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!

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Yes, I Time some Tweets – Here’s Why

There are apps that allow you to space out your tweets over time (I use Hootsuite for this). Some people protest the use of timed tweets – and while I understand the sentiment behind that stance, I don’t agree with it.

Here’s why.

I use Twitter for several purposes:

  • Back-and-forth interaction with people (banter, brainstorming, encouraging, etc.)
  • Sharing interesting news and other resources
  • Connecting people with each other
  • Sharing my own blog posts and pictures
  • Sharing other people’s blog posts (especially those with whom I have a closer connection)
  • Making ironic comments and bad puns
  • Giving good morning greetings

Some of these purposes are more real-time – for instance, back-and-forth chatting with folks is not something that can be automated. But I do automate a fair bit of one-way sharing of “stuff,” for the simple reason that the audience on Twitter is constantly shifting. People are looking at their tweetstreams intermittently throughout the day, which means that something tweeted at 7:22 am might not be seen by a person who first logs in at 9:57 am.

While it makes sense that you might then tweet your own blog posts at a few different times during the day (I do), the really creative and helpful part of this isn’t the self-promotion aspect. The less-discussed secret is the way you can benefit your network of readers and writers.

Why use timed tweets? To gain wider exposure for others’ work!  <<–(click to tweet this).

Let’s say that I read an interesting post from Shelly Kramer‘s blog that, in the (very real) example below, actually touches on a similar theme (the timing of posts getting read on Facebook). If she posts it at, say, 7 am, and a number of her followers retweet it over the next half hour, then most of the exposure for her post may occur in a pretty narrow window.

TimeTweet

But if a reader makes the simple choice to “time” a tweet with a link to occur at, say, 10 am, then that reader’s audience gets the benefit of seeing something they might have missed at 7 am, AND Shelly gets wider exposure in a new time slot as well.

You know how most people get retweets immediately after they tweet something? Why not do everyone a favor and time-delay your tweet for a few hours – or even a day (I’ve seen some of my friends do this. It can give the tweeted link a whole new life).

So – when we understand that part of Twitter is for sharing things that may not be designed for real-time interaction, automating certain tweets makes perfect sense. Especially with this small tweet-tweak – give the people who feed you great content the gift of a fresh audience.

Have you been doing this? And here’s a question that’s been on my mind – I have done very little with scheduling tweets for overnight/overseas reach. If you’re doing this, how’s it working out? Any tips to share?

ALSO: See some interesting stats and perspectives about tweeting blog posts from Mack Collier.

Planting Seeds of Leadership

Growing up, I was fascinated by the self-propagation design of the milkweed plant.

A pod full of parachute-equipped seeds matures and swells. At the right time, it bursts open and the seeds take to the winds, creating new plants wherever they may end up.

As with so much that surrounds us. Oaks begin their career as acorns – perhaps a seed buried and forgotten by a busy squirrel, now growing into a mighty presence in the forest.

Leadership Chat was never meant to be an oak. It was destined only to be a means to spread seeds of leadership.

I look out the window here in my office and see our lovely red maple shading our deck. There are still a few helicopter-shaped seeds hanging on today, but mostly, that time has passed. Seed-time is short, then it’s on to watering, fertilizing, pruning, and (eventually) harvesting and propagating.

There is very little that you can build in 140-character bursts once a week on Twitter. What you can do, however, is spread seeds of thought, and challenge old ideas, and kick off new friendships. Ideas and inspiration can take wing on digital networks and land on waiting soil. That’s what on-line chats are best for.

After a year-and-a-half of hosting Leadership Chat, Lisa Petrilli (the best co-host a person could ever ask for!) and I have decided that our time for planting seeds in this format is done. We each have new opportunities and ongoing responsibilities that demand time and attention. Yet we look back with tremendous gratitude for the friendships, the community, the new initiatives that have grown out of this modest little experiment.

We’ve had the privilege of welcoming many guests to share their wisdom and experiences: from well-known public figures like Carrie Wilkerson, Guy Kawasaki, Brian Solis, and John Jantsch to other insightful authors such as Les McKeown, Keni Thomas, Angela Maiers, and Becky Carroll. We discussed and debated Male/Female Roles, Hubris, Loyalty, Decision Fatigue, Vision, On-boarding, Emotions, and many other topics covering quite a range of human experience.

