Oscar Pistorius Forges New Workplace Culture [video]

Describe the culture of your workplace.

Can you even?

It’s not  easy to pinpoint, since workplace culture typically comprises unconscious assumptions shared by the people involved.

Not easy, unless you’re sportswriter Michael Sokolove, who recently wrote about Oscar Pistorius, the top-ranked 400-meter runner and 2012 London Olympics hopeful.

Pistorius runs with extraordinary athletic ability, and uses prostheses called Flex-Foot Cheetas because he was born without the fibula bone in either of his legs.  Sokolove wrote in The New York Times Magazine about the ways Pistorius is forging a new culture on the track field, and more generally in competitive athletics.  Sokolove talked to a colleague about his experience following Pistorius. In the interview, he says:

In my mind, there is an image of an Olympic-level runner. He is a human thoroughbred, powerful and graceful, like Michael Johnson, the world-record holder in the 400 meters. Oscar is certainly powerful, and graceful in his own way, but I could not look at him and say: this is the highest order of the human form. You can’t. There’s something missing. So I had to adjust my mind and say: this is also a runner, possibly an Olympian, and regard him on his own terms.

Sokolove speaks for so many when he describes this mental image of an Olympic runner, which is laden with assumptions about gender, physical looks, age, as well as ability. These are some of the intangible components of the culture of competitive sports, which Pistorius continues to challenge.

How? Read more

David Hockney Revealed

Many artists can school the world on how to love, and how to work. Just recently at the Brooklyn Museum we came upon an eye-opening example of how to bring your whole self to work by English painter David Hockney.

In the exhibit HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, we saw Hockney’s painting Adhesiveness, 1960, and learned that he actively integrated his sexual identity into his work.

David C. Ward, co-curator of “Hide/Seek” and historian at the National Portrait Gallery, spoke in a video about how Hockney has engaged his whole self in his work, and the corresponding description says it best:

Even though homosexuality was illegal in England until 1967, David Hockney presented his homosexuality directly, as integral to his art. While his paintings from the early 1960s did use coded references-to lovers and other gay references-the overriding avowal of male desire made these paintings a commentary on England’s proscriptions. And Hockney openly stated his intent to propagandize “for something that hadn’t been propagandized: homosexuality. I felt it should be done.”

Bravo Mr. Hockney! We’ve always loved your paintings, especially those depicting fantasy and reality in Southern California.

Learning that Hockney brings his whole self to work means there’s now even more about him to love.

What parts of you are integral to your work?

Image of BMW 850 CSi, 1995 detail via

Come Out at Work: With a Stutter

What do Samuel L. Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, Tiger Woods, Winston Churchill and Aristotle have in common?

They’ve all stuttered.

So the subject in the following scenario is in good company:

Tyrone is an analyst in an investment bank, where he meets with healthcare organizations to pitch strategic advisory services. He’s well-liked, produces well-organized pitch books, and when it comes time to present to his clients, he gets anxious and stutters.

Tyrone decided to meet with an executive coach to work through his stutter on the job.  He related that the prospect of stuttering makes him anxious, and his anxiety causes him to stutter, so he gets caught in a frustrating loop of anxiety and stuttering. Lately he’s kept quiet during client meetings, a less than satisfactory resolution.

What can Tyrone do?

Because we’re advocates of revealing your whole self at work, we encourage Tyrone to come out and speak to his stutter. For example, when beginning his presentation, he may find comfort by simply saying, “Just so you know, sometimes I stutter. Thank you for your patience with me.”

Acknowledging what people may already know could help everybody focus on the content of his words, rather than how he’s saying them. And the relief Tyrone would subsequently feel may prevent further stuttering.

Ultimately, demonstrating comfort in his own skin will increase his confidence, which in turn may help sell the services he’s working so hard to pitch.

Coming up: Career advancement, meet Tyrone.

Image of Tiger Woods via

The President Does This, So Can You

Everybody has experience with it, yet few will admit it. One of those rare individuals who openly acknowledges his behavior is President Barack Obama.

We’re talking about making mistakes.

A Daily News story about the president’s recent interview with Barbara Walters reports:

A candid Obama reflected on the first three years of administration and freely admitted he has made mistakes.

“Oh, I think probably once a day, I look back and I say, ‘You know, I could have done that a little bit better,’” Obama told ABC’s Barbara Walters.

Making mistakes once a day sounds kind of frequent, no? But then if you consider the number of minutes in a day, it doesn’t sound so bad. To be sure, it takes an exceptional leader to expose his vulnerabilities so freely; he disarms his critics by unabashedly highlighting his errors.

Should you admit your mistakes at work, too?

