WorkWise: Work 'rises to top' with singularity

09/16/2012 7:58 PM

09/16/2012 9:01 PM

Employers, coaches and speakers have long cited self-promotion as the most effective vehicle for standing out. Singularity offers a more viable alternative – the ability to glow continuously.

Dave Astor, author of the laugh-out-loud “Comic and Column Confessional: Finding Myself While Covering Syndicates, Celebrities and a Changing Media World” (Xenos, $27.95), considers “a singular person exceptional, distinctive and out-of-the-ordinary in one or multiple ways – and they don’t have to be famous.” (Full disclosure: Astor briefly mentioned my work in Editor & Publisher, newspaper syndication’s trade journal, and in his book.)

He’s interviewed, published articles about and rubbed shoulders with countless celebrities, beginning with “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz. Astor attributes the singularity of columnists, cartoonists and others to talent, hard work and/or gifted self-promotion, among others.

Bringing corporate perspective, Sara Canaday of Sara Canaday and Assoc. in Austin, Tex., a leadership and career consulting firm, equates singularity with uniqueness and being memorable.

Singular people rank “top-of-mind when there’s a job opportunity or an opportunity for exposure, to (move up) or represent the company at a conference or to be the person the company fights to keep.”

Unlike self-promotion, singularity is always there, working for you.

DEVELOPMENT

How does singularity develop? Astor maintains that it springs from a platform of raw materials, abilities and intelligence.

“Being ambitious helps,” he indicates, “as can connections, luck, looks, charisma. ...”

Not everyone agrees. You need passion for a foundation, according to Noam Kostucki, co-founder of London, England’s Redefine Us, a training and coaching firm.

“When employees are passionate about what they do,” he observes, “their work rises to the top naturally ... and creates an inner crowd, sharing the same passion.” Passion’s power lies in its source, your inner being, making it possible both to stand out and connect with others.

Canaday believes that singularity is developed through relational skills, becoming “collaborative, influential, inspiring and moving. It’s how we bring our skills to the table. We simply must understand our reputations, our impact on others.”

Does working or living around singular people rub off?

Consider the expression that “water seeks its own level.” If that is true, you’d disagree with Astor, who posits, “I might have benefited from a bit of ‘reflected glory’ when my byline was on a piece about a singular person.”

His singular writing and humor don’t require it.

EXPRESSION

Being singular might or might not mean you’ll fit where you are. In organizations the more singular people rise to the top but might not win popularity contests, Kostucki points out. Astor repeatedly refers to niceness in his book.

“Of course, being singular doesn’t always mean also being nice,” he points out, “but it’s refreshing when a singular person is likable!”

While singularity itself might seem timeless, a singular person in our time is agile, according to Canaday, “handling uncertainty and dealing with multiple generations and global partners,” responding to rapid change.

The agility is nowhere more pronounced than in the virtual workplace, where people learn to interact with trust in an atmosphere with ever-diminishing clues about each other.

Is this a branding issue? Canaday thinks so, perhaps because she teaches the skill of communicating a person’s value. Astor wouldn’t seem to agree, because “Comic and Column Confessional” looks at the people and their work, for whom singularity has become a statement of being.

Dr. Mildred L. Culp welcomes your questions at culp@workwise.net. © 2012 Passage Media.

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