Showing up and doing the work will usually earn you a paycheck, but the real opportunities go to those who think and work beyond their current role. “When you find that spark, it enables you to set yourself apart so you can shine brilliantly in a world of competition and uncertainty,” says entrepreneur and author of Be the Spark, Simon T. Bailey. “Most companies and organizations are scrambling to redefine, realign and recommit to their customers and business to not only survive but thrive — why not do that for yourself as well?” Learn how to spark new opportunities with Bailey and our roster of expert speakers at the 2021 WFF Leadership Conference.
Challenging times can be a great excuse to hunker down and just make do. But, with the right spark, they can ignite new ways of thinking and working. “Identifying how you can adapt and expand is the durable differentiator in the new normal,” explains Simon T. Bailey, author and life coach. His session Be the Spark: Establishing Your Personal Brand in 2021
is part of the 2021 WFF Leadership Conference
being held live virtually and in person March 21-24 in Dallas.
Be bigger than the job description
Formerly Sales Director for Disney Institute, Bailey says, “Disney never hired me to do a job; they hired me to have that spark and create unique moments for our guests.” That spark manifests itself in team members who have the ability to push themselves to get to a yes instead of accepting a no, to see (and create) bigger opportunities to make an impact with tangible results and who cannot rest with the status quo, he says. Identifying unmet needs in your organization and working to fill them is one way to move beyond your current duties, increase your contribution and build goodwill.
Especially in the remote workplace, connectivity is the new currency, Bailey says. That means proactively scheduling connections that used to happen on their own. Book virtual coffees with colleagues and mentors to catch up or provide a brief update on a recent project. Ask how you can support their work, or suggest a project you would like to take on and ask for their input.
With so much communication happening online, Bailey suggests surprising someone with a hand-written note of thanks or to let them know you are thinking about them. “Every time you make a little deposit in the emotional bank account of someone else, that action is likely to grow in its value to them and to you,” he says.
Tackle the chaos
When environments are characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (what leadership experts Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus dubbed “VUCA”), the courageous raise their hands to help slay the dragons. Everyone feels overwhelmed, but the key is to transform those feelings into meaningful action.
“People who have that spark will push themselves out of their comfort zone to take on new challenges that allow them to flex their muscles, be seen in a new light and forge new relationships,” Bailey says.
Look around your department and beyond to identify critical projects where additional support might be welcomed. Seek out project leads you can support and build deeper relationships in the process. You will develop advocates who can speak well of you long after the project concludes.
Strengthen your voice
There are also practical concerns related to remote meetings that require you to be more forceful than you might in person. That includes the basics, like looking into the camera to create eye contact, speaking more clearly, and keeping the background basic and distractions to a minimum.
But Bailey has another idea about how to raise your presence remotely. It has to do with joy. “When you work in an environment where you are celebrated (not tolerated), it allows you the freedom and psychological safety to be the spark. It let’s you speak up early and often. And even to push back. You engage fully and boost your contribution.”
He is quick to clarify that performance is the price of that freedom. “We earn the ability to raise our presence by meeting and exceeding expectations,” he adds.
Spark some kindness
Finally, Bailey emphasizes the importance of kindness in enabling leaders to find their joy, perform to their highest abilities and bring the best out in others. Researchers at Emory University studied the brain activity of people engaged in a cooperative game and found that helping consistently activated brain areas linked with reward processing. Performing acts of kindness releases feel-good endorphins that create the “helper’s high” and lower stress levels.
“In a world where many operate from a mindset of scarcity, go in the opposite direction and help someone who has done nothing for you and may not be in a position to ever help you,” Bailey urges. “Give away the thing you want most by speaking well of your colleagues and it will spark something positive in them and you.”
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and spark new opportunities to connect, grow and be inspired throughout the year and throughout your career.