Otherness – being successful in an environment where you’re different

Granted, as I begin this post, I’m thinking about otherness in terms of one’s professional role, rather than their personal identifiers of ethnicity, culture, gender identify and such.

For many years I’d worked in client relations and community outreach within a large operations-oriented retail organization. Many of us were quite successful, but there were those who were not. One of the main reasons for their unsuccess was an inability to convey their impact to the rest of their team. They were so completely focused on their external client that they neglected their internal organizational relationships.

Lessons learned:
* Speak the language of your organization: If the rest of your team always analyzes P&Ls, sales trends and gross margin, you will further alienate yourself if you consistently relate to the emotionally-based impact stories of your work.

* Determine the motivators for your team. If your team is not supportive of your efforts, you need to assess why. Possibly your predecessor was ineffective. Possibly your team doesn’t understand your work and doesn’t want to say anything that will make them look “stupid.” Possibly your team is overwhelmed in their own work and reticent to take on something additional.

* Help. Referencing back to that last clause, so many of us are overwhelmed these days and simply cannot take on another project. So, consider re-designing your work or re-framing your discussions towards the assistance your work provides to the rest of your team.

* Get a goat. You need an advocate, an evangelist … or a goat on your team. You need someone to bounce ideas off, someone “on the inside” who will express their support of your efforts.

Really, it boils down to this: connect with your internal team just as you connect with your clients, donors and constituents.


  1. So practical and so important! Love your insights and reflections.

  2. I agree. Staying connected yields better results at work.


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