How to Identify Your Strengths as a Thought Leader

I took an assessment today and got some shocking results.

I’m sure at some point you’ve taken at least one of those assessments that promises insights into your personality, behavior, career choice, or Hogwarts house.  While it seems quizzes and assessments are as plentiful as my excuses for not folding the laundry the same day it comes out of the dryer, there are only a small handful that I recommend to my clients and students — assessments that is, not laundry excuses.

The best assessments offer truly useful insights and are backed by sound research. (In case you were wondering, the Meyers-Briggs is not one that I recommend. While it can be interesting and entertaining, it’s usefulness is as limited as the science that backs it up. If you’re curious, I’m an INTJ for what it’s worth.) On the other hand, I’ve used an assessment called Strengthsfinder 2.0 with my clients for almost a decade.

SF2.0 is an assessment based on a 40-year study that cataloged 34 talents and led to a truly powerful quiz that reveals your top five talents. When you focus on leveraging your top five talents you will experience more flow, satisfaction, and efficacy in your work and relationships.

Perhaps you’ve taken SF2.0 before. What many don’t know is that there’s a completely different type of report you can get based on your top five strengths — a leadership report. This second report tells you how you can be most effective as a leader. It offers specific insights about how you can best inspire, influence, and earn trust. The Strengths Based Leadership report tells you exactly the kinds of things you can do to express your most powerful leadership and influence qualities.

When I took the same test two years apart, I was shocked to get very different results the second time. It turns out that in some cases, strengths can shift. Rather, strengths that were always there are finally able to fully express.

New levels of self-awareness and mastery have allowed strengths that were already there to finally emerge at the top. This new set of strengths feels more resonant now than the the results from five years ago. In hindsight, this makes a lot of sense. The two years between tests had been pretty transformational (read: some of the friggin’ hardest moment of my life but I learned a hell of a lot of things about myself). I would go as far as to say that I’ve unlocked gifts and parts of my identity through serious amounts of coaching, exploration, and mindset shifts.

In any case, the point is not so much that I got different results (though you might take it again if it’s been awhile…just to see).

The takeaway is this. You will do your best work as a leader, gain the most trust, and have the most influence when you are aware of and fully leverage your inherent talents and strengths as a leader. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Strengths Based Leadership. The book comes with a code to take the assessment online. It only requires about twenty minutes. You don’t even need to read the entire book, just the sections relating to your top five talents.

You’ll get some amazing insights. Focus on the things the report outlines for you and watch your influence and leadership soar! So far, my leadership report has been dead on accurate in describing how I best lead and help my clients. For example…

Your innovative yet methodical approach will be critical to the genesis of a venture because it will keep its creators from developing counterproductive tunnel vision.

Bingo!

Quickstart, visionary, big idea entrepreneurs and innovators turn to me all the time for insight because I see what they don’t see because they raced right past it like the Roadrunner leaving Coyote in the dust.

Meep! Meep!

I’m the one that can point out the cliff before they find themselves in mid-air with their feet dangling below them as gravity finally pulls them into the canyon below.

(SIDEBAR: Is the Roadrunner and Coyote cartoon an American-centric example or is that pretty universal?)

This is just one of MANY insights in my custom report from just one of the five strengths.The question is, what inherent talents do you have and how can you turn them up to eleven to produce amazing results and gain influence with those you guide and lead?

Which assessments have you found most helpful when it comes to your professional and leadership pursuits?

 

How Thought Leaders Cut Through the Noise

What has changed the most since you’ve been marketing online? What’s coming up next in online marketing that entrepreneurs need to know about to stay ahead?

I get asked these two questions a lot in interviews. People are curious to hear my answers because I’ve been creating and marketing brands on the Internet since 2003. I’m going to answer both of those questions for you now.

This brings me back to the idea of the The Long Tail of Influence from my last post, How Thought Leaders Rise to the Top of the Market

Let’s dig into that diagram now.

 

Each of the red lines on the left side of the chart represents a person or business of influence. The taller the line the more impact, influence and income that influencer generates.

