Defining Your Role

I want you to succeed.

Whatever it is you’re passionate about and want to do – I want you to succeed.

For many of us it’s our career.  You know that 9 to 5, Monday through Friday effort that allows us to support our families and obtain our dreams.  Yeah, that one.

There is something that I wanted to share on that front, and hopefully it’ll help a bit.  I want you to define your role.  Define your role in your department, and in the organization as a whole.  It could be in the company you work at today or the one you want to work for tomorrow.  You need to take an active part in defining what you offer, and what what you bring to the mix.

Don’t allow yourself to be typecast or pigeonholed.  Letting other people define the boundaries of where you’re supposed to participate or allowed to participate is unacceptable.  You alone have that right.

You have the ability set boundaries and goals.  You have control of the decisions that move you forward or backward.  By defining your role, you establish your voice.  By being vocal and establishing a presence, you have the means to share your perspectives and expertise in any situation your role lands you in.

Its not easy and it can be a little scary when first starting out, but the rewards are unending.  Its also up to you to fulfil the role you define, but that sholdn’t be difficult because the definition of success and failure is also within your control as well.

Take that step to define your role in life, in work, and in the success that you want.  Without figuring out what you want from your efforts, and what you want for your family, it’ll take a lot longer to get to your definition of success.

I want you to succeed.

Photo Credit: yeah buddy!

Walk Your Walk

'There Are Places I Remember' by Thomas Hawk If there’s one thing you should always do, it’s to keep your unique individuality.

As an individual we need to recognize how and what we do differently.  Protect and nurture those qualities that make us who we are.  It’s important to realize that these qualities are what others see in us, and differentiate us in a crowd.

Quite a bit of this relates to your personal brand, and perhaps that context helps make the most sense.

Walk Different

Walk a funny walk, have fun, explore who you are and what others see in you.  Dare to be different.  In doing so, you’ll start to learn what others value in you.  You’ll also be able to realize that there’s opportunity in doing things differently.

Try those new things, find ways to step out into the future and expand your skills and worldview.  You may be great at what you do today, but there are other things you may be well suited for.  It’d be a shame not to find out what those may be.  It’s rewarding to relearn things about yourself that you may have forgotten.

Walk Tall

Be proud of where you come from, what you do, and how you accomplish your work. Your walk can be compared to your “brand personality” when you meet a person , often the first thing you see is them walking towards you. Much like the t-shirt you brand from Print My Logo, you have control over what is seen.

There are no unimportant jobs in society, and it’s what we do with our lives that’s the real testament to each of us.  It’s what we do day-in and day-out that people remember, and this is the base of who we are.  It’s always a good idea to start from a firm foundation, and that is what walking tall is about.

Don’t let others define your success as success is a subjective label to begin with.  Only we can define what that is, because only we know what’s important, or what the next step in our path was supposed to be.

Walk Straight

Sticking to your values is what this is all about.  Its when we stray from our ideals that we begin to loose our way.  By following through on your plan and remaining true to your core values, its easier to reach those goals that you prize most.  This is also something that people remember about us.  It’s about being consistent, honest, and following through.  Not always easy, but never ignored either.

Walk With Purpose

Having a purpose to things is just as important as everything else.  It’s about direction.  There’s a reason that we’re all good at different things and make different decisions every day.  Define for yourself why you do things the way you do, get to understand what that purpose is, and refine it as time goes on.  This is ultimately what drives each of us in our own way.  We have some ultimate goal that we alone hold.

Stepping Up

Finally, taking the time to map out a path to walk in life is a great thing to take time to do.  Plan out short and long goals, match your pace in life with your ultimate goals.  Enjoy the each step along the way.

rickmahn-hrThis is a post from my ‘inspirational’ list.  Not sure if it really is, but I like to give it a try from time to time.  All feedback is welcome!  That’s one of my goals as I walk through life, to learn from anyone willing to share suggestions or criticism.  It’s all good from my perspective as I just want to learn.

The Art of Listening

Listen To MeSometimes it’s good to just sit back and listen to the conversation around you. There are many voices out there, and many stories to be told by those voices. One of the best skills to have is the ability to listen.

