HELPING ORGANIZATIONS & INDIVIDUALS IMPROVE PERFORMANCE
206-299-23605208 Carlton Street  Bethesda, MD  20816

Developing Your Thought Leadership | Heal The Divide Podinar

July 27, 2020

 

“You can’t be a thought leader by writing one blog post. You can’t be a thought leader by writing lots and lots of stuff about various different things. You can’t be an inch deep. So I think number one is to find your lane.” — Peter Winick

As we experience a major transformation in the way we work and live, it’s a critical time for us as coaches to focus on thought leadership to share bold new ideas and to clarify and differentiate our value to clients. 

With that in mind, Alison Whitmire, President of Learning In Action, connects with guest Peter Winick, founder and CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage, for June’s Heal The Divide Podinar to learn more about how to define and develop thought leadership.

Winick is an expert in the space, helping individuals and organizations build and grow revenue streams by designing and developing their thought leadership platforms. His clients include New York Times bestselling book authors, members of the Speakers’ Hall of Fame, Thinkers50 award recipients, CEOs of publicly and privately held companies and academics from institutions such as Yale, Wharton, Dartmouth and the London School of Business.

What Is Thought Leadership?

Most recognize a thought leader as a person or organization that is respected as an authority in a specific field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.

“There’s a lot of noise and debate over what thought leadership is and what it isn’t,” Winick says, noting that it’s also a fairly young discipline. If you ask 10 people what a thought leader is you might get 11 answers, he says.

Winick breaks it down into two elements: the thoughtfulness and the leadership. The thoughtful side involves original work or thorough research, he says. “So it can be on a continuum from hardcore academic research — or experiential in the case of coaches seeing patterns, etc. … But you’re adding to a conversation that already exists. So, I think the thoughtful piece is adding to a conversation in a field and a discipline in an area that you practice.”

And then there’s the leadership piece. “It’s one thing to just share or regurgitate other things that you’ve read or seen or heard, but [to be a leader] you’re taking the conversation to the next level or a different level,” Winick says. “And as a leader, you’re willing to take risks there.

“Your role as a thought leader is not to placate everyone, not to have everyone necessarily agree with you. In fact, if you’re not getting a little push back here and there, you’ve probably diluted it too much.”

So thought leadership is being cognizant of both sides, he says. To test your content and messaging, ask: Is it thoughtful, and am I leading the conversation in my discipline to a higher level?

 

Finding Your Thought Leadership Lane 

A major obstacle to successful thought leadership is a lack of clarity on your unique contribution. The way you find that clarity is to be very specific about who you’re serving and what problems you’re solving for them, Winick says. And also defining “why you?” What makes your expertise the right solution for a specific type of client?

“You are a product,” Winick says. “How are you better, quicker, cheaper and faster? Who are you competing against? And it doesn’t mean it’s a Coke or Pepsi, but who else is out there who has influenced your thinking?”

The more constraints you put on yourself in terms of what you do and who you serve, the easier it is to become a thought leader in that area, Winick says. “The worst answer I get is that ‘My stuff is applicable to everyone.’” As a thought leader, you can’t be a generalist.

Once you find your lane, stick to it. Then, figure out not only who you’re serving, but also how they prefer to consume content in order to engage or activate them.

“Some people like to write, some people like videos, some people like infographics, that’s all fine and dandy. It doesn’t matter what you like, what matters is my audience. This is the way they prefer to consume content. I have to meet them where they are.”

For a science-based audience, the content will be more fact-based, more white papers or sourced reporting. For a marketing-type audience it will be more visual, Winick says. Then once you’ve determined the strongest format, consistently create content that meets your audience’s needs.

Communicating the Impact of Your Work

An essential way to convey value and differentiate performance is to understand how your clients are different after your work with them. So, how do you define and communicate the impact of your work?

“I think that one of the difficult things about coaching is, [the value proposition] is abstract [The client asks] ‘I’m making an investment in coaching of my time, my energy, my effort and my dollars. What am I getting out of this?’ So, I think you have to be really, really clear and paint the picture for your client as to what this will look like. What are logical outcomes and how will we measure them?”

One way is to look at the before, what are you coming to me to solve? And then, after the work, what is the result or the change?

Communicating the Impact of Your Work 

An essential way to convey value and differentiate performance is to understand how your clients are different after your work with them. So, how do you define and communicate the impact of your work? 

“I think that one of the difficult things about coaching is, [the value proposition] is abstract [The client asks] ‘I’m making an investment in coaching of my time, my energy, my effort and my dollars. What am I getting out of this?’ So, I think you have to be really, really clear and paint the picture for your client as to what this will look like. What are logical outcomes and how will we measure them?”

One way is to look at the before, what are you coming to me to solve? And then, after the work, what is the result or the change?

For example, if the goal is to develop confidence, you help them with that, and it’s up to them to apply it, to understand the benefit of being more confident in the situations they’re coming to you to fix, he says. The benefits and applications of the work emerge in follow-up sessions where growth and behavior changes can be highlighted.

Steps to Activate Your Thought Leadership

If you look at thought leadership in stages of a movement — awareness, engagement and activation — this is how it works, Winick says. First, no one knows who you are yet, so you have to make them aware. You make them aware by putting out a lot of thoughtful content that shows leadership. 

“You stay engaged, listening to and reading more content,” he says. “Then the audience begins to engage with you and your content as well. And then ultimately it’s an activation as a result of the engagement. What is it that I’d like you to do? Share content with a friend, recommend my book, bring me in as your coach. Whatever that is takes time and consistent effort.”

Once you’ve found your lane, Winick says, step one to successful thought leadership is to develop a process and an editorial calendar to consistently deliver meaningful content that addresses your target audience’s pain points.

In summary, for coaches working to establish thought leadership, it’s important to find your lane and then to differentiate yourself in that defined space. You do that by engaging with and creating content to add your own “special sauce” to it that’s uniquely you. Your contributions should take the conversation to a higher level and add value to the industry. It’s a lot of hard work, but achieving your thought leadership goals becomes doable if you are clear on your value proposition and your unique point of view, succinctly define your space, and put the energy, systems and processes in place to be consistent.

Share your thought leadership success stories in the comments; we’d love to hear from you.


People mentioned in the podinar recording

Places/organizations mentioned

 

Posted in: Heal The Divide|Podinars

Leave a comment