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8 Ways To Bring Your Creative Passions to Work

8 Ways To Bring Your Creative Passions to Work

    A “creative” person I worked with at a “trucking company” developed a reputation as frustrated  and bitter over her 30-year career. At her retirement, I inquired about her plans, particularly since she was relatively young. Asking if she hoped to create more art since she was now freed from cranking out corporate brochures, she told me, “No.” Instead, she was going to work at a garden center, since she loved plants and being outdoors.

    While her answer was startling, the next time I saw her confirmed the impact this life change made. She was barely recognizable! Her long white hair was cut short and stylishly, she was tanned, and had a huge smile you couldn’t wipe off her face.  All this, a result of finally expressing her creativity as she truly enjoyed.

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    Makes you wonder why, if your creative passions involved the outdoors and plants, you’d sit in a cube for 30 years working on sales collateral while your bitterness festered? Maybe she felt stuck because she didn’t think a garden center job would pay enough. Yet surely, there were other alternatives.

    Many people find themselves in similar situations. You have creative pursuits you enjoy OUTSIDE work, but can’t imagine incorporating them into your day job to make it more enjoyable. If you feel that’s your situation, it doesn’t have to be. Using my “graphic artist in a decidedly non-creative trucking company friend” (let’s call her Betty) as an example, here are 8 ways to incorporate your creative passions into your job:

    1. Don’t complain about your situation. Start figuring out how to adapt it.

    Betty was all about complaining, which stopped people from wanting to work with her in new, creative ways. Instead of griping, invest your energy in thinking strategically about how you could adapt your work to be more creative. What co-workers, customers, situations, projects, programs, products, and critical business needs might be waiting to incorporate the creative skills you’re truly passionate about using?

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    2. Map out how your interests could tie to your job.

    Step back to generalize and innovate on how your creative passion could connect to your current company’s business. This will start creating potential hooks you can use to attach your passion to your job. In Betty’s case, working with plants at a garden center could be generalized to cultivating and growing things, design, customer interaction, outdoor settings, etc. Once you’ve moved from “working in a garden center” to “what happens at a garden center,” you have the seeds (pun intended) to plant in your regular job for new sources of creativity to spring up.

    3. Do some thinking on your own to imagine hidden opportunities.

    After thinking about your outside passion, consider your company and where it might need the same talents, experiences, and results related to your creativity. In the trucking company example, Betty’s list could have included: landscaping around our headquarters, design and planning for field facilities, plants in offices and common areas inside our building, sprucing up corporate meetings and conferences, and employees’ club fund raising projects and events. Any of these (and more) could easily have components tied to gardening and design.

    4. Put your interests into the language of business.

    When trying to introduce creativity, you’ll hit brick walls if you talk in the language of your creative passion. If Betty walked in and announced, “I want to work with flowers here at the trucking company,” her ideas would have been dead on arrival. Instead, consider the language you can use to express your interests. Betty could have used vocabulary related to events and facilities to initiate conversations.

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    5. Find like minded people.

    Ask others about their outside creative interests: “What do you like to do for fun? How do you express yourself creatively?” If the company is of any size and your creative interests are anywhere near the mainstream, you’ll likely discover others who share your passions. Learn what ideas they may have and how they react to your possibilities for bringing your creativity more squarely into the workplace.

    6. Volunteer for smart opportunities even if they’re out of the spotlight.

    Start expending energy to insert yourself into smart opportunities you’ve identified. In Betty’s case, the first stop should have been the company employees’ club since it offered opportunities to help plan a summer get together (being outdoors), coordinate a holiday party (floral design and decoration), sponsor fund raisers (a plant sale), and at one time, send floral arrangements to hospitalized employees (direct interaction w/ florists). While Betty’s is a specific instance, the same concept applies for you. Map out and implement the plan to seize opportunities (even if they’re small ones) and increase your workplace creativity.

    7. Begin doing even more.

    Once you start to get a reputation for contributing successfully in innovative ways, the word will spread, and new opportunities will surface. In our company, we ultimately started sponsoring major events for hundreds of customers – both meetings and NASCAR events. New and enhanced creative approaches were always desirable and could certainly have included floral design as an element. Since no one wanted to work with Betty, however, she was never asked to participate. Being able to realize those first small successes, however, can lead to new opportunities to do even more creatively.

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    8. If it’s not working, don’t stick around and be miserable.

    Betty chose to stay 30 years making herself and those around her miserable. If you try this approach, and for whatever reasons it doesn’t work in your particular company, look for another job rather than fuming. In a similar situation, our neighbor was a nurse who also wanted to work at a garden center. One day, she quit her nursing job and made the switch. The garden center only paid about 1/3 of what nursing did, so after a few years of blissful work at a garden center, she went back into another area of nursing. Not only does she have the memories to sustain her, she still works part-time at the garden place, keeps in touch with friends she made, and always knows she can make the switch again in the future. She’s happy, not miserable, realizing she has options.

    I used these tips in the same not particularly creative company as Betty to uncover ways to introduce my love for art, music, and speaking into my job to make it much more fulfilling. While it wasn’t always exactly how I wanted things to be, it was so much better than never being able to exercise my creative passions. Whether you try just one tip or use them in sequence as a personal success plan, make sure you get started today!

    Image: LastMariner

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    Published on May 18, 2021

    How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

    How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

    We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

    The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

    Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

    Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

    Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

    There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

    Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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    Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

    We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

    Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

    A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

    The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

    Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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    Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

    Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

    Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

    While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

    Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

    These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

    Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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    Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

    Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

    Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

    Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

    Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

    Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

    As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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    This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

    Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

    Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

    These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

    Actions Speak Louder Than Words

    Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

    Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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    Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

    More Tips Improving Listening Skills

    Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

    Reference

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