Remove all the blue lines and dots, and the chart is a snapshot of what this diagram would have looked like twenty years ago before the Internet as we know it really became a thing.

Notice that all the red lines are grouped to the left side and eventually stop. This is because twenty years ago there were only a limited number of opportunities to get enough visibility to build an influential brand. Back then it required having access to mainstream media like TV, news, bestselling books, magazines, etc.

The Age of the New Influencers is Born

Then the Internet happened — forums, blogging, podcasting, YouTube, social media, social networks, and on and on. Suddenly, anyone could build a platform, gain visibility, and share a message. This is where the blue lines come in. There was an explosion of media makers and content creators each with their own perspective and story to share. Consumers learned they could find just about anything to fit their exact needs and preferences.

This was the dawn of the long tail of influence.

This provided an amazing opportunity to anyone looking to make more money while also making a difference with their expertise, experiences, and point of view. As a result, every stripe of marketer, entrepreneur, leader, and opportunity-seeker flooded the Internet looking to gain attention. Some created real results and value. Others were just looking to make a quick buck. The Internet went from having 100s of thousands of blogs to millions of blogs, from thousands of podcasts to 100s of thousands of podcasts.

The Biggest Change Affecting Your Brand and Business

That brings us to today. The game has changed again. Now the graph includes these little noisy dots at the end. The most important thing that has changed in my 14+ years online is that it has gotten exponentially noisier.  We now live in an attention economy because attention is the one thing you need most and it’s the hardest thing to gain. Consumers have gotten really good at tuning everything out except the stuff that is most relevant and interesting.

This has made it incredibly hard for even legitimate influencers and entrepreneurs to get seen and heard. Many never move out of the noise floor and simply get ignored. And then there are others who have succeeded in getting seen and heard enough to build a lifestyle business that provide a decent income as well as freedom and flexibility.

But now they want more. They want to move up to a higher level of income, influence and impact. They want to go from a lifestyle business to one that creates and leaves a legacy.

The problem is that there’s a force that continually push against their efforts to rise to higher levels of reach and visibility.  Noise constantly pushes against your business keeping it from growing to the legacy and industry leader level.

And it’s not just noise in the marketplace. In fact, there are two other types of noise that threaten every day to keep your business small, pushing it to the right towards the noise floor and oblivion. Until you can clear away all three types of noise, your business cannot grow to be an industry leader that enjoys all the visibility, income, resources, influence, impact, recognition and more that go along with reaching that level.

And once you get to that level, it’s much easier to shield your business from noise and competition and remain a leader.

Is it important to you that your business provide more than just lifestyle and freedom for you? Do you want to make a mark on the world with your brand and business?

How Thought Leaders Rise to the Top of the Market

Have you ever discounted or tucked away an idea even though it kept showing up in your mind?

You tell yourself that it’s not important, but really the idea fascinates and inspires you, and you’re just worried that others won’t find it as interesting as you? Because of this you may keep hiding it away or telling yourself a story about how you’re “still working on it.”

 

Have you ever done that?

 

There is a particular idea that I had for two years before I decided to share it with anyone. I’d brought it up in a handful of conversations, but I never ventured (or dared) to put it out in public and develop it further with the feedback of an audience. Then one day, I picked up a book on a friend’s recommendation.

 

As I read the jacket copy and flipped through the pages, I was stunned to realize what the premise of the book was very similar to my idea! Not only that, but the author won a Thinkers50 Future Thinker Award for the idea! If you’re not familiar, the Thinkers50 is basically the Oscars or Grammy awards of business thought leadership.

 

Now, it’s not exactly the same idea and there’s still plenty for me to share about it. But the point is this: when you keep your ideas to yourself, you not only rob yourself of opportunities and the possibility of making some of your best work, but you also rob the world of what that idea might become.

 

Not every idea will be a hit, but it just might be (and probably is) that the one that you are hiding under a rock could make up that most critical 5% of your vision and voice.

 

I’m owning this as my idea now. And it just so happens that it has everything to do with how you can show up in the world as your best self, create amazing unique value for the world, and get paid really well to do it.

