When I work with leaders, my goal is to help them communicate and connect better with their intended audiences. While I tout the importance of sharing their unique stories, developing their emotional intelligence, and serving, not selling, I always come back to three core principles: clarity, consistency, and discipline.
By focusing on these areas, you’ll not only improve your communication, enhance your thought leadership, and bolster your personal brand, you’ll also strengthen your career. Here’s how:
Are you ambitious yet always seem to be spinning your wheels and not progressing professionally? You probably lack clarity.
Clarity is all about focus. And in our chaotic world, where there are endless distractions, that’s more important than ever.
When you’re clear, everything becomes easier. People understand you, what you offer, your value, what differentiates you, how you can help them, and how they can assist you. Clarity helps others know, like, and trust you.
Having clarity also enables you to align your goals with a plan to achieve them—and stay away from the things that can derail you.
The best way to gain clarity is to slow down and reflect on what you want most. Though asking yourself, “What do I want?” may seem like an easy exercise, for some, it can be surprisingly difficult. This is especially true for those who wrestle with fear and insecurities about acknowledging their dreams and for people who’ve never pushed the pause button on their busy lives long enough to give themselves space to do so.
Also, realize that you’re allowed to change your answer over time; what you wanted when you began your career may no longer apply, or you may use this time to pivot and realize that dream you had tucked away for “one day.” Now might be the perfect time to reinvent yourself. Challenge yourself to be open enough to allow new and alternative—and sometimes even better—possibilities to emerge.
But here’s the thing about clarity: it demands specificity, and there is no room for a wishy-washy answer. You can’t make progress if you “kind of” want something. The more focused you can be about what matters most to you, the better.
Once you have clarity, make sure that your actions support your goal. Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re productive. You must make a conscious decision to align your attention with your intention.
Have you ever read about someone online only to be surprised (and maybe disappointed) after meeting them in person or watching them being interviewed because they seemed different? Or perhaps someone has been confused about your values, distinct offering, and what you do?
That’s inconsistency rearing its ugly head.
Consistency is about aligning and maintaining your “voice” and look and feel in all your communications. It’s the way you present yourself, the way you sound, the way you write, all of the visual and verbal touchpoints. So much so that people come to expect—and anticipate—your specific point of view and unique perspective.
The strongest brands understand that consistency—in tone, look and feel, and messaging—is vital. No one would ever mistake Apple with Microsoft because Apple demonstrated how important and powerful it could be to align your internal works with your external messaging, having cohesion and consistency across your brand.
For a moment, think about your core values and competencies versus the way you promote yourself—are they in sync? Would your colleagues and clients agree?
Whether you realize it or not, you send a message to the world about who you are and what you’re about. Rather than make your consumers, customers, and clients guess who you are and what you stand for, make sure to communicate your intended message by maintaining consistency.
It’s lovely to have many interests; it’s terrible when people aren’t clear on your strengths and how you can help them.
Discipline means that you stick with those few areas where you have expertise and avoid veering off course in your messaging, audience, or platform. It means saying no to the things that do not support your professional brand and its offerings. The danger is if you vary too much from this, you might confuse people. And worse, you might lose them.
Perhaps after many years in the corporate world, you’ve decided you’d like to go out on your own. You have an impressive skill set across multiple industries. You’re a sales/marketing/operations/administrative leader who can do it all, right?
Maybe, but likely not very well.
Without discipline, you run the risk of trying to be all things to all people. And doing so lowers your competitive advantage and waters down your offering. Worse, people won’t know what to think of you (if they think of you at all).
Instead, focus on what you do best, and let the other things fade into the background. Promote those one or two areas in your wheelhouse and your expertise in helping others so that your name becomes synonymous with those skills. In this way, restraint can be your biggest ally.
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