I was having a discussion with a friend a while back and he was talking about how his business associates are always a bit taken aback when they learn about his creative pursuits. This friend is a painter, an amazing designer, drawer, photographer, athlete, teacher, mentor, smart-guy, and nice guy. He’s also in the high-powered business world.
We were talking about personas and how we project ourselves into our worlds of work; he mused about if sharing our creative passions was a wise decision.
Paraphrasing what I took away from our conversation:
“I’m in these meetings with these very high-level executives and I share something I designed in the past. And they say things like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know you were an *artist.*’ And it’s almost as if they are praising me and condemning me at the same time. Because now I have also become a *creative* to them and *creatives* don’t usually run the show in business. And I’ve got to continue to run the show with authority and leadership by consensus. You’ve got to be careful who you reveal that *artist* thing to because it can confuse them.”
We were talking about my divorce blog. He was concerned that I was projecting my *emotional* life into my professional life. Even though the blog is anonymous and uses no names or pictures of me or my family, I tweeted a link or two to some of the new posts.
“I follow you,” he said. “And I don’t get to a lot of what you do, but I do listen. And something caught my eye and I clicked on it, and as I was looking around the blog, I thought, THIS IS HIM. And I’m not sure you want that energy in your professional persona.”
He was right. I cleaned up my Twitter stream, deleted the previous posts (I’m sure you can find something if you dig), and took the blog off my tweet stream.
So how far do you reveal your other creative pursuits to your clients? At what point is it okay to reveal your *creative*self to a business associate? Does the *artist* or *musician* label lessen your authority in pure business leadership roles? Can the renaissance man exist in this century? Did Steve Jobs write poetry or play music? Would we have respected him/trusted him less if he did? What’s the norm, what’s comfortable within business relationships, and how far is it safe to be OUT with your non-business ambitions?
In business, you don’t want to be labeled, “That creative guy.” It breaks the context of your business relationship. I have always been on the creative side of the agency. How about you?
John McElhenney — LinkedIn