As a communication coach, I hear a lot of wishes. Women come to me all the time wishing to become a thought leader like the ones they admire: Brene Brown, Sheryl Sandberg, Michelle Obama, Arianna Huffington. (Fill in the blank with the a woman you want to be like.)
As we explore whether or not we’re a good fit for each other, a vetting process must take place. Women are asking themselves, “Am I really ready for this jump to the next level?” just as much as I am asking myself, “Am I the right person to support her journey to the top?”
Wishing is not the same as truly wanting.
I find that the number one challenge that stands between most women entrepreneurs and the worldwide impact (and/or 6- or 7-figure income and they want to have is) a lack of knowledge about the commitment involved. When you know what you need to create, you can commit to the process. But when you are uncertain, you stumble around, buying courses and services you don’t need and don’t finish.
Get clear on your goal first. Do you really WANT to be a woman of influence versus just WISHING how nice it would be? Are you willing to do whatever it takes?
If you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is your dream, here’s what it will take to propel you into the spotlight:
1. Willingness to invest resources
Nothing is possible for free. In fact, none of the women you admire became thought leaders, speakers, coaches or created any other idea-driven empire without investing both time and money in the development of their impact. TIME means that you are willing to invest the consistency of effort it takes to get seen and heard over a very long period of time. MONEY is just that: money. Great coaching, creative services and support for your business are not free. If your first thought anytime you look into getting help is, “I can’t afford that” … then you’re not ready to do what it takes. Period. You’ll always find resources to afford what you truly want.
2. Clarity on your purpose in the world
So now you have the resources to invest on amping your impact? It’s time to get deadly clear on why you are here on this planet, whom you are supposed to serve and the work you are called to do. Without this clarity you will not be able to make it through the hard days, or do what it is going to take to reach your peak visibility. In fact, without clarity you cannot do much of anything at all. So put your blinders on. Don’t listen to anything or anyone who tells you you need something else. If you are not clear, everything depends on your alignment with your purpose. This step is so important that I always start here with my clients.
3. Something really controversial to say
Hoping to skate along making everybody feel happy or grand? Sorry, as a thought leader with this approach you will melt right back into the bucket of vanilla instead of standing out like the pistachio caramel mint chocolate cherry delight you are. Not everyone will be on board with that combination of flavors, but for those with the right palate, you will be their next great combination. Finding your core controversy comes right out of your pain within your work. I always ask my clients, “What’s bothering you about your industry or community? What are you afraid to say to them?” That is a big clue to what you should speak loud and clear.
4. A compelling story to share that isn’t all hearts and roses
People listen to people they respect. Very often, respect flows out of your story: what you’ve been through, what you learned and how it is influencing your thinking and work today. If you are hiding the parts of your story you feel ashamed about, then you are undercutting your biggest opportunity to connect emotionally with your audience and actually win them over. Remember the women I mentioned at the beginning of this post? How many of those women do we feel a kinship with not just because of their success, but because of their struggle? Most of them, if not all. I work with my clients to draw out and shape that story so you can go out and get the PR and engagements you want because people feel compelled to hear more from you.
5. Branding that reflects you as the successful high achiever you are
Women ask me all the time if they can scrimp on creative services by hiring their friend’s daughter who is just out of high school to do their website, while still expecting to come out with a luxe 6- or 7-figure brand. My standard response is: you get what you pay for. If you want creative work done cheap, hire your friend’s daughter. If you want a brand with staying power, depth, attention to detail and emotional power … then we have to go back to Step 1: investing resources. Of course, this does not mean that your brand has to cost the earth. But take a hard look at it. If your brand (visual and written) doesn’t look like the YOU that you want to be in five years, then it isn’t the right brand. My team and I design for at least 5 years out, not (just) who you are right now.
6. Consistent, creative content that spreads your ideas
Once you know your purpose, your controversy, and your story, and you have created your brand, you can create the website and ongoing content such as blogs, social postings, videos, webinars or other educational pieces that get your ideas in front of the people who need them. This goes back again to Step 1 with the investment of TIME. Your audience will grow in direct proportion to the amount of targeted, quality content you create. People will look at your content when deciding to hire you or not. They will analyze it before offering you the speaking engagement. What you write in your blogs becomes a dress rehearsal for your signature book. When I see clients commit to the idea of creating content as their best and most cost-effective way to grow their audience, I see them flourish.
7. A supportive community whom you invest in emotionally and who spread your ideas
No one becomes a thought leader in a vacuum. To be a leader, you must have people to lead. You can start where you are right now by creating a community of women who all care about your purpose and core controversy. As you build up and develop them as partners, you will create your first audience that allows you to push out into the wider sphere. Never underestimate the power of the people around you. The rising tide lifts all boats. While my clients are busy working on all aspects of their thought leadership, I make sure they don’t forget to nurture the relationships around them with generosity and intentionality. Your support team (friends, collaborators, employees, and mentors) are critical to your success.
8. A business model that actually supports you to profit
I know many women who have all seven going above for them, but have missed the eighth step. NONE of the above will matter if your business is not designed to bring in a regular, consistent income for you. For many women this is the key reason they cannot engage in Steps 1-7: because they do not see their current businesses bringing in enough revenue to support their next step into thought leadership. While thought leadership should help you enhance and grow your business, it cannot make up for a business that is not designed to profit in the first place. While my personal specialization is not business coaching, before I work with any woman on Steps 1-7 I make sure that #8 is in place.
Making the big break from a local or online business into greater impact through your speaking engagements, signature book project, workshops, and events is no small process. I believe it is completely achievable for any woman who has the drive and is truly convinced she has a mission to share with the world. Don’t let any one of these 8 things stop you from breaking through your communication blocks and attracting the people who truly need you.
Where you’re feeling “stuck” with your audience engagement? Or, perhaps you’re going out for your first big speaking engagement or need to create your signature book? Or maybe you’ve just been offered a big opportunity to collaborate on an event in your community! Whatever your “next step” in cultivating your thought leadership, I am excited to speak with you about how to leverage that amazing opportunity into your next level.
Start your journey into thought leadership here with your 1:1 FREE consultation.