But, above all, we’ve enjoyed each others’ company and support. Hopefully we’ve all learned a few things along the way, things that we’re putting into practice right now (and will continue so to do).

Of all those who have supported the Leadership Chat community, I want to especially thank the quiet man over in the corner, Mack Collier, who has been a pillar of encouragement throughout this entire time, even when lurking on Tuesday nights with his Dr. Pepper. And the privilege of not only collaborating with Lisa Petrilli, but building an enduring friendship, has been for me the greatest result of participating in Leadership Chat.

This Tuesday, May 29th, is Graduation Day. Let’s spend the time discussing what we’ve learned in the past 18 months or so – not merely head knowledge, but real-life hands-on leadership lessons. How have you changed and become more effective? In what practical ways? We look forward to being with you during our final edition of LeadershipChat (8 pm ET on Twitter – hashtag #LeadershipChat).

Image credit: Wikipedia

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

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>> The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

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Open Doors

When you start talking about social media in the business world, you quickly begin to bump into the ROI question (and if you do, get the insight you’ll need from Olivier Blanchard and buy his book, Social Media ROI).

ROI matters. But for many individuals, consultants, entrepreneurs, small businesses – and yes, even larger businesses – that’s not the only measure of value. There’s another factor to weigh in the balance.

Is this activity likely to produce new opportunities? Potential referrals? Broader awareness? Open doors?

Much of what I – and many others – do via social networking is driven by this long-term view, which is based, not on immediate hard returns of dollars-tied-to-specific-efforts, but by what we might call natural human and marketing principles.

Building deeper human bonds with quality people will, in ways both direct and indirect, lead to increased business opportunities. Do you believe this? I do. And I think it’s true for the solopreneur as well as the biggest brand. That means networking – whether the digital/social variety, or good old-fashioned pressing the flesh (note: I believe in both, together).

An example from my own experience: #LeadershipChat on Twitter. Very little direct revenue has come to the co-hosts (Lisa Petrilli and me) for all the time and effort we’ve put in. HOWEVER – the expansion of our networks, the quality contacts with some very influential people, the collaborations that have occurred, not only for us, but among others in the community – these are worthwhile returns, and the future opportunities yet to come as a result of this initiative will, I’m quite convinced, impact business on multiple levels.

I will trade immediate resources of time and effort for open doors tomorrow and next year. Not only for me, but for others.

Speaking of LeadershipChat, this coming Tuesday (April 10), we’ll welcome John Jantsch, Mr. Duct Tape Marketing himself, talking about referrals and small-business marketing in a networked world. Join us for some new thinking, new network contacts – and, who knows?, maybe some new open doors!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

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Going Viral in Perspective (A 2011 Reflection)

This year, I had a blog post (quite unexpectedly) go viral. For a couple of days, it was a crazy ride, as people around the world reacted to LinkedIn’s quietly implemented policy of attaching names and pictures to third party advertising on the platform. The original post was no work of art – it was quickly written without any intention of being a big deal – but because of the sensitivity of the privacy issues involved, it became a big deal nonetheless.

And, in fact, two days later, LinkedIn announced a change in policy, due to the volume of the outcry. That was also unexpected – and quite gratifying, to be perfectly honest.

But what can we learn from a viral incident like this? Here are a few perspectives:

1. Viral happens. Slamming out this blog post early one morning was not some carefully-crafted effort at setting off a firestorm. It just happened to touch a nerve. This was personal – it was about US and OUR privacy. And the whole incident had storyline-drama built in – perceived betrayal, David vs. Goliath, LinkedIn stepping in the same pile Facebook did, etc. Even if the blog post itself was fast-food, the table was set.

2. Viral happens more readily in a pre-existing network. Five years of building a high-quality network meant that I had an engaged audience who spread this thing at light speed. And the global aspect of the reach was breathtaking.

3. Viral posts take on their own momentum. You can do some things to fan the flames (and, yes, I did) when you recognize that you have a tiger by the tail, but most of the spread of the LinkedIn fiasco happened organically.

4. Viral doesn’t necessarily mean business. What impact did all this kerfuffle have on my core revenue-generating business? Probably about zero. For some folks whose business model depends on eyeballs and clicks, the story may be different – but 15 minutes of fame on the Internet may have little to do with the success that pays the bills.

And that’s the main perspective I want to reinforce. The blogger’s dream is to put out posts that garner tons of views and comments. But one happy customer is worth far more than hundreds of comments and thousands of RTs. A close-knit, supportive inner circle of like-minded souls will be far more important in the long run than the passing applause of the crowd.

