For my friends, colleagues, and family, they all know that my career journey has not been one scripted. At an extremely early age (15 to be exact!) I found a love for work. It became an outlet for me to learn and grow – a platform I could see reward from meaningful contribution. And, as I look back at an area that has served me well in my own trajectory growth I realized that I have embraced disruptiveness for most of my journey. So, what the heck does it mean to be disruptive in your career?
Have you ever realized that when you type “disruption” into Google many of the images and results have negative connotations to them? This is complete opposite to how you should be looking at disruption in respects to career. Disruptiveness can take on many dimensions, but in this blog I am speaking specifically about how I allowed myself to think, create, and sometimes lead disruptively. Here are three ways being disruptive has kept me invigorated, and growing in my career:
I am not the person that will sit in a room and proclaim I am the beholden expert when I am not. I am, however, the one who values multiple inputs (yes, including my own) and draws from that in order to form my own thinking and decisions. There have been times where what I think, and the way I think, is radically different than the consensus. But, I am completely okay with that! There is an element of confidence that I had to curate to be comfortable with this. And, if you already have doubt in your confidence to think disruptively, I get it – the dark thoughts of self-doubt will try to overcome. But, one tip that may help you (you may remember this from another blog post of mine) is keeping subliminal positive messages around you and reminding you – You’ve Got This! Thinking disruptively isn’t a mantra of always thinking opposite to someone(s) else, it’s the willingness to accept and support the authenticity in your thought, or position on something, and being confident to share. An example of this is from a few years back and I was at a juncture where I had accumulated years of experience working and learning from our largest customers on their perspectives of value when using our product (software). I found after walking out of meeting after meeting with these customers (some were loyal for quite some time) this heaviness I held for the fact we couldn’t put any tangibility to where exactly their value was being realized, whether it was good or bad. I wanted to solve this problem – I wanted both us, and the customer, to have a way to interpret whether they were receiving value, and it would be a model all parties agreed represented both sides fairly. I kid you not – I made myself hostage for days with whiteboards and spreadsheets to just allow myself a safe place to think disruptively, even if what I was thinking would royally piss off the company I worked for. Perhaps it is the optimism in me (again) that convinced myself that if I kept true to focusing on the customer’s pain first then everything else would fall into place. Thinking this way … at this time in the company … wasn’t as common (at least not openly) and I did hold hesitation for where I was allowing my thoughts to drift. But, I did it anyways and when I was finished with putting thoughts to paper on a model I think the company should consider, I presented this to my executive peers. I was met with more applaud than not. But, it was no surprise to me I was still met with resistance when I suggested we embrace a more transparent approach to how we model value and how we share this with our customer-base. Yes, there were some gasps in the room … and yes, there took some convincing and rally campaigns but my idea was eventually agreed to. And, wouldn’t you know, by the time the model was crafted and delivered, both sides realized the dual-purpose and dual-value it brought. And, as they say in Texas: Winner-Winner Chicken-Dinner! So, the moral of this short story example is that you shouldn’t fall pray to thinking like everyone else, even if you know what you’re thinking could be disruptive. Embrace it – you’ll take more away from it 🙂
You should find that if you are open-minded to thinking disruptively, you’ll begin growing thirst for knew knowledge and ideas. If you’re like me, you’ll quickly find yourself wanting to put your new ideas into motion – this is great because this means you’re ready to create disruptiveness! A quick reality check: Your new ideas aren’t all meant to be widely successful. No, I am not trying to be a Debbie-Downer (and most people know I’m the optimist by heart so by me even saying that statement hopefully comes across as genuine as I hope.). In fact, most new ideas are meant to be seeds planted that you’ll learn from. Yes, it’s okay to think your idea may not be the next Einstein moment … but, you can expect you’ll take something from it that inevitably makes you better: win or fail. BUT, for those ideas that are planted and become the firework … what an amazing ride it will be. It can be the new template your team will use to achieve an important task – it can be a new approach to a problem – it can even be a new gadget that helps identify when a bathroom stall is clean! Regardless, creating is learning. (By the way, you don’t need permission to create. I have had many come to me asking if they should put ideas together … I thought I would jump out of my chair every time I heard those words because I wanted to shout from the rooftop: What the heck are you waiting for?!?!?)
One of the most rewarding, humbling, adoring (and the list goes on … and on … and on!) roles I have had and immensely enjoy is leading people. There are many reasons for this that perhaps I’ll write a separate blog on, but leading disruptive is a great reward. There are many different leadership styles … leadership traits … leadership approaches, etc. Leading disruptive perhaps is an unorthodox way of accepting when you are given an opportunity to carry a team forward you should absolutely do this in your own way, and with your own style. In a recent example of this, I joined a new tech company and like any new company you join my first months were crucial in learning the culture and leadership styles that graced the halls and teams within the organization. It became apparent early on that my leadership style was not exactly identical to many other leaders, and I had to make a decision as to whether I wanted to mesh into the status quo, or continue using my own leadership style and methods that have served me well in past positions. I stayed true to my leadership approach, although I knew this may cause disruption to how people viewed a leader’s role, the responsibilities of a leader, and the standards the team should have for their leader. Yes, there were leaders in the company that did not understand my leadership approach (and, even some that challenged me), but I let the results speak for themselves; the team was growing in cohesiveness, career achievement, and meeting corporate goals. Therefore, if you are fortunate to have a team you are responsible for – stay genuine to your evolving leadership style, even if it means you’ll have to embrace some disruptiveness and challenge along the way.
Henri Matisse once said, “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” You can have a beautiful career bouquet that flourishes and blooms. I have found in my own bouquet I have been able to flourish most when I was okay with embracing disruptiveness. I hope this posting serves’ you at some capacity … in some shape … in some form … as a source of reminder, or inspiration, to your own career journey. If you, too, have examples of how you feel you were disruptive I would LOVE for you to share and keep the inspirational moment alive!