When you first hear that I have a life-size cut-out of myself, I know what you are thinking.
Is this woman nuts? Who does that? Is she full of herself?
Yes, these are normal questions, but once you understand why I have it and what I use it for, you may find yourself ordering one too!
Almost a decade ago, I was Executive Vice President running the sales division for a radio company with markets across the United States. Part of my job was to travel to the various markets and meet with my teams ensuring they were delivering on goals, remained aligned with company strategy, and focus them on agreed-upon initiatives among various other things. As a single mom, the level of travel that I did was a challenge. I was either traveling every week or occasionally every other week; however, it was never enough. It seemed I was always missing a big event or important employee recognition party or an opportunity to address a large advertiser. My employer was constantly asking me to travel more. I challenged myself to come up with a better plan. Leaving my son each week and flying all around the country could not be the most efficient way to do my job effectively.
That is when I had the idea of creating a life-size cutout of myself. I ordered my first one and fell on the floor laughing. This would absolutely get my team's attention. The cut out would remind them of corporate initiatives as well as it would remind them that they had my support, and they would know that I was there in spirit. The first time I sent one to a market, I immediately got a phone call from the team. I received so many pictures of everyone posing with it, and I also heard that they knew my travel was tough, and they empathized with me. This was a home run. I was able to do something different, get their attention and focus, and they empathized with me. The cutout was a godsend.
I began sending the cutouts to clients that wouldn't meet with me or vendors that did something great as a somewhat face to face thank you. After I was fired in 2017, I began using the cutouts as a way to get myself booked on different TV shows.
You see, one of the biggest challenges we have in this world is getting someone's attention. Everyone is so busy, and while they may mean well when you are out of sight, you are out of mind.
One instance that comes to mind is when I met with the EVP of the Steve Harvey Show. Our meeting went fantastic, and he agreed to have me on as a guest. He let me know that I would hear back from him shortly. I have learned to make multiple touch points to ensure follow up, so I also connected face to face with his assistant. After a month with no communication, I began following up via email and voicemail and nothing. Crickets. I hate crickets. It had been two months, and I hadn't even received a response to my email or phone calls. I was frustrated. I figured I had nothing to lose. I sent the cut out with a note that read:
"Hi! Do you miss me yet? I miss you! Can't wait to see you on the show! I promise I am a lot more fun in person, although this cut out will have to do until you let me know the date you want me back for. Can't wait to see you, and THANK YOU!"
I immediately received an email from the EVP's assistant, letting me know I would be coming on the show as a guest in January. They loved the cutout, and I had found a way to separate myself from the hundreds of other prospective guests. At this moment, the cutout allowed me to stand out. But that is not the only thing I use the cut out for.
If you have seen my new TEDx talk, then you know what I am going to share with you next.
After having been bullied at work when I was back in corporate America, I took it upon myself to launch a personal ad campaign to elicit confidence within myself and stand up to the bully. This was scary, but I felt I had a strong campaign to run, and I believed it would work. You see, I had been in media and advertising for two decades, and I knew the 5 step process to launch a successful ad campaign:
- Identify the ideal platform to run your campaign.
- Choose powerful messaging and run it with frequency because frequency sells.
- Select a song or jingle that will elicit emotion and memory.
- Implement a call to action.
- Choose a visual component to really take the campaign to the next level.
My personal ad campaign to elicit confidence within me was no different.
- I chose my mind as my ideal platform as I spent more time with myself than anywhere else.
- I chose: I am powerful, I am confident, I slay all villains, I choose me – 7 times a day.
- I chose Kendrick Lamar I love myself as my theme song.
- My call to action became: I see fear as a green light that means go and go faster.
- My visual component that I would use would be my confident life-size cutout.
I used my life-size cutout as the image I would look to while I ran my ad campaign.
That cutout represented strength, my unique personality, and confidence.
If you are wondering if my ad campaign worked, I can tell you that it did. I stood up that bully, and I was able to choose me. I hope you run an ad campaign for you to elicit confidence within you. You don't need a life-size cutout. You can use any image that represents confidence and has meaning to you.
However, I highly suggest launching your ad campaign and standing up to your villains. If you want the whole story, check it out here and please share if you want others to know that they too are not alone thank you.
