I am yet to win an award, at school or work and it irks me. The need to win one has eaten into my self-esteem and driven me into anxiety episodes in the chase for it. It is not that I am bad at what I do, I just fall into second place more often than I would like to. I’m not out of hope though, every day is a chance to try again. I came across a video by Safaricom’s Sylvia Mulinge at a leadership convention a few years ago. There is a point in the interview that the interviewer lists her accomplishments and asks her about the challenges of being a woman in leadership, her response was a light bulb for me. Her answer is faith-based but the point goes in line with something I am passionate about- Purpose. She responds that regardless of the accolades, the most important thing for her is to live up to what she’s been called to do.
In one conversation, I asked one of them what she would do if she wasn’t in finance or accounting and up to date, she cannot see herself doing anything that does not involve numbers.
I have two friends who are accomplished, financial professionals. Ironically, they were in the same class in high school and that particular year must have had the most inspiring mathematics teacher in education history because they all went on to become hard-hitting financial professionals in big corporations across the world. In one conversation, I asked one of them what she would do if she wasn’t in finance or accounting and up to date, she cannot see herself doing anything that does not involve numbers. The other friend actually has a degree in law but her love of numbers landed her in accounting too. Knowing her father, it is genetic as well as a trained attribute. They have massive accomplishments and I need to confirm which mentorship programs they are a part of because we all need to follow them. At their core, they are in love with what they do and even without the accolades, they would go to their maker with a satisfied heart.
There is always a point when the daily routine becomes mundane and a commendation or recognition will just inspire the burst of energy you need to get out of a funk. However, the danger of only striving for recognition can be consuming. In agency work, the culmination of your work is to get an award for a kick-ass campaign. It is a constant challenge to check and upgrade from your most creative idea yet. I know of a team that had come up with the coolest campaign for two big clients. They got everybody on the table, everyone was on board except for how to match the two brands, unfortunately, that deadlock killed the story. A few months later, one of the clients replicated the campaign with a different partner and agency on a bigger scale than it would have run originally. The person who told me the story is pained till today. “It would have been another Loeries!!!” He tells me that story opened his eyes to how hard he was working for awards and how that same recognition can break your heart.
If you chase recognition for recognition’s sake, you will do anything to get it, maybe even selling out your team. The lesson I learnt from these friends was from the fact that the first two just love their work and would do it for free.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying forget the plaques, the titles, the lists, the recommendations, all these are great for raising your profile. Remember the other different levels to recognition; getting that pat on the back for a productive day, or open credit for a job well done, the somewhat little things we take for granted to build morale. If you chase recognition for recognition’s sake, you will do anything to get it, maybe even selling out your team. The lesson I learnt from these friends was from the fact that the first two just love their work and would do it for free. The friend with the stolen campaign story never wants to get another award, well, let’s just say not anytime soon. I doubt he would say no to that high if it came with less pressure. He now focuses on getting the work done and 90% of his clients are referrals.
To finish off, you are your own recognition as well. Take the time to recognize how much progress you have made. Clap for yourself instead of waiting for someone else to, it may never come.