Defeating Mis-Matches in Business

Interview with Steve Woodruff, Clarity Therapist

Interview with Steve Woodruff, Clarity Therapist

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feedBonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

The goal of Clarity Therapy is to “defeat mis-matches – the wrong people in the wrong job; small companies pursuing the wrong types of business; or large companies partnering with the wrong vendors. A lack of clarity leads to tremendous inefficiencies in the business world.”

More? Click to biggify (interview with New Jersey Business magazine). —>

Want to understand what I’m all about? There it is, in a nutshell. Avoiding mis-matches by discovering your fit.

Don’t merely think about finding work. Find your fit.

One-Sentence Marketing Advice from a Physics Genius

Einstein Clarity

It takes clarity of thought and expression to be a brilliant physicist. No less so to be an effective marketer (and/or business owner).

If Einstein were a marketer, I think he’d advise you to De-Fog Your Business!

(image source)

When Your Market Says to Pivot

pivot roadI’m all for a well-thought-out go-to-market strategy. But I’ve often advised consultants and other small businesses to leave your directional map at about 80% – and let the market inform you about the remaining 20%.

Why? Because you WILL pivot, to some extent – and your customers will show you where and how.

A recent example from my experience – I’ve been doing Clarity Therapy sessions for a variety of individuals and companies for a couple of years now. Typically, these are one-day intensive sessions, with a few months of minor follow-up.

I did not, however, anticipate performing any kind of ongoing business coaching. I saw Clarity Therapy as an event, not a long-term process. Until clients starting asking for more. A lot more. And a wealth of helpful lessons from past experience began to come to the surface.

Turns out that being an outside voice giving perspective on overall business structure, specific creative offerings, client account management, and staffing (plus identifying resources via networking) is a much bigger need than I realized.

The most interesting revelation of all: how lonely it is to be a small business owner or solo consultant. I mean, I knew that, right? I AM one. But it didn’t really occur to me how important it is for us to have an outlet, a peer, a mentor, a friend – who can come alongside for the long-term and help get a business to a new level. There are short-term and one-shot needs, but clients are saying to also think about the deeper, longer haul. Bonus: that approach actually suits me quite well. I prefer those kind of business relationships.

Truth is, there’s a lot of stuff we just can’t say to customers, employees, colleagues, even family members. It’s frustrating, and the lack of a healthy outlet and fresh perspective clogs our mind and heart.

So, I now find myself offering business coaching for people and businesses seeking to grow and needing outside advice and encouragement. It’s not really a change of direction, just a natural extension that I didn’t anticipate.

How about you? How have your customers caused you to pivot? I’ve seen a number of my social media people evolve over time and it’s pretty fascinating. What’s your story?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Meaningless Marketing

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

If your company name and tagline could mean a whole bunch of different things to a whole bunch of different people, it’s meaningless.

  • Global Technical Solutions – Where Technology Drives Customer Value. Meaningless.
  • Dwilgoq – It’s on!! Meaningless.
  • The Robert Higgins Group – We mean business. Meaningless.

In the FogTake a stand! You can’t do everything for everyone, so define your niche and project a clear message. Get out of the fog.

I do realize that it is a challenge in this URL-crowded era to find a unique name. But at least try to have a descriptor – a verbal business card – that tells us what you’re about.

I interacted this week with Marc Pitman. His title: The Fundraising Coach. The summary he gives of himself on Google+: Committed to making it ridiculously easy for people to find fundraising training.

Bingo. I know EXACTLY where to put Marc in the universe of suppliers. But if, instead, his title was: The Business Coach - well, then I’d be unable to place him in memory. If his verbal business card was: I help people find what they need to succeed – despite the cute rhyme, he’d be another MBE (meaningless business entity).

It may help you in business to have your MBA. But if you’re working on your MBE, you’re making life far more difficult than it should be – for your customers, and ultimately, for you. You need to Claim Your Market[place].

If you think you’ve got a case of MBE, let’s talk. Maybe a dose of Clarity Therapy is just what you need to get more meaningful.

