The other day I was walking through Barnes & Noble and I was overwhelmed with the amount of self-help and career advice books that are filling the shelves. Don’t get me wrong, most of us need a little direction from time to time, but so many of these books seem to tell us exactly what we should do to get ahead in business. Which may be all fine and dandy, but if you don’t have the knowledge of how to behave as a confident, successful businessperson, then I fear that a lot of these actions are a bit of a lost cause.
You may be thinking, “But actions and behavior are the same thing, Karen, what on earth are you talking about?” Let me explain.
Those are the verbs in our lives. Walking, eating, networking, putting in face time, giving a proper handshake, these are our actions. While many of them come to us naturally, some actions are things we are told that will help us get ahead in business. They are external and, to an extent, they can help us make career strides, but without an internal force behind them, they are shallow and have little actual meaning. If you don’t have intent behind your actions, sooner or later, someone will pick up on it.
Our behavior is the intent behind our actions and it comes from within. For example, shaking a new client’s hand firmly is something you may have read in a book, but if it’s not coming from the heart, it seems a little calculated. You give someone a firm, enthusiastic handshake when you are genuinely excited to meet them. The action is shaking hands, but the behavior is enthusiasm.
Actions are important, however, when you start behaving like yourself and treating each new situation with a good, professional intention, rather than action specified by someone else, people will respond to your authenticity. Granted, this may not be the fastest way to climb a corporate ladder, but it is a way to succeed in business without changing who you are and that’s really the most important goal anyone can aim to achieve.