Are you Afraid of Being Seen?

hand emerging from behind red theatre curtain

“All the world is a stage.” Are you hiding behind the curtain?

The first time I posted one of my 52 Week Turnaround articles on Facebook my hand trembled the whole time. Because my personal Facebook page was connected to people I had known for years. I had visions of people stumbling across posts, complete with scathing comments. (Not to mention the endless funky spam comments — What is it with sex companies trying to hide posts with headers about hockey jerseys? ) Most especially I imagined my ex-husband, ex-boyfriends, high school friends, and college acquaintances, all doubling over in laughter as they read. And not in a good way.

A few of whom are probably shaking their heads as they read this going “Seriously? Jeanne’s afraid of nothing, except slugs, so what the hell is she talking about?” Because many of them know me as being pretty fearless. I was an AIDS activist in the early 90’s (yes, the kind that gets arrested and gets spit on by bigots at demonstrations), worked in a famously dangerous public housing authority (where shootings were common and my car was rocked the first time I drove into one of the projects), and had my life and the lives of my team threatened by a mentally unstable client on the same job. I fought the foster care system.  I’ve held people while they were dying horrible deaths from AIDS and moved drugs from the dead to the living. I’ve faced large, furious public audiences who hated the company or agency I was representing, negotiated with picketers and delivered a lot of bad news to people who weren’t too happy to hear it. I’ve been on TV and radio dozens of times, sometimes on pleasant topics but also representing companies on unpleasant subjects and in difficult situations. A running joke at a company I worked at many years ago was that “There’s only one person with any balls around here and it’s Jeanne.”

Why was this different? All of that bravery was done for someone else’s plan or cause. I delivered an employer’s message (under some pretty rocky circumstances, but still, not Jeanne’s message). I fought for friends and a child who had AIDS (Shirley MacClaine’s “Give my daughter the shot!!!” pales compared to me in a medical standoff) but I wasn’t ill. I executed someone else’s organizational change plan.

But what happens when you put YOU out there, your baby, your business, your dream? There are times when it is easier for me to fight for someone else’s cause than to fight for my own. So I worry. Here’s a sampling of this past month’s worries:

  • If I comment on the divide between men and women in technology and business will I not be able to get hired anywhere ever again, be branded an “agitator”?
  • Is my thinking too superficial? Will the smart people I went to school with be like, “Dear God, how the hell did they ever let Jeanne into college? Clearly it was a clerical error.”
  • How many frigging typos, run on sentences, and/or passive voice sentences did I leave in that article I posted at five this morning before running off to a meeting? (A lot, I guarantee it).
  • What if my book that is coming out gets really sucky reviews? Should I publish under a pseudonym?
  • Are there slugs in Belgium and what are the odds of one of them sliming its way across the podium while I’m presenting? (They didn’t, but I did consider the possibility).

Sometimes, as loud as we may appear, we are still trying to remain invisible. Suzanne Evans, a business coach who specializes in being loud, proud and outspoken talks about “Stepping into Discomfort”, taking risks and being “visible” in her book, The Way you Do Anything is the Way you Do Everything. And when Suzanne talks about being visible, she means warts and all, not a safe “First to volunteer to lead the United Way committee” or post “bland inoffensive business articles on LinkedIn” sort of way.

I particularly loved her quote, “Learn fast that taking up less space and surrounding yourself with people who want to go unnoticed, and stay under the radar won’t get you more business, better clients, or cutting edge marketing ideas. Success takes up space.”

We all know someone at work who’s primary career skill is keeping their head down, making sure to dodge into a safe hole when the lawnmower comes overhead.  And it may even work for them. But at some point, it’s a pretty hollow victory. I’ve taken my chances on being memorable. And so far, it has worked, creating new opportunities, new connections and new experiences.

So here I am.  Visible. Taking up space. Saying what I think, sharing what I know, both good and bad. And YOU need to put yourself out there as well. You didn’t get this far without learning a few things. If nothing else, I know to never follow the Fulton County Rat Poison Lady. And that’s something everyone needs to know.

And yes, I’m posting this on Facebook.

Of course if you would prefer to remain invisible, please feel free to post a comment on exactly how many grammatical errors I have committed in this post. You can do it anonymously, I promise.

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We Screwed Up.

public relations disasters

When the pressure is on, how will you respond?

A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” Tim Ferris

For those of you who may have seen the U.S. news in the past few days you probably heard of Georgia’s disastrous response to 2-3 inches (6.35cm) of snowfall that quickly turned to ice. Thousands of residents of the Atlanta metropolitan area attempted to leave work at the same time to go pick up children at school and outrace the ice.

The result?  Trucks, cars and buses collided, blocking roads and highways rendering them impassable. Over 994 accidents were reported in the first 12 hours of the storm and many more minor ones occurred throughout the night. Commutes of 3 miles (4.82 km) stretched to 5 hours and 25 mile (40.23km) commutes became 24 hour ordeals. A baby was born on a highway, hundreds had to abandon their cars and walk for miles to get home after they ran out of gasoline.

Next was the parade of government officials trying to explain the uncoordinated response and chaos. The styles ranged from smooth to horribly awkward, and they were mercilessly skewered on twitter and social media. Some were in the awkward position of being blamed for jobs they were not responsible for but as leaders, would be held accountable for anyway. Others were openly hostile. As time went on, some leaders clearly got “off” the public relations scripting they had been prepped with while others clung to it like a lifeline, long after it stopped making any sense. Leaders of nearby counties most likely breathed a sigh of relief when they realized that the Mayor of the City of Atlanta (a small fraction of the Atlanta metro area) would be taking the majority of the heat publicly for the disaster.

One of the hardest things to do in public is to admit you are wrong. With the advances in social media and technology, it’s entirely possible that you can claim you’ve fixed something only to have live pictures scrolling alongside you on screen proving the opposite.

How do YOU handle admitting to a mistake?

The Uncomfortable Conversations series on 52weekturnaround gives you the tools to have the difficult conversations that you encounter as a change agent. See the series here.

book by Jeanne Goldie

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Thinking about making a move? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box at right. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

© Jeanne Goldie 2015