we mean by “darkspace” and why every organization with a digital presence should be thinking about these issues. We’ll start there, and then look at a new category of product emerging to help IT and SecOps shed light into the darkspace so they can fight the monsters hiding there.

What Is Darkspace in the Enterprise?

  1. Encryption: For IT Ops and SecOps teams, the adoption of TLS 1.3with default perfect forward secrecy can feel like putting on a blindfold when you’re walking through this house of horrors trying to save your customers from the torture of undiagnosable network latency and stealthy attackers.
  2. Lack of East-West visibility: Many teams just don’t have visibility into the real-time communications on their network. Relying solely on logs is like taking a still photo of each room of the haunted house to see if anyone’s lurking. Real-time east-west visibility is like having live video cameras in every room and corridor.
  3. Cloud and Hybrid environments: Take that haunted house and make it interdimensional. The cloud introduces new attack vectors and visibility challenges that make it exponentially harder to detect and respond to threats.

How Can Organizations Illuminate These Areas?

A new category of security products is emerging to help our IT Ops and SecOps heroes get the visibility they need to detect and respond to threats hiding in the darkspace. It’s called Network Traffic Analysis (NTA) and several major analyst firms, including Gartner, 451 Research, and EMA have written with anticipation about this important new category. The fundamental premise of NTA is that by observing and analyzing network traffic in real time, and applying analysis and machine learning, security and IT teams can gain faster, more reliable insights that are unavailable from log analytics and other existing security platforms.

As with the emergence of any new technology or market category, Network Traffic Analysis is having its capabilities refined and its boundaries defined through an organic process involving vendors, analysts, and of course users. The general consensus is that NTA products must go beyond what is available from flow-based products that only see L2-L4 traffic—but outside that, there’s still a lot of progress to be made in defining the slot that NTA will occupy in accelerating, mature security operations practices.

Five Questions to Help You Vet Security Vendors

If the network itself is a spooky haunted house, the NTA market is a house of mirrors. Vendors are hopping on the bandwagon and starting to use the term before the boundaries have been cemented, leading to a confusing mish mash of messaging in the market. Here are five questions meant to help you determine whether a self-proclaimed NTA vendor is the real deal, or if they’re chasing after a shiny object without doing the work.

Question #1: Does It Scale?

Today’s enterprise networks are bigger and more dynamic than ever, with hybrid on-premises and cloud environments, branch offices, and enormous volumes of data. Enterprise scale is necessary for successful network traffic analysis. NTA vendors should be able to conduct analysis at 100 Gbps without impacting the performance of the network. Any less and they risk leaving blind spots behind to be exploited by attackers.

Question #2: Does It Decrypt?

The increasing adoption of TLS 1.3 with perfect forward secrecy is great for security and customer privacy, but it also creates huge blind spots for security and IT ops teams. Some so-called NTA vendors will claim that they can extract enough signal from encrypted traffic to detect advanced threats. Even if so, they have no capability to conduct forensic investigation to enable a confident response. True NTA products must be able to decrypt TLS 1.3 with PFS in order to provide the level of visibility that SecOps teams need for success in detecting and investigating threats and getting the forensic detail needed to act with confidence.

Question #3: Can It Automate Investigations?

Many security platforms spew tickets at an alarming rate, each of which must be manually prioritized and investigated by a human, causing burnout and overwhelm. Automating the right parts of this process so human analysts can focus on what matters is a vital step for infosec as a whole. NTA products need to be able to automate the detection and initial investigation steps so that by the time a human analyst gets involved, they have the data they need to act with confidence. Platforms that spew false positives cost more than they’re worth in the end. Real NTA goes a long way toward solving this challenge.

Question #4: Is the AI/ML Real or Artificial?

There’s a lot of “ML-washing” going on in the industry. Companies calculate a statistic and slap the “machine learning” sticker on their product because it sounds exciting. This creates false confidence and reduces clarity about what products can confidently do. Real, predictive machine learning can rapidly provide insights that amplify a SecOps team’s ability to act with confidence. Many companies are hesitant to divulge intellectual property around their ML. This is reasonable, but if they can’t provide a strong layman’s terms explanation of how the ML provides value then they’re out of the running for credible NTA vendors.

Question #5: Does It Solve Real Problems?

The ultimate acid test for any product is whether it solves real problems. Is the vendor focused on solving actual challenges for you, or forcing you into their own workflows and ecosystem. If the NTA vendor can’t draw a clear, bright line from their product to an improvement in performance and value-add for your team, they should be out of the running.