Ping me at: steve at stevewoodruff dot com.

photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc

Training to Communicate

Anyone that knows me well knows that I have a passion for writing – in fact, it’s really a passion for all things communication (including speaking, video, social media, etc.). As a blogger, I traffic in a lot of written material. Much of what I see is, quite frankly, pretty amateurish.

ID-10087526Writing clearly and succinctly is crucial to work effectiveness. And it’s a rarely-trained skill. It doesn’t matter what position people occupy in their profession. Everyone from the newly-hired salesperson to the CEO needs to sharpen communication skills, if they want to be viewed as professionals (see this recent post by Dave Kerpen).

If people are spending an average of 28% of their time dealing with e-mail – then just improving that one area of business writing can return a lot of potential productivity gains!

In the past month, I’ve sat down with a couple of great providers who do corporate training on communications/writing skills. I found myself nodding so vigorously during discussions that it’s a wonder I didn’t end up at the chiropractor’s office! As I underscore in my Vendor/Project Success workshops, the basic principles of project and vendor management will be used in all future career areas – just like learning to drive a car, it’s an “evergreen” skill set. Writing and communicating clearly? –even more so.

Clear communications lead to clear actions. Foggy communications lead to misunderstandings, back-and-forth clarifications, and frustration.

Let’s train ourselves and our people how to effectively move thoughts to the keyboard and beyond (and if you need a communications training vendor/provider recommendation, just let me know – steve [at] connectionagent dot com). It can never be wrong to sharpen this skill!

10 steps to successful business writing jack e-appleman-paperback-cover-artAlso, here’s a book recommendation for you. 10 Steps to Successful Business Writing* (by Jack Appleman) is a compact, simple-to-absorb volume that gives practical, step-by-step advice on how to write more clearly.

The opening paragraph in the introduction says it all:

Successful business writing starts with simplicity. The beauty of simplicity is that it can produce results faster.

With chapters like Know Where You’re Taking Your Readers; Be Explicit, Clear, and Concise; Grab Your Readers’ Attention; and Master The Documents You Use Most Often; this book dives immediately into straightforward advice with plenty of practical application.

I’ve spent a good bit of time with Jack lately (we have a common bond in the realms of clarity and training!), and he has shared with me how he can also partner with corporations and provide valuable training for employees. If you’re interested in Jack’s services, let me know and I’ll make the connection.

*Amazon affiliate link

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Postscript: Just saw this nice summary about how to write effective e-mails that people won’t ignore, by Bryan Garner via HBR blog.

The New Intermediation: Specialized Domains

If you have been in a business domain for a long time, acquiring a deep knowledge and broad network, you may well have an opportunity to carve out a unique (you-based) business role for your future. Of all people, you can be one of the new intermediaries.

In an introductory post, I opened up the idea of potential business opportunities that exist by thinking about The New Intermediation. The Ugly Graphic below depicts how this works:

Intermediary1

Just yesterday, I was handed a brand-new business card by someone I’d spent a few hours with several weeks back. This experienced professional was being laid off – there are always ups and downs in the pharma/biotech realm, and some great folks lose positions regularly because of factors having nothing to do with their performance.

Anyway, this person had a deep area of domain expertise, able to fill an information and business-building need that few could touch. I encouraged them to launch a consultancy (they did), and yesterday, I got the news that their first client had signed up for a 6-month engagement!

How awesome is that? From corporate dependence to carving out your own path – isn’t that what so many should be doing right now?

Another friend is steadily positioning himself for a unique intermediary role in his industry (agriculture-related) due to his immense knowledge and hard-won reputation as a very knowledgeable guide for both growers and producers. Make no mistake, however – his reputation as a value-creator is based on incredibly hard work in a specialized domain. This role is not for kids fresh out of college.

Just saw this post by Rohit Bhargava, who is taking on the role of a Marketing Concierge. What is that? An expert who comes alongside the client, and makes relationships and workflow better with their agencies. Read the post and you’ll see why he can do this – deep domain experience. He’s a new intermediary. My friend Tom Martin serves as a digital adviser for higher-level marketers, who cannot possibly keep up with all the digital ferment. Tom is immersed in digital AND knows what agencies/marketers need. He’s a new intermediary.