 

The Idea I Buried for Two Years

 

Have you ever heard of a concept called The Long Tail?

 

As it turns out, The Long Tail holds the secret to transitioning from having a relatively successful lifestyle business to owning a company/brand that becomes a market leader (and enjoys all the security, opportunity, and visibility of being in that position).

 

The Long Tail also holds the secret to making your unique mark on the world, and it’s at the core of the idea I held onto for so long. The Long Tail is basically a way of describing the niche-market economy created by the Internet.

 

Twenty years ago, stores had to focus on selling only the music, books, movies, and other things that were considered “hits.” They had limited physical shelf space and could only afford to stock the most popular stuff that was guaranteed to sell. Now, thanks to the Internet, digital storefronts like iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix can afford to “carry” both the hits and an effectively infinite number of other items to fit every possible niche interest- even if it something that only sells two copies a year.

 

These “non-hits” make up The Long Tail. The name comes from a graph that depicts a curve that illustrates the popularity of these items out on the fringes.

 

 

This diagram depicts something I came up with a couple years ago based on things I’d noticed from 12+ years of creating online brands, researching leading personal brands, and working with top Internet influencers. I call this idea The Long Tail of Influence.

 

 

When you understand what’s going on in the diagram above, you’ll have the key to rising to the top of your market, getting huge recognition for your ideas, and getting paid insanely well to be the best version of you and do work that you were meant to do.

 

Now that we have reached the saturation point on the Internet where we have an overabundance of marketers and “gurus” making noise in every possible market, The Long Tail of Influence is more important than ever to the survival and growth of your business.

 

I’ll go in depth with how to make this happen in my next blog post, so stay tuned.

The Achilles Heels of Every Thought Leader

Can I tell you a secret?

I’ve worked with and talked to a lot of extremely successful, ambitious, and influential people over the years- visionary people who have done amazing things. There’s just one problem. Every one of them deals with their share of challenges like a lack of focus, crippling blind spots, self-doubt or fear at some level. Some of these are huge online and media personalities, best-selling authors and notable speakers. Yet they are not magically impervious to the demons of derailment.

It’s easy to look at the people we admire (or even get jealous of) and assume that they have their shiz together at all times. Here’s the secret…

They don’t.

Even the most visionary people flounder and struggle sometimes to find clarity and confidence about where they are going and how they will get there. They’ve been able to do amazing things because they’ve recognized their limitations as a visionary and created a support system that mitigates the fallout when the demons of derailment start raging. As one of my friends says (she has a 2M+ dollar business), “I’ve made my business me-proof.”

In fact, I’ve found that the more success a client has had, the more they actively seek my unfiltered feedback and perspective about their vision and how to realize it. The more success they’ve had, the more they know that there’s almost always a false assumption, arbitrary constraint or unhelpful belief that’s compromising their vision. And the more they understand that, the more they know that it’s really hard to identify the missing or misaligned elements by themselves.

The 3 Achilles Heels

In my 12+ years as a consultant, strategist, and teacher helping entrepreneurs get clarity and confidence about vision and strategy, I’ve noticed three “Achilles heels” that often compromise an entrepreneur’s vision:

1) The Most Important 5% is Neglected

We all have blind spots: beliefs and assumptions that cause us to overlook, discount, or ignore vital pieces of our vision. Yet these are the things that have the greatest power to fuel a body of work that stands out, gets noticed and makes an impact. Almost invariably we need outside reflection and insight to identify these things.

2) Focusing on the Future at the Expense of the Present

A vision is most commonly thought of as a picture of the future that you want to create. The conventional wisdom is that if this vision is compelling enough, it will get you through the hard work, unforeseen obstacles, and challenges. But when we become completely focused on the horizon, we tend to ignore the progress we’ve already made. The thing about a horizon is that it is forever locked on a course moving away from us. It seems we never “arrive” because before we even get there, we’ve moved the destination again- all in the name of vision.

