Who you ARE is so much bigger than what you DO

I like this picture. This is a fish. He swims, and eats and does whatever fish like to do. Yet who he is… a fish swimming in the opposite direction, a leader of other fishes…. is what truly sets him apart.

People want to put you in a box. Tie it up with a bow and label it.

It’s the first thing we ask people when we meet them… what do you “DO?” we are told to practice our “elevator speech” because people are busy- really it’s so people can build a little mental box to compartmentalize us even quicker.

Not sure if it’s the sheer amount of info we need to process, or a way to position ourselves in relation to that person, but nonetheless trying to “box people” into what they “do” is a bit risky… because you miss so much. It’s like labelling someone with a certain characteristic (oh, this is my (insert adjective) child; or; this employee is (insert adjective). By focusing on that little label, or box, you miss the big picture.

You may be a barista at a coffee shop, or a room attendant, or a CEO of a Fortune 500. You may work in HR, or Hospitality, or Finance.  Yet there is SO much more to you. You wear other hats (parent, spouse, student, friend) which define you. You have personality traits (shy, thinker, connector, organizer) and you have a life of experiences and connections behind you.

You have perspectives and ideas far beyond your “job” or your “department”.

THAT is why social media is so cool… because it gives you SUCH a better perspective on who that person is. You could have a 12 year old boy believe that he could free the children and see it grow into a massive movement shifting the consciousness of millions of youth. Yet our “box” for what a 12 year old boy should and could do …. completely thrown off. You could have a General Manager of a Ski Resort take his skills and start an organization that is building playgrounds for children in war torn countries. You could have local business leaders decide that it would be good for the community for even their competitors to be using social media because it means more eyeballs on the community…. and have these business leaders give their time to teach others…. none of these things fit in boxes.

We are in our lives, our jobs and our friendships, multi faceted complex beings who have an incredible breadth and depth of possibility within us. When we realize that as leaders, as parents, as colleagues, even as competitors, we tend to approach that person with more curiosity. Instead of saying “that’s not your job” we can say “i wonder what so and so can bring in terms of new perspective to this project?”

What I “DO” is speak, consult and train in the area of Leadership & Employee culture. I do this with associations and mid to large size corporate clients. Yet much of what I do doesn’t fit in that neat little box;

  • I believe our culture and values are intricately connected to our branding, both internal and external… so I end up playing in the branding box
  • I believe social media facilitates conversation, collaboration and ideas… and that if more leaders used the tools they could see the possibilities for using them in organizations…..so I end up playing in the social media box
  • I believe when we use a “coach approach” in organizations rather than always looking “up” for guidance we work smarter, create a tighter sense of community and alignment…  so I end up playing in the coaching box
  • I believe our strongest leaders are our emerging leaders… those front line leaders who are starting their careers and are in sponge mode… so I end up playing in the supervisor engagement box
  • I believe that 100% of my business will come from referrals and social media… so I end up playing in the networking and collaboration box

I am passionate about creating great places to work that deliver incredible results. Where leadership comes not from the titles people have, but from within each of them. I am passionate about how people learn, connect, communicate and gravitate to achieving greatness.

So along the way, same as you likely, I will meet people who don’t “get” that. Who will be confused and even frustrated by not being able to “box” me- who will see something I am involved in and because it doesn’t seem to “fit” in that box they have for me, it will seem out of place, or odd. You will meet lots of people who have you boxed and figured out too… or so they think. Don’t worry about them.

I believe the further in your journey… and my journey we go, the more clear we will get as to that path that marries your greatest strengths to the work you do. The JOURNEY is what is the cool part though!

At the end of the day, WHO I AM layered onto what I DO is what will make me successful in life and work… and the same goes for you. Let me know what you think!


Christine @ Impact People Practices from Warwick Patterson on Vimeo.


  1. Ray Hiltz on November 3, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Really enjoyed this post. Social media really is a revolution. It’s an emergence from the confines of post industrialization to a new world order where people and ideas are no longer tethered to desks and job descriptions.

    Having just finished Seth Godin’s “Linchpin”, I’m reflecting a lot on what I can do to marry who I am with what I do.

    After managing companies for many years, it was only when I understood the power of social media to demand authenticity, (internal & external)that I found the courage to be brave; to give myself permission to make mistakes and take risks – to be creative.

    Thanks for reaffirming that for me.

    • christine on November 26, 2010 at 3:51 am

      Thanks Ray- you and I are on similar paths having left the corporate world but hoping to use some of that experience to jump back in and work with that very same world in a different role… thanks for your ongoing support- looking forward to learning more about your business too!

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