Wrapping Up

The sophistication of cyber attackers exploiting dark space in the network will continue to grow and accelerate, increasing the need for true Network Traffic Analysis in the enterprise. That means the coverage and jockeying for position in this emerging market space will continue to heat up for the foreseeable future. Knowing what to look for, and how to get that needed information from prospective vendors, is the best way for enterprises to navigate treacherous waters in the early days of Network Traffic Analysis.

Barbara KayBarbara Kay Brand Contributor

Barbara is the Senior Director of Security Product at ExtraHop. She brings years of experience in threat intelligence, data analytics,

Source: Your Enterprise Network Is Haunted — Here’s How To Banish The Darkspace

How to Play to Your Strengths – Laura Morgan Roberts

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Most feedback accentuates the negative. During formal employee evaluations, discussions invariably focus on “opportunities for improvement,” even if the overall evaluation is laudatory. Informally, the sting of criticism lasts longer than the balm of praise. Multiple studies have shown that people pay keen attention to negative information. For example, when asked to recall important emotional events, people remember four negative memories for every positive one. No wonder most executives give and receive performance reviews with all the enthusiasm of a child on the way to the dentist.

Traditional, corrective feedback has its place, of course; every organization must filter out failing employees and ensure that everyone performs at an expected level of competence. Unfortunately, feedback that ferrets out flaws can lead otherwise talented managers to over invest in shoring up or papering over their perceived weaknesses, or forcing themselves onto an ill-fitting template. Ironically, such a focus on problem areas prevents companies from reaping the best performance from its people. After all, it’s a rare baseball player who is equally good at every position. Why should a natural third baseman labor to develop his skills as a right fielder?

Why should a natural third baseman labor to develop his skills as a right fielder?

The alternative, as the Gallup Organization researchers Marcus Buckingham, Donald Clifton, and others have suggested, is to foster excellence in the third baseman by identifying and harnessing his unique strengths. It is a paradox of human psychology that while people remember criticism, they respond to praise. The former makes them defensive and therefore unlikely to change, while the latter produces confidence and the desire to perform better.

Managers who build up their strengths can reach their highest potential. This positive approach does not pretend to ignore or deny the problems that traditional feedback mechanisms identify. Rather, it offers a separate and unique feedback experience that counterbalances negative input. It allows managers to tap into strengths they may or may not be aware of and so contribute more to their organizations.

During the past few years, we have developed a powerful tool to help people understand and leverage their individual talents. Called the Reflected Best Self (RBS) exercise, our method allows managers to develop a sense of their “personal best” in order to increase their future potential. The RBS exercise is but one example of new approaches springing from an area of research called positive organizational scholarship (POS).

Just as psychologists know that people respond better to praise than to criticism, organizational behavior scholars are finding that when companies focus on positive attributes such as resilience and trust, they can reap impressive bottom-line returns. (For more on this research, see the sidebar “The Positive Organization.”) Thousands of executives, as well as tomorrow’s leaders enrolled in business schools around the world, have completed the RBS exercise.

In this article, we will walk you through the RBS exercise step-by-step and describe the insights and results it can yield. Before we proceed, however, a few caveats are in order. First, understand that the tool is not designed to stroke your ego; its purpose is to assist you in developing a plan for more effective action. (Without such a plan, you’ll keep running in place.)

Second, the lessons generated from the RBS exercise can elude you if you don’t pay sincere attention to them. If you are too burdened by time pressures and job demands, you may just file the information away and forget about it. To be effective, the exercise requires commitment, diligence, and follow-through. It may even be helpful to have a coach keep you on task. Third, it’s important to conduct the RBS exercise at a different time of year than the traditional performance review so that negative feedback from traditional mechanisms doesn’t interfere with the results of the exercise.

Used correctly, the RBS exercise can help you tap into unrecognized and unexplored areas of potential. Armed with a constructive, systematic process for gathering and analyzing data about your best self, you can burnish your performance at work.

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Step 1

Identify Respondents and Ask for Feedback

The first task in the exercise is to collect feedback from a variety of people inside and outside work. By gathering input from a variety of sources—family members, past and present colleagues, friends, teachers, and so on—you can develop a much broader and richer understanding of yourself than you can from a standard performance evaluation.

As we describe the process of the Reflected Best Self exercise, we will highlight the experience of Robert Duggan (not his real name), whose self-discovery process is typical of the managers we’ve observed. Having retired from a successful career in the military at a fairly young age and earned an MBA from a top business school, Robert accepted a midlevel management position at an IT services firm.

Despite strong credentials and leadership experience, Robert remained stuck in the same position year after year. His performance evaluations were generally good but not strong enough to put him on the high-potential track. Disengaged, frustrated, and disheartened, Robert grew increasingly stressed and disillusioned with his company. His workday felt more and more like an episode of Survivor.

