Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Be disruptive!


What do the Harvard Business Review, Gilmore Girls, and Seth Godin have in common? They all allude to the fact that, in order to soar, shine, OWN in the workplace, you need to be disruptive.

You see, sometimes I do a little business lady reading. It can be a challenge navigating the professional world, and working for a nonprofit can be even more challenging. Yes, we have it a little more laid back, and I thrive on that. However, try finding a way to strike the right balance between professional and laid back in a more casual setting. It's difficult! So, every now and then when I stumble across something that seems to cut through the bullshit, I like to share.

Last week I stumbled upon (thanks to Caiti) a post from the Harvard Business Review entitled Woman Need to Realize Work Isn't School by Whitney Johnson and Tara Mohr. I'll admit that the title gave me pause. I was sure I was in for a condescending piece about women in the workplace but was very pleased to be wrong. Instead, it turned into one of those pieces that I felt compelled to read through twice and then share with my team (99% female) at work. The part that really resonated with me was the first piece of advice: figure out how to challenge and influence authority.

"In school, in order to get the grade, you learned to provide the authority figure — the teacher — what he or she wanted...This approach may get you some initial gold stars, but it won't get you what you really want, which is to be an indispensable player, not just to your boss, but in your industry."

Suddenly, shadowed corners of my brain lit up as I remembered a post on Seth Godin's blog in which he talks about the opportunity cost of not taking the initiative. You know it wasn't long before I flipped through my pop culture mental archives and pulled out the appropriate Gilmore Girls reference (because, hello, the Gilmores are full of life lessons).

Remember the episode in season six (or was it five) where Mitchum Huntzberger tells Rory she doesn't have it, that she isn't cut out to be a reporter? He goes on to tell her how she's fine at doing what's asked but doesn't take the initiative or speak up during a staff meeting. Let me tell you, I hated him for doing that and took great pleasure when Richard Gilmore tells him off later that season. Looking back, though, I get that this is exactly what Johnson, Mohr and Godin are talking about.

I think it's an important business lady lesson regardless of what your "business" is. The basic premise makes as much sense for nonprofit life as it does for someone in a more traditional business.

Bottom line? Go forth and be disruptive!

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