PS: If you haven't watched my TEDx yet, click the link below. I promise it will be worth it.
- The Business of Doing What You Love, and Why it's Imperative ... ›
- This Breast Cancer Survivor Helped Create The Perfect Support Bra ... ›
- How I Approach Self-Love despite Instagram Pressure - Swaay ›
During a recent meeting on Microsoft Teams, I couldn't seem to get a single word out.
When I tried to chime in, I kept getting interrupted. At one point two individuals talked right over me and over each other. When I thought it was finally my turn, someone else parachuted in from out of nowhere. When I raised and waved my hand as if I was in grade school to be called on (yes, I had my camera on) we swiftly moved on to the next topic. And then, completely frustrated, I stayed on mute for the remainder of the meeting. I even momentarily shut off my camera to devour the rest of my heavily bruised, brown banana. (No one needed to see that.)
This wasn't the first time I had struggled to find my voice. Since elementary school, I always preferring the back seat unless the teacher assigned me a seat in the front. In high school, I did piles of extra credit or mini-reports to offset my 0% in class participation. In college, I went into each lecture nauseous and with wasted prayers — wishing and hoping that I wouldn't be cold-called on by the professor.
By the time I got to Corporate America, it was clear that if I wanted to lead, I needed to pull my chair up (and sometimes bring my own), sit right at the table front and center, and ask for others to make space for me. From then on, I found my voice and never stop using it.
But now, all of a sudden, in this forced social experiment of mass remote working, I was having trouble being heard… again. None of the coaching I had given myself and other women on finding your voice seemed to work when my voice was being projected across a conference call and not a conference room.
I couldn't read any body language. I couldn't see if others were about to jump in and I should wait or if it was my time to speak. They couldn't see if I had something to say. For our Microsoft teams setting, you can only see a few faces on your screen, the rest are icons at the bottom of the window with a static picture or even just their name. And, even then, I couldn't see some people simply because they wouldn't turn their cameras on.
If I did get a chance to speak and cracked a funny joke, well, I didn't hear any laughing. Most people were on mute. Or maybe the joke wasn't that funny?
At one point, I could hear some heavy breathing and the unwrapping of (what I could only assume was) a candy bar. I imagined it was a Nestle Crunch Bar as my tummy rumbled in response to the crinkling of unwrapped candy. (There is a right and a wrong time to mute, people.)
At another point, I did see one face nodding at me blankly.
They say that remote working will be good for women. They say it will level the playing field. They say it will be more inclusive. But it won't be for me and others if I don't speak up now.
- Start with turning your camera on and encouraging others to do the same. I was recently in a two-person meeting. My camera was on, but the other person wouldn't turn theirs on. In that case, ten minutes in, I turned my camera off. You can't stare at my fuzzy eyebrows and my pile of laundry in the background if I can't do the same to you. When you have a willing participant, you'd be surprised by how helpful it can be to make actual eye contact with someone, even on a computer (and despite the fuzzy eyebrows).
- Use the chatbox. Enter in your questions. Enter in your comments. Dialogue back and forth. Type in a joke. I did that recently and someone entered back a laughing face — reaffirming that I was, indeed, funny.
- Designate a facilitator for the meeting: someone leading, coaching, and guiding. On my most recent call, a leader went around ensuring everyone was able to contribute fairly. She also ensured she asked for feedback on a specific topic and helped move the discussion around so no one person took up all the airtime.
- Unmute yourself. Please don't just sit there on mute for the entire meeting. Jump in and speak up. You will be interrupted. You will interrupt others. But don't get frustrated or discouraged — this is what work is now — just keep showing up and contributing.
- Smile, and smile big. Nod your head in agreement. Laugh. Give a thumbs up; give two! Wave. Make a heart with your hands. Signal to others on the call who are contributing that you support and value them. They will do the same in return when your turn comes to contribute.
It's too easy to keep your camera turned off. It's too easy to stay on mute. It's too easy to disappear. But now is not the time to disappear. Now is the time to stay engaged and networked within our organizations and communities.
So please don't put yourself on mute.
Well, actually, please do put yourself on mute so I don't have to hear your heavy breathing, candy bar crunching, or tinkling bathroom break.
But after that, please take yourself off mute so you can reclaim your seat (and your voice) at the table.