It’s a hard skill to learn too. How often do we jump into a conversation, with the intent to add our experiences and perspectives? Its human nature to share, to participate, to interact. So it’s important to make sure that you take the time to listen to what people are saying.

The benefits of becoming a better listener are not simply limited to hearing what people have to say, it’s letting them to tell their stories in their own words. It’s the people and their stories that are important. Learning about them and what they need is how you can better offer services and products to them – if at all. After all, not everything we do, or service & products we offer are needed by everyone.

Taking the time to learn about people, their stories, their needs, concerns, and wishes help us build not only a better community, but a better understanding of what we can do to be a productive part of that community. All that can comes from listening.

Photo credit:

Letting Go

Sometimes it’s hard to let go of what we do.  What I mean is that it can be hard sharing everything that you know, and teach other people what your job entails.  The natural reaction is to hang on to that knowledge, be the expert, the guru that can do it all.

However, are you getting any real new chances, or does everyone believe that because you’re too valuable doing what you’re doing that they don’t send opportunities in your direction?  Holding on too tight to what you know can be detrimental to learning and growing.  Sometimes it’ll keep you from being able to try new things.

Hand it over

In order to gain real traction to take advantage of new opportunities, you need to start offloading what you’ve been doing.  It’s time to stretch yourself, challenge your skills with something outside your comfort zone.  To do that, you’re going to need to have more time to focus and learn.  You can’t do that holding onto what you do today.  It’s time to start mentoring those that want your job.

Create Change

To get started, you’ll need to create an environment for this change.  You have new habits to learn, and you should talk with your manager so they know what your plans are.  Odds are your company already has much of this in place, it’s your job to step in and let them know that you’re interested in something new.  By letting your managers know that you’re interested, and by doing things like sharing knowledge and cross training staff you show that your serious about it too.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of work, and it takes time to get it done.  However, it’s very rewarding to see people perk up at the opportunity to learn something new.  They’ll be more receptive to your ideas and you’ll find interactions with co-workers be less stressful if you’re sharing.


This is true of nearly every successful person.  Sharing knowledge and enabling others to achieve their goals makes you a valuable person.  More so than if you hang onto that guru-level knowledge, keeping it for yourself in a vain attempt to make you indispensable.  Sharing makes you more valuable because it demonstrates your ability to learn new things and convey them to others – teaching.  Over time, you also learn the art of delegation, how to distribute workload to associates tasked with assisting you. This allows you to focus on more forward looking work – the fun stuff.

So letting go of the control over the knowledge you’ve accumulated for your job can be beneficial.  There are many variations and taking some leadership, organizational, interpersonal, and project management skills classes is a must to facilitate the change you’re looking for.  Just don’t be afraid of sharing that hard-won knowledge.  The rewards you reap for stepping out and taking the lead will be greater than staying where you were.

Photo credit: Radvixen

Learning to listen

communicating I’ll tell you one of the most important & introspective lessons I’m learning: it’s listening to what people say.  It’s a critical one that many of us find ourselves in the middle of when working on our personal improvement strategies.

While I’ve only really become aware of my own efforts to improve my listening abilities, I figured out that I’ve been subconsciously working on this for some time.  Don’t know exactly what triggered it to come to the surface, but it did – and makes a great deal of sense.

What’s also interesting to me is the effort involved in learning this skill.  It’s so at odds with how we’ve I’ve processed information when listening to others in the past.  To actually absorb the real meaning, the underlying urgency, the true understanding is what I’m after.  Whether it be a friend, coworker, or spouse it is crucial that we really understand what is being communicated.

It may be one of the most difficult things a person can undertake to improve their "soft" skills.  It also will go a long way to help you reach your goals.  Just like many other aspects of personal improvement, this skill is also critical to you if you’re working on your personal brand.

The ability to listen is a trait that people remember.  This is an important piece of your reputation and is part of what makes up your brand.  You want people to remember things about you, and having people remember that you listen to their requirements, listen to what’s important to them, listen to their concerns is a big one.

How else can we provide value to others when only a portion of what they’re talking about is listened to?

