Setting your compass to follow your North Star.

Chalkwell Beach, Essex — New Year’s Day 2017

When I walked into my friendly local coffee shop this morning, Ash — one of the guys who runs the place — asked me if I had any New Year’s resolutions. I told him I didn’t have any new ones, instead I was just going to continue sticking — like a magnet — to who I am and what I stand for, playing where I play best and making sure I bring ‘Ian’ to all areas of my work.

That sounds so simple. After all, how hard can it be to be honest and authentic in our work lives?

But actually, choosing to follow us, having the courage to stick to our guns and be different, is rarely about taking the easy route. Yes, taking the right path is hard. Often it feels like you’re running into the headwind, rather than having the wind behind you. It would be a hell of a lot easier to just follow the herd.

So it’s inevitable that a lot of people don’t have the courage to be themselves at work. I think that’s such a shame. What a waste of talent, what a wasted opportunity, hiding away the very essence of ourselves.

Writing in The Harvard Business Review last year, Francesca Gino said that in order to fix employee engagement, we need to encourage workers to break rules and be themselves. She says that employees who said they could express their authentic selves at work were more committed to their organisations:

Going against the crowd gives us confidence in our actions, which makes us feel unique and engaged and translates to higher performance and greater creativityThe start of a new year is a natural time for employees and their leaders to reflect on what makes them unique and authentic and how they can shape their jobs — even in small ways — to avoid conformity.” Francesca Gino

So this year I’m on a mission to make the world of work and business more human. My plea is for people to bring themselves to work.

And here is your opportunity. As we head into 2017, have you set your compass to follow your North Star? Have you stopped to reflect on what it is that makes you unique and authentic, and to build a work life around that? Do you also encourage your team members to be themselves?

Once you set your compass to follow that North Star — you, and all you stand for — you know what direction to follow. It’s the best decision making tool there is.

Sometimes we’re too close to “us” to see ourselves clearly. Over the last few months I’ve been working with a bunch of different clients — from individuals to growing businesses — helping them create their compass. It’s about uncovering those unique qualities and values that make them tick, and shining a light on them, rather than keeping them hidden away. I hold up a mirror and reflect back what I see and hear.

Whether you’re leading an organisation or you work for yourself, finding your compass is a real game-changer. Once you’ve nailed your raison d’être, it gives you the clarity and focus to move forward. To ask yourself: does this path take me and my business further towards me? And if it doesn’t, you have to ask yourself, why would I go down that path?

Finding my own compass was a revelation. It’s given me the confidence and the direction to carve out a professional life that reflects the ‘real Ian’.

Following my North Star is what keeps me on track, it’s what keeps me focused and fired-up. It might not be plain sailing in the year ahead, but at least I have my compass to navigate any stormy waters.