Prince: The Consummate Professional

Prince at the Metropolis, 2011,

The world is still reeling from the shocking news of the death of music icon Prince. Friends, family and fans continue to honor and pay tribute to his accomplished life.

In the summer of 1984, my husband and I saw the movie Purple Rain, starring Prince as the lead character, and showcasing his music. The moment his image and sound hit the screen, I was hooked. I became a bona fide fan of his music and unique style.

We testify when a legend like Prince passes this earth. Here’s what Prince taught me about professionalism:

Authenticity. Prince was a one-of-a-kind performer and human being. Despite his small stature, his on-stage persona loomed larger than life. He combined a unique look – with a touch of flamboyance and androgyny – and sound – crossing over genres of pop, rock and roll, funk, R&B and new wave – to create a memorable presence and brand. He was an original. Professionals who know who they are and who don’t imitate others are those who capture our attention, admiration, and loyalty.

Best self. In his journey of self-expression, the Grammy-winning artist took many risks. He was unpredictable, pushing the limits. Whether it was a new release or a live performance, he held himself to high standards. Billboard Magazine claimed Prince’s performance at the 2007 Superbowl as the greatest Superbowl performance ever. Does your “best self” show up every day?

Inclusive. Prince’s band composition reflected inclusion, crossing racial, gender and sexual preference boundaries. He often highlighted the talents of female band members. This happened at a time when America needed unification. How often do you support, mentor or coach others, or even include others, and showcase their talents?

Give unconditionally. Prince gave his music to other artists to perform. In 2007, he shocked music moguls when he shared his album, Planet Earth, first with the United Kingdom public for free. How much do you give of yourself, unconditionally, expecting little or nothing in return?

Invention/reinvention. One of the music industry’s most prolific writers, Prince pushed the boundaries throughout his career, producing about 40 albums, and selling more than 100 million records. Fans remember the years 1993-2000 when he proclaimed himself to be “the artist formerly known as Prince,” using a symbol rather than his name. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we too can be more creative, that we can reinvent ourselves.

Generosity. While he didn’t discuss it publicly, Prince was known for his kindness and generosity, supporting issues he deeply cared about, like the environment, peace, human rights, and equality. As professionals, we have the opportunity to pay it forward and share the wealth in our communities and around the world. How generous are you?

Inspirational. As professionals, we sometimes have to look outside ourselves for inspiration or motivation to become the people we want to be. Prince inspired us to break out of our complacency and try something new or different, whether in our professional or personal lives. How are your actions inspiring others?

Many tributes have been written, spoken, created, or posted. Here are two of my favorites:

CBS Sunday Morning commentator Bill Flanagan delivered an eloquent salute, Prince: An Appreciation, referring to the artist as a “one-man Rainbow Coalition.”

Canadian DJ Skratch Bastid (Paul Murphy) spins a short tribute to Prince.

Prince’s music will live on in our hearts. He will remain forever young. He will remind us every day to push our own boundaries as professionals.

How to Work Your LinkedIn Network

linkedin-logoPart One in a series.

LinkedIn remains the preferred social network of business professionals around the globe, with more than 400 million users worldwide, and more than 110 million users in the U.S. To get the most out of LinkedIn as a professional, you have to work it.

I remember when I received my first LinkedIn invitation from a longtime friend and colleague more than a decade ago. I was skeptical. I asked, “What is this?” “How does it work?” What I didn’t know or understand at the time when I joined LinkedIn was that it would become the power source for networking with other professionals. Once I got started, I set my goal to connect with 500+ professionals. It was easier than I thought. With focus, the goal became a reality.

The first way to work your LinkedIn network is to: Invest time in reviewing “Who’s Who” in your network by asking four important questions:

  1. What skills do your contacts possess? One of the greatest advantages of LinkedIn is that it allows you to examine the people you are connected to and the types of skills they possess. It helps you to understand if your network is well rounded (diverse skills represented) or lopsided (too many connections in one skill area only).
  2. How well do you know your contacts? It helps to know the people you are connected to. This may sound trite. It’s important to know your LinkedIn connections because they occupy a valuable spot within your network. Occasionally invitations will come from people who you don’t know. Qualify the connection if you need to by sending an email. It’s perfectly fine to vet a request from someone you don’t know. Look to see if you have any connections in common. That will help you to decide whether or not to connect with them.
  3. What’s new with your contacts? Because LinkedIn messaging arrives in your email inbox, it’s easy to track when contacts have changed jobs, added new skills or made an announcement. Visit people’s profiles occasionally to see what’s new.
  4. How are you keeping in touch? Every time you open your LinkedIn account, you will see a series of “congratulations” boxes appear, announcing contacts who are celebrating work anniversaries. You have the option to send a message. It’s a great way to keep in touch. When you review your LinkedIn contacts list, ask yourself how you can keep in touch outside of LinkedIn communication. How often do you see that person face-to-face? Are you sending them your articles or blog posts? Is it time to chat by phone or grab a cup of coffee?