Seeking to improve his performance, Robert enrolled in an executive education program and took the RBS exercise. As part of the exercise, Robert gathered feedback from 11 individuals from his past and present who knew him well. He selected a diverse but balanced group—his wife and two other family members, two friends from his MBA program, two colleagues from his time in the army, and four current colleagues.

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Robert then asked these individuals to provide information about his strengths, accompanied by specific examples of moments when Robert used those strengths in ways that were meaningful to them, to their families or teams, or to their organizations. Many people—Robert among them—feel uncomfortable asking for exclusively positive feedback, particularly from colleagues.

Accustomed to hearing about their strengths and weaknesses simultaneously, many executives imagine any positive feedback will be unrealistic, even false. Some also worry that respondents might construe the request as presumptuous or egotistical. But once managers accept that the exercise will help them improve their performance, they tend to dive in.

Within ten days, Robert received e-mail responses from all 11 people describing specific instances when he had made important contributions—including pushing for high quality under a tight deadline, being inclusive in communicating with a diverse group, and digging for critical information. The answers he received surprised him.

As a military veteran and a technical person holding an MBA, Robert rarely yielded to his emotions. But in reading story after story from his respondents, Robert found himself deeply moved—as if he were listening to appreciative speeches at a party thrown in his honor. The stories were also surprisingly convincing. He had more strengths than he knew. (For more on Step 1, refer to the exhibit “Gathering Feedback.”)

 

Step 2

Recognize Patterns

In this step, Robert searched for common themes among the feedback, adding to the examples with observations of his own, then organizing all the input into a table. (To view parts of Robert’s table, see the exhibit “Finding Common Themes.”) Like many who participate in the RBS exercise, Robert expected that, given the diversity of respondents, the comments he received would be inconsistent or even competing. Instead, he was struck by their uniformity.

The comments from his wife and family members were similar to those from his army buddies and work colleagues. Everyone took note of Robert’s courage under pressure, high ethical standards, perseverance, curiosity, adaptability, respect for diversity, and team-building skills. Robert suddenly realized that even his small, unconscious behaviors had made a huge impression on others. In many cases, he had forgotten about the specific examples cited until he read the feedback, because his behavior in those situations had felt like second nature to him.

Finding Common Themes

 

The RBS exercise confirmed Robert’s sense of himself, but for those who are unaware of their strengths, the exercise can be truly illuminating. Edward, for example, was a recently minted MBA executive in an automotive firm. His colleagues and subordinates were older and more experienced than he, and he felt uncomfortable disagreeing with them. But he learned through the RBS exercise that his peers appreciated his candid alternative views and respected the diplomatic and respectful manner with which he made his assertions. As a result, Edward grew bolder in making the case for his ideas, knowing that his boss and colleagues listened to him, learned from him, and appreciated what he had to say.

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Other times, the RBS exercise sheds a more nuanced light on the skills one takes for granted. Beth, for example, was a lawyer who negotiated on behalf of nonprofit organizations. Throughout her life, Beth had been told she was a good listener, but her exercise respondents noted that the interactive, empathetic, and insightful manner in which she listened made her particularly effective. The specificity of the feedback encouraged Beth to take the lead in future negotiations that required delicate and diplomatic communications.

For naturally analytical people, the analysis portion of the exercise serves both to integrate the feedback and develop a larger picture of their capabilities. Janet, an engineer, thought she could study her feedback as she would a technical drawing of a suspension bridge. She saw her “reflected best self” as something to interrogate and improve. But as she read the remarks from family, friends, and colleagues, she saw herself in a broader and more human context. Over time, the stories she read about her enthusiasm and love of design helped her rethink her career path toward more managerial roles in which she might lead and motivate others.

Step 3

Compose Your Self-Portrait

The next step is to write a description of yourself that summarizes and distills the accumulated information. The description should weave themes from the feedback together with your self-observations into a composite of who you are at your best. The self-portrait is not designed to be a complete psychological and cognitive profile. Rather, it should be an insightful image that you can use as a reminder of your previous contributions and as a guide for future action.

The portrait itself should not be a set of bullet points but rather a prose composition beginning with the phrase, “When I am at my best, I…” The process of writing out a two- to four-paragraph narrative cements the image of your best self in your consciousness. The narrative form also helps you draw connections between the themes in your life that may previously have seemed disjointed or unrelated. Composing the portrait takes time and demands careful consideration, but at the end of this process, you should come away with a rejuvenated image of who you are.