I mentioned at the beginning that this is a skill that I’m "learning" – I’ll never learn it all.  I’m constantly finding out how to listen better, and I’d like to know your tips.  What more is there to this – I’d love to hear from you.  Do you have tips, stories, or examples of how to improve one’s ability to listen?  I’m all ears. 😀

Less is More

communicating In communication it is easy to “over-do” it.  We all use email, voice, IM, RSS, and more.  The trick is to manage your time, and other’s expectations at the same time.  We’ve grown used to instant contact to nearly everyone in our address books over the last decade (or more) to the detriment of productivity.

While we have increased our productivity over the last 10+ years, I think we have hit a plateau as far as communicating with each other.  It has become so easy to ask a person a question, to get an answer that we often forget the implications of doing so.  The more we communicate, the more we interrupt and distract each other.  Now I’m repeating a lot of what many are saying, but I’m also going to be following  these methods to gain back what could amount to several hours in a week.


Take the ubiquitous email for example.  We all abuse it on a daily basis, hoping to steal attention from one another to perform some task or other.  Most of the time, the answer is already available to use, but we seem to feel like pestering a coworker or friend is a better use of time than looking up the answer ourselves.

As recent Lifehacker post Limit your email messages to 5 sentences details, you can work towards brevity.  An elegant explanation can be found at if you care to link to it.  Going even further going back to setting expectations, you can train people to expect shorter messages.

Another technique that is becoming common lately is to process your email (and feeds for that matter) once a day.  Again, when you set the expectation that you will respond within a day, you can pick the time that works best in your schedule to read/reply to email.  Process later in the day to get a jump on the next day, or mid-morning to answer any critical questions for the day.  Depending on your responsibilities, I’m betting you’ll find the right time.


News & Blog feeds are a fantastic way to increase your information consumption.  A good reader also makes a big difference here too.  The amount of information that one can process through feeds as apposed to individual web pages is amazing.  I literally increased my ability to consume information more than ten-fold with feeds (and Dave Winer’sriver of news” layout).  Combine that with a an reader like Google Reader that is available anytime, anywhere and you have a powerful news appliance.

The problem, of course, is that you can easily become a news junkie – always hitting refresh and watching for new bits to come through.  While entertaining, it’s a waste of time.  The industry news doesn’t change from 9am to 3pm, so why watch it all day?  Why not process your feeds once a day, similar to email?  Later or earlier, it doesn’t matter – it’ll keep you up to date on your industry and help you gain back hours in the week.


Instant Messaging is another essential business tool that we abuse.  I’ll allow to some former coworkers that it is potentially HUGE time waster (Tom, Craig – ya listening?).  BUT the flip side of that is that IM is one of the most important productivity tools that an individual or company can leverage.  The trick is managing the tool to your advantage.  Every IM tool allows you to set your presence as “Busy”, “Do Not Disturb”, “Offline” or some other status that indicates you are not available.

The biggest mistake is that, like email, we feel like we need to answer any request immediately.  Start using your status to reflect your actual work status.  Are you trying to get that report done?  That presentation polished?  That document formatted?  For crying out loud – that means your “Busy” – set your status and revel in uninterrupted bliss.


Now micro-blogging platforms like Twitter (and Jaiku, Pownce, and Hictu) are a different breed.  They cross boundaries like covered by blogging, IM, and SMS (text messaging).  The result is a literal fire-hose of status updates and thought streams from dozens, hundreds or thousands of individuals depending on how many “friends” you have.  The concept can be hard to get your head around, but the beauty of these platforms is their brevity.

While not the case with some competing services, Twitter restricts each post (called a Tweet) to 140 characters.  This will train you to be concise and descriptive.  This is very good, because it helps you hone your communication skills by communicating only the information that is required.


So in explaining what I’ve been learning and thinking about for several months, I’ve written a verbose and wordy description about how not to be.  I hope the hypocrisy of the post helps drive the point home.  The basic thing to keep in mind no matter what communication tools you use is to leverage the tool to your benefit.  Think about time as much as you think about what you communicate.

Brevity is essential

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