Reclaiming What it Means to Be “Professional”

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant*Reprise: I’m winding down to one new post per week between now and Baby Integrated’s arrival in March 2017. Enjoy this repost!*

I recently held a webinar with a new software system that I wasn’t totally comfortable with. It was time to start the webinar, and I could see that people were signed in, so I went ahead and switched it to “live” and started talking. I knew the chat function wasn’t working, but I didn’t know how to fix it, and while normally I like to get confirmation that people can see and hear me, I decided to just move ahead since we were recording.

So, I’m talking, sharing my slides, doing my thing…for about twenty minutes. Twenty minutes, so like, almost half of the time I’ve set aside for this thing.

After this chunk of time, I check back into the editor window, and someone was able to submit a message to let me know that no one could see or hear me. I had been talking to myself and presenting my audience with a black screen for almost half an hour.


I’m pretty sure I dropped some f-bombs…I was sweating…I couldn’t believe this was happening. Finally, I got it working again, and almost everyone who had signed in originally was still there with me, despite it being a total mess.

Once we were back on, I didn’t even pretend to stay “polished.” I don’t usually have such major technical issues, and this one just threw me flat on my ass. I apologized profusely and, interestingly, I felt this amazing wave of relief – I didn’t have to pretend to have it all together for these people, because clearly, they already knew I didn’t.

They were so gracious, and afterward, I was reflecting on how freeing that felt – despite the whole thing being kind of a disaster.

What does it mean to be “professional”?

In my case, I thought it meant making the technology work seamlessly, appearing put together but friendly, and maintaining an air of distanced expertise.

Instead, I probably came across a little bit frazzled, rushed, and 100% human. And that felt really good.

To me, being “professional” simply means having integrity. Integrity looks different for each person, but it’s essentially an alignment between your inner and outer selves. The formal definition of integrity is all about morals and virtue and whatnot, but that feels too cloudy to me.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantI think my definition of integrity is simpler: does your outer persona reflect who you really are inside?

Even if that inner and outer matching means that you swear a lot, cry easily, express anger, need rest, take time to process, or make crass jokes, if that’s what it means to be in integrity for you, then I think that counts as being “professional.”

I’m on LinkedIn a lot (p.s., let’s connect)and lately I’ve been seeing comments from people who seem to have taken on the role of “LinkedIn Professionalism Monitor.” They’ll comment on more personal-ish posts that people share and say stuff like “Please leave this kind of post for Facebook” or “This is unprofessional clutter – doesn’t belong here” as if it’s up to them to determine what’s professional enough to post on there.

You know what happens when we enforce silly rules about what it means to be professional and shame others who don’t fit into that mold? We all end up looking/acting/talking/behaving in the same way, which is exceptionally boring and dangerously intolerant.

I would much rather encounter people who are genuine, honest, and authentic across their lives than work with people who are trying to fit into – and force others to fit into – some stuffy, bullshit way of being at work.

And what about you, dear one?

Are you essentially the same person at work, home, and in-between? Are you feeling pressure to act a certain way or fit into a suit that doesn’t work for you?

If so, what can you slough off that isn’t yours? What’s not you? Get rid of it.

Add in the messiness, the color, the complexity that’s missing. You’ll feel better, and you’ll give others the permission to reclaim “professional” for themselves, too.

Feel like debriefing this or discussing other creative ways to be more you at work? Join our Facebook group, A Wild New Work!


I’m Taking Space to Re-invigorate

Hi lovely readers,

I wanted to let you know that I’ll be taking some time away from writing between now and December 27th to do two things: 1) rest and enjoy the season, and 2) think about how to re-invigorate The Integrated Workplace.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been writing two blog posts per week for over a year now, and to be honest, I’m feeling a bit tired. I also wonder how you’re feeling and am thinking about how I can tweak the format, rhythm, and flow in a way that re-energizes things for all of us.

So, I will most definitely be back, I’m just not sure in what exact form 🙂 My guess is that I’ll mix the writing up with content in other mediums, but stay tuned!

If you’re feeling a little worn down in an area of your work, this is the perfect time of year to take some space from it so that you can see it in a new light. Once you give yourself permission to look at things anew and make them work for you, the gifts flow much more easily.

You *might* hear from me on the Winter Solstice if I’m feeling inspired, but otherwise, keep an eye out for a post from me on Tuesday, December 27th!

I’ll still be active in our Facebook community, A Wild New Work, and you’re welcome to join me there!

Take good care of yourselves in this dark time before the sun starts to return next week!



Are You Awake at Work?

megan leatherman career coach and hr consultantMany of us, even though we’re working with a lot of intensity, are metaphorically asleep at work. Very rarely do we get present during our days and wake up to what it feels like to be us in this career, right here, right now.

It’s not that we don’t think about our work enough, it’s that the nature of our thoughts often keep us stuck in the future or past. The hardest part seems to be waking up to what’s right in front of us in this moment.

I recently finished a book by the renowned meditation guru Sharon Salzberg called Real Happiness at Work. It’s all about how helpful mindfulness can be in our workplaces and throughout our careers. It’s radically simple, and helps make clearer the path toward greater ease and fulfillment in our work.

I would definitely recommend it if you’re looking for some practical ways to apply the concepts of mindfulness to your professional life. I’ll also be using and reworking some of the concepts into my own practice and trainings (see below), so you can benefit from the book in that way as well!

To help get you started in one small way today, I want to offer a take on one of the practices Salzberg includes in her book:

  1. Choose a “mindfulness stimulus” – something small that you do multiple times a day, such as walking through a doorway, picking up a phone, or getting a glass of water.
  2. Each time you encounter that stimulus, do a quick body scan: from your head to your toe, where is there tension? Imagine gently loosening any tension in your neck, shoulders, back, gut – wherever it is for you.
  3. At the same time, ask yourself: Am I living fully present and awake in this moment? If you’re worrying about something in the past or the future, simply bring your attention to your body.

photo-1443310759214-c6437ad58844This practice can happen in just a matter of milliseconds – I know you can’t walk through every doorway doing a 5-minute body scan 🙂 The point is to simply start training your brain to be mindful, to pay attention to where and how you are in this present moment.

When we can cultivate presence in our lives, there’s room for clarity to come through, whether it’s about small situations at work or how to go through a major career transition.

Mindfulness also helps us wake up to the beauty all around us – that of our own souls, those around us, and our environments. As Salzberg writes, “The spaciousness of mind and greater ease of heart that naturally arise through concentration, mindfulness, and compassion are fundamental components of an open and renewed spirit.”

I hope today you’ll practice being here, now, and play with what you see as a result.

Work Life Harmony Class Imagepsst: there’s still time to register for my upcoming class, Work Life Harmony for the Modern Professional!