In developing his self-portrait, Robert drew on the actual words that others used to describe him, rounding out the picture with his own sense of himself at his best. He excised competencies that felt off the mark. This didn’t mean he discounted them, but he wanted to assure that the overall portrait felt authentic and powerful. “When I am at my best,” Robert wrote,

I stand by my values and can get others to understand why doing so is important. I choose the harder right over the easier wrong. I enjoy setting an example. When I am in learning mode and am curious and passionate about a project, I can work intensely and untiringly. I enjoy taking things on that others might be afraid of or see as too difficult. I’m able to set limits and find alternatives when a current approach is not working. I don’t always assume that I am right or know best, which engenders respect from others. I try to empower and give credit to others. I am tolerant and open to differences.

 

As Robert developed his portrait, he began to understand why he hadn’t performed his best at work: He lacked a sense of mission. In the army, he drew satisfaction from the knowledge that the safety of the men and women he led, as well as the nation he served, depended on the quality of his work. He enjoyed the sense of teamwork and variety of problems to be solved. But as an IT manager in charge of routine maintenance on new hardware products, he felt bored and isolated from other people.

The portrait-writing process also helped Robert create a more vivid and elaborate sense of what psychologists would call his “possible self”—not just the person he is in his day-to-day job but the person he might be in completely different contexts. Organizational researchers have shown that when we develop a sense of our best possible self, we are better able make positive changes in our lives.

Step 4

Redesign Your Job

Having pinpointed his strengths, Robert’s next step was to redesign his personal job description to build on what he was good at. Given the fact that routine maintenance work left him cold, Robert’s challenge was to create a better fit between his work and his best self. Like most RBS participants, Robert found that the strengths the exercise identified could be put into play in his current position. This involved making small changes in the way he worked, in the composition of his team, and in the way he spent his time. (Most jobs have degrees of freedom in all three of these areas; the trick is operating within the fixed constraints of your job to redesign work at the margins, allowing you to better play to your strengths.)

Robert began by scheduling meetings with systems designers and engineers who told him they were having trouble getting timely information flowing between their groups and Robert’s maintenance team. If communication improved, Robert believed, new products would not continue to be saddled with the serious and costly maintenance issues seen in the past.

Armed with a carefully documented history of those maintenance problems as well as a new understanding of his naturally analytical and creative team-building skills, Robert began meeting regularly with the designers and engineers to brainstorm better ways to prevent problems with new products. The meetings satisfied two of Robert’s deepest best-self needs: He was interacting with more people at work, and he was actively learning about systems design and engineering.

Robert’s efforts did not go unnoticed. Key executives remarked on his initiative and his ability to collaborate across functions, as well as on the critical role he played in making new products more reliable. They also saw how he gave credit to others. In less than nine months, Robert’s hard work paid off, and he was promoted to program manager. In addition to receiving more pay and higher visibility, Robert enjoyed his work more. His passion was reignited; he felt intensely alive and authentic. Whenever he felt down or lacking in energy, he reread the original e-mail feedback he had received. In difficult situations, the e-mail messages helped him feel more resilient.

Robert was able to leverage his strengths to perform better, but there are cases in which RBS findings conflict with the realities of a person’s job. This was true for James, a sales executive who told us he was “in a world of hurt” over his work situation. Unable to meet his ambitious sales goals, tired of flying around the globe to fight fires, his family life on the verge of collapse, James had suffered enough. The RBS exercise revealed that James was at his best when managing people and leading change, but these natural skills did not and could not come into play in his current job. Not long after he did the exercise, he quit his high-stress position and started his own successful company.

Other times, the findings help managers aim for undreamed-of positions in their own organizations. Sarah, a high-level administrator at a university, shared her best-self portrait with key colleagues, asking them to help her identify ways to better exploit her strengths and talents. They suggested that she would be an ideal candidate for a new executive position. Previously, she would never have considered applying for the job, believing herself unqualified. To her surprise, she handily beat out the other candidates.

Beyond Good Enough

We have noted that while people remember criticism, awareness of faults doesn’t necessarily translate into better performance. Based on that understanding, the RBS exercise helps you remember your strengths—and construct a plan to build on them. Knowing your strengths also offers you a better understanding of how to deal with your weaknesses—and helps you gain the confidence you need to address them. It allows you to say, “I’m great at leading but lousy at numbers. So rather than teach me remedial math, get me a good finance partner.”

It also allows you to be clearer in addressing your areas of weakness as a manager. When Tim, a financial services executive, received feedback that he was a great listener and coach, he also became more aware that he had a tendency to spend too much time being a cheerleader and too little time keeping his employees to task. Susan, a senior advertising executive, had the opposite problem: While her feedback lauded her results-oriented management approach, she wanted to be sure that she hadn’t missed opportunities to give her employees the space to learn and make mistakes.

In the end, the strength-based orientation of the RBS exercise helps you get past the “good enough” bar. Once you discover who you are at the top of your game, you can use your strengths to better shape the positions you choose to play—both now and in the next phase of your career.

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