What’s the point of being connected with fellow professionals if you are not truly connected?

Announced this week, LinkedIn now offers a LinkedIn Students app that is compatible with iOS and Android. The app helps new graduates find job matches based on their major, locate companies that usually hire from their college, and learn about career choices of recent graduates with similar degrees. If you have college students in your family, suggest the LinkedIn Students app to them. It could help their job search.

Here’s a quick task for you to complete in the next week: Take just 20 minutes this week to visit two LinkedIn profiles within your network. Continue doing this for the next four weeks. At the end of this brief exercise, ask yourself what you have learned about those contacts in your network. It may provide you with some fresh insights on how you are working your LinkedIn network.

Next week: Part Two.

Volunteerism Provides Lifelong Lessons in Leadership

internal-volunteerism8-734x265“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” Marjorie Moore

Thousands of American companies encourage employees to get involved in their communities by helping local or national nonprofit organizations like United Way, Habitat for Humanity, or the American Red Cross. Through volunteerism, employees learn valuable lessons in leadership, teamwork, communication and stewardship that remain with them throughout their lives. Much more than a resume builder, volunteerism allows individuals to learn and use a variety of skills. In honor of National Volunteer Week, give some thought to how you – and your company – can get more involved in your community.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its Volunteering in the United States, 2015 report, which tracked volunteerism from September, 2014-September, 2015. The report revealed that the greatest concentration of volunteers comes in these three categories: Just 14.6% of volunteers did so with social or community service organizations, compared to 25.2% who volunteered in educational or youth services, and 33.1% who volunteered in religious organizations. That means that community and nonprofit organizations must work harder to attract potential volunteers into the fold.

I began volunteering as a Girl Scout in elementary school and then as a Y-Teen through the local YWCA in high school. Having volunteered and led many organizations in my community throughout my professional career, I have learned that today’s volunteer requires shorter, more realistic tasks. Gone are the days when you could “easily” get people to serve on a committee or task for for one year or more. Today’s volunteer prefers to work on smaller, bite-sized tasks that can be completed remotely and in their spare time (what little they have of it).

The good news to come out of the BLS report is this: In recent years, there has been a slight increase of volunteers aged 65 and over. I attribute this to the high number of active Baby Boomers who have retired in recent years and who are looking to put their skills to work as volunteers.

Unsure of what to volunteer for? Consider online matching organizations like VolunteerMatch. What do you want to learn? What cause can you get involved in? What local organization could use your expertise? The choice is yours. Use your talents and skills to serve a community that needs you.

What volunteer opportunities in the community are being offered by your company that would give you greater responsibility and teach you new skills? 

What other volunteer assignments could you introduce your company to, which would elevate your company’s visibility in the community?

For the USSF, It’s Time to Set the Gold Standard

pure-goldThe U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) has an opportunity to strategically position itself as the professional sports organization that represents the best interests of all players, both male and female. Doing so would totally change the culture of professional sports by treating female athletes fairly and equitably. Today’s definition of the gold standard is simply “the paragon of excellence.” It’s time the USSF put this into practice within its own organization.

Why is the topic of equality met with such disinterest or even disdain when it is one of America’s foundational core values?

Recently, five members of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team filed a federal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to draw attention to the appalling discrepancy in pay between their team and their colleagues of the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team. According to media reports, the USSF’s response to the filing was that it was “an irrational request.”

What is irrational and totally incomprehensible is this: The men’s soccer team earns about double to two-thirds more than female soccer players. Men also can earn up to more than four times what women earn in bonuses. The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team has delivered multiple wins, earning several gold medals, and in fact is the gold standard of Olympians. Read one of my earlier blog posts referencing how the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team serves as a positive role model.

If the soccer boot were on the other foot and men were earning one-half to two-thirds less than women, what do you think male players would do? They would rise up too.

Many, perhaps most, of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team members are the primary earners in their households, some juggling responsibilities with rearing a growing family or assisting aging parents. They have earned the right to make a decent income just as much as men do. Why should they be treated any differently? They work just as hard at playing an exciting game, which attracts television viewers and major sponsors, increases advertising revenue, generates publicity and boosts the human spirit.

This isn’t the first time the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team has gone head to head with the USSF. Similar conversations have been occurring for the past few decades.

It’s time for the USSF to embrace fairness and equity within the sport. The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team is a powerful, well-respected brand. It’s time to acknowledge and reward it.