Check in with… an empathetic Career Master

I noticed, for me and for other people, that we’re all doing a lot of broadcasting but we’re not doing a lot of listening and absorbing and then acting on what we listened to. From that spark, the idea of empathy – in business – kept bubbling up for me. – Parissa Behnia

The ideas that reveal themselves Career Masters come in an amazing, unlimited array of shapes, sizes and colors! It’s a privilege to guide clients through the unloading of stale assumptions and the unmasking of their authentic self and vision. Whether these bright spirits sign up for a weekly class or opt for one-on-one coaching, the result is always the same: They are bolstered by fresh confidence and energized by new ideas.

Parissa Behnia is one such bright spirit. 2016 was her year of self-discovery. Now, in 2017, she’s putting everything she learned into a new business and a bright start.

Bright Livelihoods: What were you doing before seeking out Bright Livelihoods?
Parissa Behnia:  A good portion of my professional career was in marketing for large [for profit] organizations – strategic marketing, ideation, product development. The last 10 yrs I’ve been doing a lot of consulting more along the lines of, let’s say marketing consulting. Recently, I realized that the work I was doing narrowly in marketing consulting wasn’t as satisfying to me. Where I thrived and where I was able to connect with people better was when I was talking about issues around business strategy; what does success look like from a business perspective and then breaking those things down into parts that were manageable. I liked helping people, businesses, create a roadmap for success but that someone could actually use to get from where they are now to where they thought success looked like in the future.

I loved it! People loved talking to me about it but for whatever reason, there was this mismatch. I was hiding behind marketing whereas my heart and my interest were somewhere else. So the work I needed to do [personally] kind of started out with that: Here’s what I’m saying I do but here’s where I’m happier. How do I find the intersection of what I’m interested in with how to monetize it – make money doing what I’m interested in?

BL: So finding the intersection at which the things that make you happy can also earn you a living prompted you going to Laurel?
PB: It was definitely… What I was doing before speaking with Laurel, before working with Bright Livelihoods, was doing a lot of informational interviews. There was a shift in my business. My business partner was presented with a really great opportunity to do something different, something that he was interested in and I encouraged him to pursue it because I believe that people should embrace opportunity when it’s presented to them. In the course of me having informational interviews and some actual job interviews – to see if I could go back to work for someone else again – I would always get to a certain point. I would do really well and then…

It just wouldn’t work out. I knew at that point that maybe I was standing in my own way [of the next success]. Maybe I wasn’t aware of how I was presenting myself or maybe I needed extra help in how to better position myself. You know when you’re so close to something – whether it’s yourself, your business, your friends, your partner, your life – you just don’t have that objectivity. The gift i gave to myself in 2016 was to – was almost like my New Year’s resolution and I never make resolutions – find a coach to work with, to kind of…not necessarily break me apart and put me back together again but to help me try to crack that nut of what’s actually going on. I needed someone to help me figure out who is my authentic self and how do I present that authentic self to others

BL: Was there a specific step or exercise that cracked the nut and gave you insight into the authentic self that was trying to come out?
PB: I think my biggest thing was I was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Where I netted out was… I thought I could be a good fit working for someone else. It turns out that’s not true, not necessarily because I’m a special unicorn.  It’s just that I am actually my own person. I’m a free spirit or whatever u want to call it. I realized that I would never be happy in or within someone else’s very strict rules, in a large environment. If it where a boutique consulting firm or small situation, maybe it wouldn’t be as much of an issue.

Where it [the coursework] got interesting was in the middle. This idea of empathy came up for me a lot. Some of it was, well, all of it actually, was from one exercise that Laurel includes. She asks you to envision being interviewed by a late night tv show host. Who do you want to be interviewed by? Describe that experience. Why would you be in this show? What would you be talking about? All these questions. I chose Steven Colbert and I was being interviewed about the importance of empathy in a business context. That was kind of bubbling up for me a lot because I noticed, for me and for other people, that we’re all doing a lot of broadcasting but we’re not doing a lot of listening and absorbing and then acting on what we listened to. From that spark, the idea of empathy – in business – kept bubbling up for me. Not that empathy didn’t bubble up for me before I started the coursework. The fact that it was coming back, again and again, within this exercise of being interviewed by Colbert about a book I imagined writing about it was something to pay attention to. Business empathy and this idea that I was on this show to speak on it gave me this “oh that’s my hook!” moment. Then I’m thinking, “There’s something about this empathy thing that is really important to me!” So I decided to unpack that a little more.

BL: So what are you doing now that you completed the coursework? Is empathy still at the center of your vision, your authentic self?
PB: Yes. Where the work with Laurel lead out was a business called Sixense Strategy – my business. What Sixsense does is helps other businesses grow using this idea of business empathy as the core filter. So I work with clients to review business plans and then either revise or reconstruct them. I’ve developed a model around empathy that’s a process whereby we start from one place and then we end at a place where the business defines its vision of success. Sixense launched in the beginning of Feb 2017. I’ve spent a lot of time on the branding and how I wanted the voice to appear, how it is that I want to authentically be presented to others. It’s very results oriented but, again, predicated on this idea of empathy. I can’t help anyone unless I start from a place of understanding first, understanding what their emotional drivers are, what their motivations are. Then grafting that understanding within the business context to be able to help them see results that are so important to them. It’s very exciting, very early days! I do a lot of business development but I’m hopeful we’ll land where we want to be and grateful for the opportunity!

Thanks for sharing, Parissa!

Go beyond listening with Parissa Behnia’s company Sixense Strategy. Check out her video & learn how she turned EMPATHY into an acronym.  Each letter corresponds with a word to form the principles used for strategically guiding businesses to their unique vision of success.

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