‘Humans. In Business’ was a 1 year project from April 2016 – April 2017.
It was an experiment to discover what happens when a leader intentionally presents themselves from a human perspective through a weekly posting of a Hero Shot & Story. Can you be personal in business and still taken seriously professionally? Sounds potentially risky.
The project phase has now ended and I’m now working out where to next. You can check out the stories and their impact on the Facebook page.
“When we planted the trees along the driveway I was six months pregnant with my first child, Nick. As they grow, so does he.”
There are individuals in business who work hard to make a difference with their knowledge, expertise, blood, sweat and tears.
In The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell – the protagonist – this could be you – starts off as a regular person with the soul’s calling to greatness. S/he takes the idea into the unknown, charts the difficult territory, survives the trials and tribulations and ultimately returns home transformed, shares the wins with the community and thus becomes the hero.
“I’m sitting in a happy place now. I had a fair share of stress last year. They were dangerous levels of stress from September to Christmas. It was really trying for both the business and personal life as well. I suffered from anxiety. 85% of it was coming from the stress from work. The busy-ness and carrying too much responsibility – I couldn’t switch my brain off of an evening and it had a butterfly effect through other areas at home. The way I was relating with my family, how I was sleeping … it’s the opposite to how you want it to happen. It’s a balancing act because you want to grow your business and make more money.”
Connecting and leading
You’re a business owner, you solve problems for your clients.
If you’re a business leader you come with a message for contribution and change, and your business is the vehicle for that.
Aristotle, who lived almost 2500 years ago and whose books are still available today (now there’s influence on an epic scale!), teaches that to successfully influence as a leader requires an equal balance of:
- Logos – your facts and figures
- Ethos – your personal credibility
- Pathos – your emotional connection
How do you fare on pathos?
Business leaders tend to overlook this, thinking ‘oh that’s too personal’ or ‘why would anyone care about that’.
At the same time they wonder if there was something they could do to amplify their impact…
“My Dad had a vegetable garden. We had a milking cow so we had warm fresh milk that we would pour from a Corningware jug every morning. Also chickens and fresh eggs. We had pigs, so we had meat that came off the property. In hindsight I now realise how special that was, but I didn’t know it then. Kids today often don’t know that beef comes from cows. I appreciated real food, where it came from and how it should really taste and be without additives and plastic wrapping. You know, like grrrr! Food’s not meant to be like that.“
Hero Shot & Story
On the one hand to be seen as professional means a ‘head shot’ – this often involves an awkward pose and an stiff smile which doesn’t accurately reflect the real person.
On the other hand, you’re human, with soul, a genuine intention to help others, a back story, passion, years of trial and error behind you, lessons learnt.
The human stuff is your pathos. It’s the juice that people can connect with because they can relate to it.
Why don’t we ever see that story? Because it’s ‘not professional’?…
I’m here to explore how you, a human in business, can create connection through your Hero Shot & Story, and to challenge the perception that if you are being personal in business, then you aren’t being professional.
“My philosophy is to make every single interaction that I have with other human beings meaningful. This is regardless of whether I am in a café with an old friend, chatting to a stranger in an Uber or on a Skype call with a client. In a highly complicated world where there are so many demands and so much pressure, I think we tend to focus inwards, internalizing the distraction and missing the opportunity for real connection.”
[20,000 organic Facebook views]
Inspired by the Humans of New York by photographer Brandon Stanton, Humans. In business shines a light on the greatness of leaders within the business community in Australia.
On Facebook one Hero Shot & Story is chosen to be shared each weekly.
What this isn’t – a head shot in a studio with your bio.
What this is – you, captured in your natural habitat, that shows your personality and records your story.
“I see my children exploring the world and I notice the questions that come up for them, particularly with my daughter, Chloe, she’s seven. She was with her Grandpa one day watching the golf, and really enjoyed it but asked, ‘why are there only men playing golf?’. This kind of question comes up a lot. Chloe questions everything, and holds me to account. She’s a smart kid and she doesn’t let me off the hook easily. She’s kind of right not to!”