In each case, people pay their dues for years working for others (building up domain knowledge and reputation), then get to a position when it’s time to be an intermediary. If you’re in your 40’s and 50’s and wondering if you’re being bypassed – if you’re all washed up – think again. This is prime time to be a value-creator by having a foot firmly planted in two realms.

I find that people with this type of depth and track record generally need a gentle push – a little outside permission-giving. “This is your sweet spot. You’re ready now. No-one else can do this like you can. Here’s your market[place]. Go!

Think beyond the next job title in someone else’s hierarchy. Build toward your unique place of adding value “in the middle.” Maybe you should be one of the new intermediaries!

Previous Connection Agent posts on The New Intermediation:

The New Intermediation in Publishing

The New Intermediation: Curation

The New Intermediation: Matchmaking

The Business Opportunities of The New Intermediation

On Being a Fraud

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

I’ve had several discussions of the past week about Impostor Syndrome – which, by the way, I always manage to misspell the first time (imposter) until spell-check reminds me of my transgression.

In short, Impostor Syndrome (let’s just call it IS) is experienced by people who have difficulty internalizing their accomplishments. Folks who are afflicted with it regularly feel like frauds, with a fear that it’s just a matter of time before they are exposed for being something far less than others think they are.

Competent people feeling perpetually incompetent – that’s Impostor Syndrome<–(click to tweet this)

I think IS can often be a psychological/emotional issue, especially experienced by those who are insecure (hand raised) and perfectionistic (both hands raised). Those who struggle with accepting basic human realities of step-by-step growth and evolution will tend to feel grossly inadequate for every role they step into – no matter how they perform. I can look back at my professional timeline and see many places where I experienced this cognitive dissonance. Although, I must say, the most profound place where I feel it is in my role as a parent.

But, I’d like to suggest another angle on this. I wonder if some of our experience of IS comes down to working in a mis-matched role. In other words, we really are outside the primary zone of our competencies, and we can’t measure up to what we know we should because – well, we can’t.

For instance, I labored for many years in a sales role. I actually succeeded in growing business and helping customers. But I am really not wired for sales – I’m not hyper-competitive, driven by numbers and short-term goals, schmoozey, quickly empathetic, hungry to “close” – I just want to figure stuff out and help people. Turns out you can actually do sales that way, but in one company where I was VP of Biz Dev, we hired a natural and skilled salesperson, and as I watched her operate, I finally came to the realization – that’s a salesperson in her sweet spot. I’m a consultant – not (natively) a salesperson. All that time I tried to force myself into a role that wasn’t a great “fit” for me.

And all that time I felt like an impostor. Not because I was insincere, or even ineffective – but I was outside my sweet spot.

Looking back at many of the roles I’ve sought to fulfill, here’s how it sorts out in my case:

Imposter Zone

As the old saying goes, you can’t put in what God left out. Working in the red zone generally means we’re going to feel like failures.

For 18 months, Lisa Petrilli and I co-hosted a weekly Twitter gathering called LeadershipChat. By all accounts, it was a big success. But many people will be surprised to hear my confession that I felt somewhat like an impostor the entire time. Not because of the community management and social media aspects of it – Lisa and I were both strong there. Nor because of the vision and effort we put into it. But the fact is, leadership “stuff” is not in my core. I’m quite interested in it, I can write about it and discuss it – but the topic was much more in Lisa’s wheelhouse than mine. Plus, I’d never worked/led in a larger corporate environment. Therefore, I often felt somewhat out of my primary competency zone.

Here’s the thing - We all want to look in the mirror and feel competent and authoritative there first and foremost. Then Impostor Syndrome has much less room to take root.

So, to sum up – could it be that much of what we experience with Impostor Syndrome may actually stem from working outside of our sweet spot? I know that the more I concentrate on my unique areas of ability, the less like a fraud I feel. What’s your experience?

BONUS: Dr. Valerie Smith has a blog (and a book) on this subject – also this quick video. Thanks to Craig DeLarge for pointing it out!

Recently on Connection Agent:

Claim Your Market[place]

De-Fogging Your Business

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