People Are Not Functions


February 12, 2015

If you go to a convention and don’t break through the impersonal function, can you really work with someone successfully or are you limiting your success?
functionI recently purchased an Amazon Fire TV stick and was having quite a bit of fun finding old movies to watch.  You see, my kids are still young so there was a ten year stretch where all I did was watch Disney movies.  Now, I’m catching up on that time I missed.  I am a huge Kevin Spacey fan, so I started with The Big Kahuna near the top of my list.  First, if you haven’t watched it, I can share that I only made it through the first 18 minutes, give or take, of the movie.  Even with Spacey anchoring the line up, it was not something I could sit through.  There were a few good nuggets though and one I’d like to share with you.
The movie starts in a motel where Spacey and two other men are preparing for a convention/ meeting/ event in their “suite” that really is not all that sweet.  Spacey’s character makes a comment about the impersonality of conventions and says, “People are functions, not individuals.”
Really.  What?
It hit me like lightning that this is mostly true.  It’s true at work and it’s true in the extended workplaces of conventions and conferences.  But not for me.  All the events I’ve been to I make a point to be myself.  It’s the only way to really connect with fellow attendees and build relationships that go beyond the superficial.  I don’t want to be known as a function.  But, what if you are known as a function?  “Oh, that’s Jane.  She’s just the 2nd shift manager of the  packaging department.”  Sounds pretty cold if you ask me.
What do you do if you’re in that predicament?
There are a few ways to set yourself apart and it all revolves around actively branding yourself.  My friend Jason Seiden said it best years ago when he coined the term “profersonal”….there is no personal brand and professional brand.  It’s all blended together now and the faster your recognize this and promote this, the better off you’ll be.  Steps to take are:
  • Don’t fall into the jargon trap. Don’t use the terms personal brand and professional brand.  If you are, stop.
  • Be yourself.  Be professional.  Be approachable.  Be trustworthy.  If you do those four things consistently, everything else falls into place.
  • Be someone that people want to work with at all costs.  Be the person that everyone speaks highly of and recommends you as someone that all their connections must connect with.
  • Never define yourself by a job title.  Do what you do best and a good employer will design the job around you and value your contribution.  A great example of this was one I learned at PricewaterhouseCoopers early in my career.  Like all employers, there were job titles and openings for specific positions.  However, once in awhile we came across a person who was so special that we had to have them even though we didn’t have a job open. We hired those people anyway and most were successful.
So, if you’ve learned nothing else today, don’t let anyone else define you.  Oh, and don’t watch The Big Kahuna.  You’re welcome.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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