One of my goals for this summer is to reflect on how I might better express what I do and why it is unique, distinctive, and valuable. Since I have recently begun to work with a new marketing agency who has suggested that I could do better at showcasing my activity and my identity on the Internet, I decided to ponder and write a bit about that today. Here are some of my thoughts:
In much of the coaching or advising I do, my primary goal is to accompany clients on a journey that has two overarching goals: self-knowledge and self-expression.
First, we embark on exercises of reflection that allow individuals (or organizations, groups, or brands) to gain a deep understanding of their true essence–who they are, what they stand for, what truly matters to them. Second, we turn our attention to their learning to express themselves in a natural voice. We work on speaking from the heart about the issues they truly care about, on finding authentic messages that inspire those around them.
More specifically, how do we accomplish these objectives? One of my foremost aims is to help people understand how leaders lead, where influence comes from, how truly transformational leadership happens. Contrary to society’s glorified image of leaders, it is not about heroism, charisma, or natural gifts. Rather, it is most often about ordinary people making a decision to stand up for what they believe.
In addition, we focus on the importance of identity–and one’s stories of identity–in self-expression. Generally in our lives, we choose to follow others if we admire who they are, if we respect the values they live by, and if we believe in their vision of what we can accomplish together. The most powerful tool a leader has for revealing all of these things is personal storytelling.
In a coaching relationship, I seek to demonstrate to clients one of my own deepest convictions: This type of personal storytelling, the true key to leadership self-expression, is an acquired behavior. Through repetition of exercises and mindful practice, we can learn to tell our personal stories of identity–our best articulations of who we are and what we stand for–with enhanced skill. Refining this personal storytelling ability allows us to have increased influence in our worlds.
Often, the people and organizations I work with are doing very well. They are walking, even running, through their lives and their careers. They are already people of significant influence. Nonetheless, my goal is to have a transformational impact in their lives, to help individuals and groups extend the boundaries of who they are and what they are doing today. In essence, I would like to help them learn to fly.
What is unique about my approach? Most coaches and consultants work from the outside in, identifying issues and recommending solutions. In contrast, I work from the inside out, focusing first on finding a person’s true essence and natural voice. In other words, to help a person learn to lead, my center of attention is the “who” rather than the “how”.