The anti-CV

Shooting the Breeze

19 June 2017

As we gain experience and develop areas of expertise in business, it’s all too easy to start drinking our own Kool-Aid. And, particularly when we’ve enjoyed some level of success, we tend to begin referring entirely to the Curriculum Vitae (CV) version of ourselves. After all, this is the version that will convince people we know what we’re talking about; that we deserve the respect of our colleagues; that we are eternally worthy of the mantle of leadership… ahem.

But the CV version of ourselves is only ever part of the story. I’ve always maintained that vulnerability is one of the fundamental tenets of leadership. It supports the ability to empathise with your colleagues, keeps you grounded, and reminds others that we all go through struggles and experience failures. Hence, the creation of the anti-CV…

Listen carefully. Share honestly.

At one point last year, a dear friend of mine was struggling with their start-up. Running a business is difficult at the best of times, but when you’re a solo founder trying to get something off the ground, the solitude can become overwhelming. When they reached out to me for advice, I wrestled with what to say. Was it best to look at some new ideas for the business? Or make some introductions to potential clients? Or simply listen and offer some empathy?

It’s easy in those mentoring moments to become a problem solver. But directive advice can be hard to hear and difficult to action when you’re at your wit’s end. So, I wrote a cut-down and inverted version of my CV for them to read – the anti-CV – a succinct document that nailed every failure I’ve ever had.

"A succinct document that nailed every failure i've ever had."
Ash Howden

Learn. Learn some more. Then repeat.

The anti-CV covered life and business failures – embarrassing presentations, hiring then firing friends, busted-up relationships and some less egocentric descriptions of previous business successes. It was pretty ugly reading. But it illustrated the point that a lot of people’s successes are built on a foundation of failures. Writing it helped me as much as it did my friend. It reminded me that I don’t have all the answers and I too should seek the knowledge of the people around me. It also reinforced the fact that sometimes, you just need to communicate that you’ve been through similar challenges. After all, if you can find your way through it, they can too.

A simple solution.

We all seek success in life, just as we all experience failures. Whether it’s commercial reward or simply validation for the work we do – we’re all striving for a sense of achievement and recognition. But I urge you, next time you’re asked for advice, think about providing empathy rather than a solution. Put down the Kool-Aid and share your anti-CV instead.

Connect with Ash Howden, CEO of KJR – LinkedIn or Twitter

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