Sometime ago my 9 year old son asked me what my job was. This wasn’t particularly peculiar. I’ve been an actor for twenty years and as a result have had lots of “in-between” jobs. I am now a consultant.
This had me stumped. How could I explain what a consultant was to a 9 year old? In fact I often struggle to explain to my friends (who are mostly grown-ups, with grown-up jobs).
I spoke with a few of my colleagues and it seems I was not the only person with the issue of being able to articulate concisely what it is they do. We know what our skill are, what our approach is, but faced with the water-cooler conversation (see my previous article Personal Branding and the Art of the Water Cooler Conversation) what is your one line summary, your value proposition, differentiator and job description?
“It’s like a Jedi Ninja.”
And back to his Minecraft he went.
This short conversation got me thinking not just about what I did but how difficult a lot of people find articulating the same thing. It is something I have encountered coaching people at all levels from boardroom to shop floor across a range of organisations and sectors.
After a time a thought emerged, I’d say it was a light bulb moment but my brain doesn’t work that fast.
As a consultancy DPA works across leadership, strategy and innovation, we are constantly working with companies to define concisely and clearly what and why they exist. This is usually required to:
- achieve a strategic clarity that filters through and engages the organisation
- to realign the organisations purpose due to changing demands in the marketplace
- to clearly articulate what it is the company stands for
This final one is key. It is an increasingly accepted fact that in today’s world clients and customers are not buying products anymore but experiences. Experience or feeling is what drives people to commit to and/or follow either a product or person, the what and how are simply the means for delivering that.
As Simon Sinek brilliantly articulates in his book “Start with Why”, we buy the why, the purpose. What you believe in, not what you do. If you are not one of the 23 million people that have watched his TED talk on the subject check it out here.
So how does that translate to personal branding?
How people experience you is as important and in some cases more important than what you say. When talking to someone it is their passion and belief that engages you. It creates an experience for the listener, a visceral, emotional and usually subconscious response that drives their decisions.
In interviews the candidate most likely to be successful may not be the person with the perfect CV or complete skill set, but the one who creates a sense of trust, belief and shared purpose with those on the panel. Remember people buy experiences not products.
What is your Why?
To promote yourself, to lead and to communicate authentically you have to know what you stand for. Your beliefs and values are your “why” the skills you have are the “how” and “what”.
My work in personal branding, particularly with emerging leaders, starts with reconnecting individuals with that “why” and then helps them find their own individual, authentic and appropriate way of communicating that across the most important contact points they are likely encounter both inside and outside the business or organisation. These contact points maybe the watercooler moment with the CEO, presenting and pitching to stakeholders, team meetings, all the way up to keynotes at company conferences.
When people have a clear knowledge of their own values and beliefs and are able to communicate in an authentic and appropriate way, they can lead with purpose and engage in a way that inspires and empowers.
So what do I do?
I embarked on this journey of reflection and re-connection when I became a consultant. The breakthrough came after a conversation with a respected colleague and fellow consultant Francis Briers (check out his Linkedin for some great insightful writing). He encouraged me to re-frame the question from “What do I do as a consultant?” to “What am I as a consultant?”.
“What do I do?” is looking from the outside in again, the “how” and “what”. “What am I?” is looking from the inside outwards.
What I am as a consultant is an enquirer. And the first thing I enquire of any organisation I work with is “What is your ‘Why’ and why does it matter?” After that everything is easy…
And for the sake of clarity I am also a Jedi-ninja.
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