Years ago, I worked as a trainer for a consulting firm in San francisco. The training team would work closely with the creative team. Once the trainers developed a curriculum, the creative team was in charge of making educational materials, like handouts, powerpoint templates and posters. This including writing, images, color schemes and layouts.
But there was always a noticeable tension between our team and theirs. We - members the training team - were the ones who wrote the curriculum and would ultimately deliver the instruction. And so, we felt a sense of ownership over the materials and never really understood why Creative was always taking so many liberties with our stuff. All we wanted them to do was "make it pretty."
One day, after a heated discussion between the head of our department and theirs, I went back to Creative in search of answers. I wanted to understand why they didn't seem to get it, no matter how many times we explained it to them. I couldn't accept that, just because they were artists, they were totally incapable of practical thought. So, I walked in, sat next to one of the members of Creative and just asked her one question; "Could you explain the thinking behind why you changed the text that I wrote for this particular learning tool?" She didn't even have to think about it. "You're going to use this in the training session, right?" I confirmed. "Yep." And so she continued. "But then, you're going to leave it with them to share with other people, right?" Again, I confirmed. "Yes, that's right." Then she brought it home. "You're going to be there to teach them what it means and how to use it. But you can't be sure they're going to do as good a job as you are. They might not explain it at all. They might just put a stack of these on the breakroom table. So, if somebody picks it up and they get no explanation at all, I want it to tell them all the important things that YOU would have told them in person..." And then she showed me the original and she was so right. "You're brilliant! Thank you."
What did I learn that day? I learned the importance of a name. As long as we thought of them as "CREATIVE," we were going to set our expectations accordingly. But that day, I started to call them the Theme Team. I learned to respect the fact that they were going to make sure every aspect of the message was congruent and consistent with the lessons we were going to teach.
In your own life - personally, professionally, spiritually - people will identify you by commonly accepted names; you're a secretary, you're a mistress, you're a physician, you're an account manager or an emergency medical technician. But the reality of your role and function might be radically different from what your title suggests to most people. Consequently, there can be constant tension between yourself and those you serve because there is a discrepancy between what you ACTUALLY do and what they THINK you do.
What's the solution? Stop using your title to define your work. Instead, tell people the OUTCOMES of your work; I provide hope for the hopeless. I help upwardly mobile African Americans discover their ancestral promise. I guide African American professionals from spiritual materialism to the optimization of their natural gifts and talents.
When you focus on the outcomes, you become a storyteller. Let's use one of my examples above to illustrate further. When I say, "I help upwardly mobile African Americans discover their ancestral promise,' that is a story. It suggests a journey and that journey evokes feelings. When I tell people that is what I do, they want to know more. If I merely said, "I am a counselor," the listener would be more likely to draw her own conclusions, based upon her personal experience with counselors, which may or may not align with what I actually do.
So, in conclusion, it is important to be strategic and precise about how you define yourself and your contribution. Ideally, the description of your work should invite people to become a part of your visionary goal, to help bring about the Good Condition.
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Live the Medicine
Obafemi Origunwa, MA
Thought leader, Ifa priest and author of four definitive books, Obafemi Origunwa inspires metamorphosis through living the medicine that will heal your life and heal the lives of the people you're destined to serve.