A heel, in the sports and entertainment context, is a polarizing figure that plays an antagonist role.  Most notably, this concept has been successfully used in professional wrestling, boxing, and mixed martial arts (MMA) to generate interest in a fight and sell more tickets and pay-per-view buys.  The concept even has been used in baseball and football…think the NY Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys (in their heyday) respectively.

There is a great potential that many will misinterpret my article to justify contemptible tactics.  This is not my intention and integrity should be at the core of your methodology and personal brand.  What I am saying is there are lessons from the heel concept that can be applied to your career.  Also, heels tend to be more interesting to the audience 😉

Some specific examples of applying the heel concept to your career are as follows:

  • Be willing to take an unpopular position that may put you at odds with some in your organization.  An example of this can be an idea that everyone is saying is excellent, but you see inherent flaws and have the courage to speak up.  While this can make your life difficult in the short term, it can pay off in the long term (especially if you are found to be correct).  Never be a yes man or woman!  You were hired because you bring a valuable combination of intelligence, skills, and knowledge to the table.  Remember that.
  • Do not let other people’s expectations influence the pursuit of your goals.  Hustle, persevere, and fight to achieve your goals in the face of any doubters.  For example, let’s say you are promoted and encounter resistance and resentment from your peers.  I have encountered this resentment several times in the past and never let it deter me.  Rather, I used it as an opportunity to exhibit confidence, prove myself as a leader, develop the team, and establish trust.  My personal team transformation tips can be found here.
  • Never create facades.  Be true to yourself inside and outside of the office.  This does not mean you have free range to be unprofessional, but what it does mean is you shouldn’t have to modify your personality to simply “fit in”.
  • Never make decisions with the goal of being liked and realize it is impossible to be liked by all.  If you try to please everyone, you will fail and be unable to please yourself.  If you operate with integrity, be true to yourself, and treat everyone with respect, then chances are the respect will be mutual and many will like you by default.
  • If there is an ethical issue at your organization, you have a responsibility to be the whistle-blower.  This will definitely get you heel status at that organization, but as stated previously, integrity must be paramount in your life.

With age comes wisdom and as I have aged, I have come to the realization that the only way one will be truly successful is by going against the grain rather than with it.  Since many people are willing to go with the grain, you will stand out and get noticed much quicker by going against it.  Use this spotlight as an opportunity to shine!

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