1. Job roles should be clear
The show was incredible– but then I’d gone in expecting to be amazed by top artists like Lady Gaga, Post Malone, Camilla Cabello, Alicia Keys, JLo, Diana Ross, HER, and Cardi B. I didn’t expect to be fascinated by seeing how things were being managed behind the scenes. But I was. And it gave me a lot of insight into how a business runs. The sheer number of things and people to be managed during a show like that is mind- boggling. There are people in charge of polishing instruments before “go time,” people ushering the artists backstage and filling their seats with “seat fillers” (yes, that’s a thing), people building and breaking down the sets, lighting them, and mixing the sound. Every little detail is part of a perfectly orchestrated dance of hundreds of people, all of whom know exactly what to do and when to do it.
That made me think. Without clear roles and parameters at work, we are doomed to leave things undone. “I didn’t know it was part of my job” is something I have heard and struggled with for years. Having owned my business for ten years, I have learned that some people require more step-by-step instruction than others, but that should not stop me from making sure every role is clearly defined. Does this stifle creativity and self-motivation? At first, I thought it might. But I’ve come to realize that the lack of clarity creates confusion and confusion leads to unmet expectations on both sides of the aisle.
2. Simplicity and clarity lead to authenticity
It was Grammy night. Of course we had to get glammed up of course! So we hired a make-up artist (if you know me, you know I needed help) and made a playlist with all the nominated artists. An Alicia Keys song came on, and our makeup artists wondered if Alicia planned to break her “no makeup” rule.” We couldn’t believe it. She was the presenter! But sure enough, at the start of the show, Alicia Keys walked onstage in a beautiful emerald green jumpsuit and no makeup. I immediately went into critical mode… “Really? She couldn’t break her no makeup rule even for the Grammys? That’s crazy!” And then it quickly shifted and I went into crush mode. “She is such a badass for not breaking her no makeup rule for the Grammys!” Why do we have to be someone we are not when our success depends on who we are and what we bring– talent, grit, fortitude, and discipline?
In business, we see this all the time. We sell ourselves as something we are not, we show up insincerely because we want to impress someone. We oversell (and later underperform) to win business. I learned early on that truth takes us much further than false advertising. If we don’t know how to do something, we find a partner to do it better. If we don’t think our client’s idea is great, and they are about to dump a ton of money into it, we let them know and steer them away from it. Using buzz words and industry lingo to make us seem smarter actually makes us seem inauthentic. Most of the time, less is more.
3. Influence moves mountains
Influence can work in very many ways. We can boycott– like Childish Gambino did, to protest his belief that rap artists had been snubbed year after year in the big categories. We can quit close to the finish line and make a big statement like Ariana Grande did because she was upset that the producers didn’t give her creative license on what she wanted to perform. Or we can take the opportunity to promote a cause, like Lady Gaga did, or be a role model, like Michelle Obama was.
As leaders we influence our teams, clients, family and community in so many different ways. Do we influence with love and empathy? With vulnerability and strength? This is true influence—the rest is manipulation. As leaders, we must understand that our actions are always being seen, talked about, and emulated. Lead with kindness, thoughtfulness, vulnerability and integrity and you will have lasting influence.
4. Your dress doesn’t matter, who you are sharing the experience with does
Text Message received at 12:26pm on Tuesday January 22: “Hypothetically speaking, if I had two tickets to the Grammys – would you be able to come with me?” My response: 12:26:02 pm “Uhmmmm…. YES!!!!!!” My friend had invited me to the Grammys. Immediately after this text message we started frantically discussing what we were going to wear. The fanciest thing I have in my closet are jeans from Lucky Brand, so I was going to have to get some help from Rent The Runway. The anxiety of what to wear ran high. But I finally decided on a jumpsuit that looked amazing on the model, and secretly prayed that came with the model’s body.
Cut to the night of the Grammys. We get glammed up, we take a few pictures, we get photobombed by a Korean star who was being chased by paparazzi, and we are off. At the Staples Center, I’m admiring everyone’s outfits. We had put SO much time into what to wear that it was going to matter, right? Someone was going to say SOMETHING about it. No one even looked our way. But it didn’t matter. What really mattered was what we experienced during those 2.5 hours. I could have gone in my Lucky Jeans and nothing would have changed.
It’s the same in business. It doesn’t matter how many accolades, awards, prizes, or media mentions we get. What matters is the experience we give you once you are part of our tribe, whether you are a client, an employee or a friend. I often hear and have said myself that “appearance is reality.” I do think that is true in part, because we all create stories about ourselves and each other, but we have to be careful not to drink our own Kool Aid. What matters is not what others think of us, or what we “look” like to the outside world, but how you show up for others and the experience you provide as a business owner to your team, your clients, and your community