How your story is found
We often can’t see our own story, but it can be seen by someone else.
There are no advance questions to send you.
Instead, I’ll lead our conversation with something like, ‘so what’s been happening?’, or, ‘tell me about the time when…’.
You’ll say something…I’ll hear more…I’ll dig deeper…you’ll give me more…I’m looking for the juice…I’ll type as we talk and capture what you say and how you say it word for word – even swear words are kept in!
Then later, I’ll craft your personal story and lesson from our conversation. The final written piece is a reflection of your inner thoughts, feelings, beliefs and experiences. It weaves from one point to the next.
Just like a stream of consciousness, it’s not necessarily linear so it doesn’t follow typical or traditional editing methods.
The intention is for it to read like an intimate conversation from you directly to the reader.
More on how I’ll converse with you, the human, is here.
Robert Lee Davis
“I’m Robert. I’ve been to New York City and lived in London but Melbourne is home. Here is softer. It’s easier to have longer conversations without feeling rushed. Maybe it’s the whole idea of a coffee shop, you sit, you talk, you sip. It’s similar to the tea culture in China. The waiter comes and fills up your cup higher. It’s all built on relationships which is why I lived there for 10 years.”
Why would you do it?
Human curiosity is life’s fertiliser for growth and change.
People are natural sticky beaks into the lives of others. We love to know there is someone out there just like us, with similar shared experiences of trial and triumph. Humans are also hard-wired for stories. Stories are the connecting device that form communities, cultures and relationships.
Your personal story enables a connection which gives the reader a deeper reason as to why they would choose to do business with you. Here is an opportunity to satisfy their curiosity and help you build your tribe.
In this project phase, it’s a no-risk opportunity to put yourself out there, see how it resonates with your community on Facebook, and (hopefully) relax and open up a little to the idea that you know what, they do want to know, and doing this doesn’t mean you have a big ego.
And, hey what an opportunity to be a part of changing the status quo on what it actually means in modern times to be perceived as professional in business!
“One of my biggest ‘aha’ moments was when I was working for Vodafone in the early 2000’s. I used to be in sales. My job was to kick the doors in to the other departments to get them to give up resources so sales could meet its targets. I was chief head kicker but also one of the first to do ‘tools down’ to help people. As a part of an internal MBA program 11 other folk and I did a 360-degree review where everybody – boss, peers and subordinates – answered the same set of questions about us. The answers were analysed. How I saw myself and how others saw me was completely different. I was devastated. I felt like I should go home and have a warm bath with razor blades…”
How it works
1. We have a preliminary phone call to plan logistics.
2. Please ‘friend’ me, Beth Jennings and ‘like’ Humans. In business.
3. On the day wear what feels comfortable and right for you.
4. We’ll have a 60-90 mins conversation.
5. I’ll type as we talk (it’s not recorded).
6. We’ll take about 20-30 mins to create your Hero Shot.
7. We’ll decide together in-camera on ‘the one’.
8. You’ll be asked to sign a basic model release form on the day.
9. Your Story draft will be emailed to you a few days later.
10. You can make minor adjustments once to the written piece.
11. Your Hero Shot & Story is posted to HIB on a Wednesday afternoon.
12. The end of the post includes your best URL, #hib and a #takeaway insight/lesson for the reader.
13. Share your post and reply to comments one by one.
“I’ve seen the devastation that has been wreaked on investors just like me who have been led down the garden path. It can ruin people financially. All of this contributed to my becoming passionate about buyer advocacy in the property industry, and ultimately inspired me to start my business.”
What happens once your story is live on Facebook
Please share the post once live and tag the page and me, Beth Jennings.
Within the first 24 hours of posting 2000-3000 people are typically reached, depending on your pre-existing community engagement and provided you nurture the conversation.
Observe What is your community’s response to your story? Ask questions, reply to comments one by one and ask them to share it on. You may find that your Hero Shot & Story passes the test as a valuable piece of business marketing.