Yes, if you want to build strong relationships.  And who doesn’t? Think about what you demonstrate when you acknowledge your imperfections. For example, you show:

  • an ability to self-reflect
  • that you’re trustworthy
  • you can forgive yourself, and by extension, are likely to forgive others
  • strength in the certainty that your mistakes won’t kill you
  • that you can find relief, and peace of mind.

So come out at work as someone who makes mistakes. By showcasing all these positive attributes, you’re likely to draw numerous people to you.

Even if you’re not the POTUS seeking re-election, you can enjoy the many benefits of saying you’re wrong.

Image via

Let Out Your Inner Geek [video]

What were you interested in when you were 12? And do you incorporate it into your work today?

Maybe you should.

Our newest favorite scientist, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, loved looking through telescopes at the age of 12. Now age 53, he hasn’t stopped yet.

Spotlighted by Carl Zimmer recently in Playboy magazine, the director of the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History started out with a 2.4-inch refractor with three eyepieces and a solar projection screen. Writes Zimmer:

Tyson would run an extension cord across [his Bronx apartment building]’s two-acre roof into a friend’s apartment window. Fairly often, someone would call the police. He charmed the cops with the rings of Saturn.

His shenanigans were not without purpose. Three years later he would give his first hour-long lecture to fifty adults, fulfilling his wish to talk to people about the beauty of the universe.

We can really feel his passion for studying the cosmos. In fact he once said, “For me, talking about the universe was like breathing.”

Read more

Come Out at Work: With Your Biggest Insecurity [video]

Picture it: your biggest insecurity hides in the closet, sitting comfortably out of view. You prefer it this way, yet secretly you wonder what it would feel like if the world knew your inner pain. Then one day, BAM, you let it out at work.

This is exactly what Cassandra Bankson did recently, on the Internet, no less. The self-described model and YouTube guru produced a video in which she appears without makeup; points out the acne on her face, neck, chest and back; then completes her morning makeup routine on screen. The before and after shots are pretty incredible, demonstrating the power of creatively applied foundation.

“Well, showing off comes easy to a model,” we thought. And we were wrong. Bankson acknowledges at the beginning of the video:

Taking my makeup off is one of the most insecure things I could probably do.

Then once it’s all off, she confides, “I feel really disgusting,” and our hearts break for her!

Why does she do it?

We can see many reasons. One, the bulk of what she broadcasts on YouTube is make-up instructional videos, so by coming out she educates the public on how to use makeup to manage acne. Two, by coming forth with something as personal as blemished skin and the insecure feelings it brings, Bankson opens up her inner world, which attracts viewership. And three, in terms of business, the more exposure she has as a model, the more potential for modeling contracts.

About 4 million views (and counting) later, an appearance on Good Morning America, and increased confidence to continue revealing herself without makeup, she seems to be doing better than ever.

You, too, can benefit from revealing your biggest insecurity at work. Drawing people to you helps your professional development, since relationships are resources. And the more resources you have, the better off you are.

As with revealing any part of your inner life, it takes a lot of strength to come out with your biggest insecurity. Going by the looks of things, it’s worth it.

Watch Cassandra Bankson’s reveal below:

Image via

Top 10 Tips for Switching Careers [video]

You know these techniques have to do with revealing your whole self at work, the question is:  how?

We look to the career path of Dr. Eric Lander, founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, a genetics research center established to help scientists work collaboratively, and whose mission includes discovering the molecular basis of major human diseases. He started out as a math genius, and–good for him–wanted more.

Recently highlighted in the New York Times, Dr. Lander’s work history can serve as a guide on how to find more fulfillment by switching your career track. From his story we gather these top 10 tips for switching careers:

1. Disrespect convention. If you’re working to transform something — be it a whole discipline, or your individual career — traditional norms may get in your way. Dr. Lander relates why the Broad Institute is interdisciplinary at its core:

We used to have these boundaries of the chemistry department in the chemistry building, and the biology department in the biology building, the math department, the computer science department. Young scientists today… have no respect for these boundaries, and they shouldn’t. They just munge it together… people are now exploring the fusion cuisine that comes out across all these different disciplines.

2. Leverage your frustrations. Author Gina Kolata writes:

“I began to appreciate that the career of mathematics is rather monastic,” Dr. Lander said. “Even though mathematics was beautiful and I loved it, I wasn’t a very good monk.” He craved a more social environment, more interactions.

3. Identify all your talents, then use them.

“I found an old professor of mine and said, ‘What can I do that makes some use of my talents?’ ” He ended up at Harvard Business School, teaching managerial economics.

4. Embrace your naivete. So many of us try to hide our inexperience; Lander knows better:

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