Creative energy, motivation, and momentum are fueled by the present as much as they are by your excitement for the future. Neglecting to define what you need in the present is like trying to drive a car with only half the fuel, oil, pistons, and spark plugs in it.

3) The Vision is Driven by a Reaction to the Past

Entrepreneurship (or any pursuit of purpose and meaning) is fraught with the kind of stress and pain that leaves such an impression in our psyche that our future plans and decisions are motivated by a primal need to avoid experiencing that pain again at all costs.

Yet we don’t notice these motivations acting on us. Instead we form beliefs, draw conclusions, and find rationalizations that allow us to feel like we are moving ahead when in fact we are stuck in a reactionary pattern driven by echos of pain from the past. As is often the case, we require outside perspective and support to dislodge this dam and allow our unfettered vision to flow fully once again.

I share these three “Achilles heels” here as a tool for deriving awareness and reflection as you design and pursue the next evolution of your own vision. A clear and compelling vision is one of the three key elements (the 3 Vs) derived from within you. A clear and uncompromised vision is required for you to craft a world-class brand that supports your legacy and helps you make your unique impression on the world.

Let’s take action

Read the three “Achilles heels” again. Reflect on times when each has affected you. Consider which of the three may be affecting you now so you can make a plan to fortify and clarify your vision.

If you are comfortable sharing, I’d love for you to share with me how clear and confident you are about the vision you’ve defined for your business and your ability to make it happen (on a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being the most clear and confident).

How Thought Leaders Stay Relevant

Have I ever told you about the time I almost decked a guy in Paris?

In 2014, my wife and I achieved one of our top bucket list dreams when we moved into an apartment at the base of the hill below the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. My daughter CeCe and I would often play on the hill and climb the stone steps that led to the basilica at the top. The hill attracted throngs of tourists in the summer eager to enjoy the panoramic view at the top.

And where there were tourists, there were street vendors. You couldn’t walk two steps up the hill without an aggressive vendor stepping in your path. One after the other, dozens accosted tourists all of them selling the same worthless stuff. Because there was no differentiation between them and little value to their tchotchkes, they had to resort to obnoxious, manipulative tactics to get attention and make the sale.

One day one of these fine gentleman thought he would continue blocking my way until I bought something. Meanwhile, my three-year old daughter was quickly getting farther away from me putting crowds of tourists between us. Some sort of parental instinct kicked in I had a sudden desire to deck the guy. Thankfully I found enough sense to settle for a gentle-ish push on his shoulder so I could step around him. Eventually, I learned how to dodge and tune out the vendors.

A similar scene plays out every day on the Internet.

Hundreds of thousands of marketers accost web surfers trying to sell stuff that all looks the same and has little value to back it up.

This noise online is at an all-time high and growing daily.

This is making it exponentially harder to stand out and get attention…yet attention is vital to the growth and survival of your business. If you can’t get the attention of your ideal customer, you can say au revoir to any chance of generating income or impact. But there is hope for you to stand out and get attention.

A great example of this was a vendor that caught my attention one day as CeCe and I walked home from the basilica. He was selling handmade wooden toys. Rather than stepping in front of people or yelling at the top of his lungs to be heard, he sat at a table creating one of his toys and explaining the process to passers by. This novel approach was working. He’d gathered a small crowd. The “social proof” led others to stop and pay attention as well. This guy was different. Everything from his marketing to his sales pitch to his product stood in sharp contrast to the rest of the vendors on the hill.

Here’s the takeaway.

You don’t need obnoxious marketing or a manipulative sales message to get and keep attention. People will stop and give their time and attention to things that matter most to them.

The key is to know how to position your business and brand to be so relevant, resonant, and remarkable that your ideal customer is genuinely interested in engaging with you.

Now you know the meaning of the RRR in the each subject line of this email workshop: relevant, resonant, and remarkable. Let’s take fast action to get results…

Commit today to elevate above the noise and rely on relevance, resonance, and remarkability to grow your business.

 

And let me know in the comments:

Have you been to Paris? What was your favorite thing? Have you ever punched someone or been punched?