How to lean into your strengths and stop doing everything as a professional communicator
Do unto yourself as you do unto others.
Yes, you read that right.
As professional communicators, we work to ensure messaging is aligned with a company’s brand. We understand the power of a unique value proposition and work with our clients, internal or external, to develop, define and articulate their specific competitive advantage.
But how often are we doing the same for ourselves? How often do we think about our own value proposition and our own brand? I suspect, more often than not, we are trying to do everything for everyone.
Working in in-house communications for more than 13 years, I prided myself on doing everything, from ensuring the new employee communications was inclusive, to responding to media during a crisis, testing website user experience and more. I thought I was providing great value by putting my energy everywhere at once.
It was not until I started my own communications consultancy that I realized I had been doing my work a disservice. For the first time in my professional career, I conducted an internal branding exercise on myself to determine the strengths I would be leading with.
Once I let go of trying to do it all, I began to gain more clarity and insight into what only I could do. As necessary as this was for the development of my own company, I realized how beneficial this would have been earlier in my career.
Show Up As Yourself: The World Needs It
The events of the last year have rightfully forced the corporate door open to diversity. Representation for gender, ethnic and cultural diversity is critical in the working world. But, we must also make way for diversity in thinking, communications styles, problem solving, approaches to work and more.
One way to invite diversity of thought? Start by showing up as yourself. Brilliant, successful people have tapped into the power of being themselves and are encouraging others to do the same.
Gary Vaynerchuk, leading marketing expert best known for his digital marketing company and rise in social media, believes “your niche is yourself.” Jay Shetty, author and former monk turned purpose coach, talks about the power of leaning into your strengths rather than focusing on your weaknesses. Brené Brown’s now famous TED Talk shares insights on vulnerability and having the courage to be yourself.
There is immense power in tapping into what makes you unique and leading with it in the working world. You are your company’s greatest asset.
Below are steps to get you to embrace your unique skill sets as a professional communicator and best show up as you.
To better align with your work today:
1. Stop hacking.
We are bombarded with books, YouTube videos, apps, podcasts and more, all riddled with hacks on doing more with less. But the truth is, the more you check off, the longer your list gets. Put a pause on maximizing hours. Identify what’s most meaningful for you to magnify output instead.
Besides, how often do you get recognized for getting it all done? The work that is most valued is the work that is most meaningful.
2. Identify what lights you up.
Take inventory of your tasks and responsibilities and rate them based on your level of interest. Try to get as granular as possible, as there are often enjoyable elements of not-so-enjoyable tasks. The objective is to begin to identify what you like and what comes naturally to you. Most often, what you like is also what you are good at.
A few examples:
- Developing and creating quotable one-lines and takeaways
- Building relationships with media and connecting during time of press
- Engaging and building organic audiences
- Promoting and persuading through speaking
- Facilitating group discussions to gain clarity on direction
- Copyediting and managing edits and re-writes
Communications is as broad of a role as one’s imagination, so this list can be as long as you need it to be. From here, you can start to narrow in on the patterns for what excites you and where you excel. Think about what comes naturally to you and gets you into your creative genius.
3. Ask for feedback.
Go to three people you’ve worked with and whose opinion you value. Ask them to list your top three strengths. You may be surprised at how close these are to the tasks you most like. Although it’s important not to attribute your value to external opinions, it’s also important to understand how your work brings value to others. If you don’t like what you hear, this is also important.
4. Be intentional with your energy.
We are not always in a position to turn work away or cherry-pick what we like best. But, we can control the energy we devote to areas of our work. We can also delegate and hire out. Taking this important step will allow us to better communicate and plan for future work or career moves based on what is most meaningful to us.
It’s okay to admit that not all communications professionals are great writers, strategists, copyeditors, team builders, presenters, researchers, public speakers AND facilitators.
These exercises are as much about deciding what you are good at as they are about letting go of what you may not be great at. This will make room for those around you to step in and lean in with their strengths. It’s the team that wins. And when you play to your natural skill sets, you bring the best of you.
Natalie Pastuszak is the director and founder of Instdio Communications, a Toronto-based communications consultancy taking a creative agency approach to corporate communications. After 13 years of in-house communications roles from a Fortune 500 company to a government corporation, Pastuszak has led communication departments, company re-brands, placemaking efforts, public relations campaigns and more. Often wishing there were specialized agencies and services that better supported stakeholder-based organizations, Pastuszak created Instdio Communications to do just that. With a desire to normalize self-awareness for business, Pastuszak works with companies and people to better align them with their business purpose and set up their communications. Considering herself an introspective business communicator, Pastuszak spends most of her days in conversation getting to the heart of the matter.