Testimonial You’ll be asked for a brief testimonial on your experience of being photographed, sharing your story, or the impact, to help others deciding on whether to get their Hero Shot & Story done.
Nomination You’ll be asked to nominate someone who you think would benefit from the experience and value the resulting product.
“I don’t believe people are broken, they just feel broken. Rather than just give them a tube of superglue and fix it, I say how about we go in and look at what you want this masterpiece to be. It’s like a diamond or the Statue of David.”
The project phase is now complete, but, if you would like to create yours, the fee is $1495 for your Hero Shot & Story.
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0450 692 599 and let’s chat further.
“I make the choices now. A very big word for me when I left the corporate world was choice. To sit here like this – two years ago I would have taken an annual leave day or said I would work from home. Just prior to leaving my corporate job I went to Boston to do a program at the Harvard Kennedy School called the Art and Practice of Leadership Development. I learned from Marty Linsky, he’s my leadership superhero.”
What they say
“I don’t like being in front of the camera, particularly when I am the subject matter. Beth put the idea to me and I accepted, simply because I know Beth’s work and I love the ‘candid’ she captures in her photos. To read back my story in Beth’s words was uplifting and enlightening. I know my own message, my story and my passion – for Beth to also see that through my conversation with her reinforced that my message is getting through. Seeing the response on Humans. In business was humbling. It’s one thing for my ideas to make sense to me – it’s another thing for that message to resonate and connect with so many others. I loved working with Beth – she put me at ease and made the process painless. The end result certainly exceeded expectations and I look forward to seeing more of her work, knowing it’s making a significant difference personally and professionally to others.”
“I was really interested to see how people would react to my story, but as soon as it went up people were liking and commenting like crazy. I was amazed at how many people said they loved hearing my story. I was amazed because I thought they knew or it had come up before. I guess I sometimes assume that I have told people things about myself already. It was a bit of a prompt to remember to share more about myself with the people I care about.”
“Beth Jennings is a photographer who manages to capture more than just the subject in front of her. She turns observation into an art form by managing to find something interesting in the ordinary. Photography for Beth is more about feeling than looking, and because of that compassion, she gets others to feel when they look at her pictures. I was a bit hesitant about putting the story of my life out there, but Beth is also a wordsmith – she cleverly constructed my story for Humans. In business in a way that put me at ease, but also makes compelling reading.”
“As a small business owner one wants to come across as professional, at ease, in control and we’d really like ‘to have it all together’. Well the day before Beth came to my home-office I called her up letting her know that I’d been unwell and unsure whether I was up for our interview. Beth did arrive as arranged – over a coffee and some healthy treats Beth kept the conversation going in a very relaxed manner and drew out things that I wouldn’t normally speak of in a business context. I found it to be quite refreshing to simply talk about what came up ‘in the moment’ – and then to “observe the responses, and in turn my responses to the responses” to the post as Beth put it. It seems some people resonated with the post and said they felt the same way. Some said they were inspired and felt the message to be powerful, honest, open and vulnerable. It was surprising and the support and heartfelt support felt pretty special. I found this whole process to be quite therapeutic – almost without knowing it I was being coached – Beth seems to have that Magic! There are times whether personally or in business that we are challenged and the directions can sometimes be blurred and that ‘We may not have it all together’ – but when collaborating and sharing with many business owners such as Beth I’d say ‘Together we have it all’. Thanks Beth for your inspiring work and things you are able to capture. The things we can’t see and that really matter.”
“It was such fun being interviewed and photographed by Beth. Her questions are deep and insightful and they really challenged me to dig deep. I never used to like having my photograph taken before working with Beth.
I never really felt that my essence was captured. With Beth, you always know the result is going to be fabulous.”
“There are so many voices out there in the world… and many steer you away from your own voice, your own individuality. Beth Jennings is unique, her passion for your story, which is truly inspiring, the time and effort that only a true artist can write. Thank you so much your passion in capturing our stories. Your post created a lot of interest and generated many queries for my business. Thank you so much Beth!”
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