Be the best person you can be. Do the best work you can. Viral happens. And even if it doesn’t – just keeping adding value to your existing network. We can all do that.

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

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Twitter: @swoodruff

The Unglamorous Need for….Semantics!

Communication – whether on social media or not – is all about exchanging ideas. What we often don’t think about, however, is that there is a “currency” involved – the currency of agreed-upon meanings attached to words.

Let’s say you walk into a convenience store. You pick up a bottle of Diet Coke and a donut. You pull out a green piece of paper that has a number on it – you insist that the number means 10 dollars, while the clerk says it means 5 dollars. Now what do we have? A stymied transaction. Both parties lose when the currency is non-standardized.

Semantics. Without definitions, we’re just wasting time and words, talking past each other. And that means we’re not communicating at all.

This came to mind today as I read this thought-provoking post by the duct-tape marketing guy, John Jantsch (It’s Time to Purge the Word Entrepreneur). Reading through the posts and comments, it’s clear that there are so many perceptions of what the term means or doesn’t mean, that it’s impossible to arrive at any resolution.

My entrepreneur is your small business owner is her tech start-up is his solopreneur is their…you get the picture. I don’t agree about purging the term, but I understand the frustration – when meanings are diluted or changed, it becomes difficult to exchange any ideas.

On Twitter, where context has to be sacrificed for 140 characters, the problem is compounded further. One of the biggest challenges I have discovered in moderating a Twitter chat is how much time and energy is expended with issues of semantics. There’s an awful lot of tweeting past one another as we “chat” starting with different understandings of terms.

This is one reason why political discourse can be so frustrating. What does “progressive” or “liberal” actually mean? How does one define “Tea Party”? These terms have such wildly divergent meanings depending on the standpoint of the speaker, that it seems impossible to carry on an intelligent and reasoned conversation. We are left with tossing pejorative grenades that may inflame, but cannot enlighten, without a shared agreement on meaning. And, yes, I’ve been guilty of that as well. Because I just assume that people carry around the same definitions in their head as I do. You’d think I would have learned something by now about that…(how do YOU define dense? :>)

Perhaps the person on the other end of the conversation is not in need of a hearing aid. Maybe we just need a dictionary on the table between us.

In order to disagree, we first have to agree – on what our words mean. I don’t have a good answer to this widespread dilemma, but perhaps as bloggers, we can be more careful up front to define the terms we’re going to use. Otherwise, our posts may become like so many trees falling in the forest, with no-one around to hear them. Because we’re all on different frequencies.

(Can’t resist linking to this post from Kevin Dugan – because the graphic says it all!)

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (personal or company Brand Therapy)

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Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

Can You Stop Me From Becoming a Pimp?

Yes – yes, you can. I want to ask you a favor, and make a deal.

It’s that awful, horrible, Twitter-polluting time of the year again – South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) has opened up the public voting for panels, and we’re all about to be inundated with requests.

“Vote for my panel! PLEASE!” Every. Other. Tweet. Sigh…

Friends, I don’t want to be “that speaker.” So here’s the deal. I put in a proposal for a talk. It’s a good one – you can trust me on that. And there are a bazillion other good proposed speakers/talks also. But I have a unique angle, and I’m going to be a troublemaker.

Here’s my proposed session:

So, if you think I’m a halfway-decent fellow, worthy of stirring up some trouble in Austin talking about whether pharma and social media REALLY get along, please vote for my panel. I’m asking right here, right now. No endless pimping. Now.

The directions are simple:

1. Go to this link.

2. See that nice green circle on the graphic up there?  Click right there (the site may ask you to register if you’ve not been there. It only takes a moment. Keep repeating to yourself: “Steve’s worth it!”)

3. Done! (or, almost done – if you add a glowing comment on the page that would be a cherry on top!)

Of course, if you then pimp out this post for me, that means I can look like the most popular kid in school instead of a social media pimp-in-training. And here’s the kicker – if I go to Austin to speak at SXSWi, I’ll be forwarding the most luscious photos of BBQ that you’ve ever seen. That’s gotta be worth something.

Thank you in advance for voting for me so that we can initiate the #SXSWSanity club. One post. No pimping.

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (personal or company Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> A Box You Want to Uncheck on LinkedIn

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Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

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