Brand Through Leadership
I wanted to start out this session by telling you guys a story about someone that I interviewed for reinventing you. This guy is a consultant in rhode island named alan weiss he's, a really interesting person who writes a lot of work. Some of you guys may be familiar with him already because he writes, ah, lot of stuff for solo entrepreneurs, which, you know, many of us are who are watching. But one of the things that I thought was most fascinating when I interviewed him was he was talking about the role that a leadership role played in his professional development and his ability to really make a living at his work. And so the story he told me goes like this about twenty years ago now, in the mid nineteen nineties, allen decided that he was going teo be the president of the new england chapter of the national speakers association. And, you know, because he's, a consultant in a speaker and that's, a volunteer organization, you don't get paid for it on dh, so he figured that during the ...
two year term that he would be president, he was probably going to make less money, which, you know, if you think about it, it makes sense, right? Because he's spending a lot of time doing something for free. And that means it's, you know, this is life is an entrepreneur, right? It's less time you spend either servicing your clients or marketing yourself to serve clients, but he thought about it and he said, you know what, I'll get to meet people, it'll be interesting, it'll be a way to give back to the profession, so I'll go ahead and do it anyway, so he signs up. He says, yes, I'll do it, and he becomes the new england chapter president of the national speakers association. But the interesting thing, the really interesting part and why I included it in my book, is that it turned out he was wrong he did not make less money when he was the new england chapter president. In fact, over the next two years, he earned an additional two hundred fifty thousand dollars. This is twenty years ago, mind you directly attributable to his role, and I thought that was that was just stunning, but what he discovered was, he said, you know, if you were the leader of an organization, it is qualitatively different in people's minds than just being a member. You know, if you are the leader, when people want to, you know, when the news media wants to interview someone, they always want to interview the president when someone can't do you no gig or something and they want to refer it to someone else, they refer it to the president there's a kind of power that comes with being at the front of the stage and in fact it makes sense because in psychology, if you know if any of you guys were psych majors, you may be familiar with this there's a concept known as social proof and social proof basically means that as humans we look to other people to determine our reaction to things. So if you, for instance, are you walk outside your office building and you see half a dozen people on the sidewalk like looking up right? They've actually literally done experiments like this and the people you know, they're like paid confederates and they're looking up and there's nothing right there's, nothing going on, but if you walk past, you see six people doing that, you're going to see what wait what's going on and you start looking tio it's just natural we take our cues from other people and so similarly, if you are the leader of an organization, pardon me the fact that you have been elected by your peers to do that is really a powerful statement, and when other people look at you, they say, wow, she must be good she's, the president and you know, all the sort of authority of the organization kind of rubs off on you it it helps build your brand so taking over a leadership role is actually one of the most powerful things you khun dio in terms of really helping to define yourself as an authority and as a player in your field you know? And so as alan weiss says this is in for a dime in for a dollar mean literally we have to choose sometimes because we only we're human we have a limited amount of time to spend on things and so it may theoretically, you know, make sense like, oh, well, you know, maybe what I should do is I should join ten groups and then that way I'll be meeting like way more people at each meeting will be different crowd and then they get to know me and they'll want to buy my services but it actually doesn't work that way. Ironically, you can both simplify your life and make a bigger impact if you cut that out and you say you know what, I'm not going to join ten groups I'm just going to join two groups and I'm going to make a point to really invest in them because the clients you get the jobs you get are going to be from people who actually know you well not people usually who have met you for two minutes and so digging in and investing is pretty powerful and you get a maximum return if you actually take the time to become a leader because you know for sure it takes more time to be a leader of a group than it does to be just a random member. But here's the difference, it takes this much more effort to be a leader, and you get this much more return. It's just a, you know, maximum impact. So that's something I would really heartily encourage you to do. And, you know, I talk to people sometimes about about this, and they say, well, you know, that's that's cool, but, you know, isn't it, like, really hard to get to be a leader of a group? And, you know, it depends certainly see no summer our difficulty, but in the vast majority of cases, you would actually be astonished because most people are so focused on their own lives, you know, I mean, people are busy there's, you know, busy doing their jobs, earning their living it's really hard for them to make time tow want to be the leader of groups. And so even for things that are actually fairly prestigious, the groups are really having a hard time filling out their ranks of people who are willing to spend the time I'm doing it particularly for things that are a little like less glamorous like maybe you're the secretary of the group were the membership chair of the group but those can ironically be some of the best positions because it gives you the excuse to reach out to whoever you want to talk to whoever you want you know? Hey, I'm the membership chair so I thought I ought to get to know the members so you won't have coffee and you know now all of a sudden if there's someone who's been on your list of like wow this would be a really good connection you have the opportunity to do it so it's easier than you think to be able to get into these roles and it could be you know, depending on this sort of scope that you want to do it could be like a local club like a local chamber of commerce or a rotary club I think you'd be a professional association maybe it's the california state photographer's association maybe it's it's a women's group you know, the association of of, you know, female graphic designers you know, whatever whatever the realm is you want a plan, you can probably find something it could be a city group of state group there's a lot of things to choose from so you can look around and find the place where you can make an impact now the other situation now, is it? Maybe a group doesn't exist already that meets your needs. Or maybe there is a group. But, you know, it's just it's. Not your vibe. Maybe it's, you know, kind of, um, really stale or ossified there's. Not a lot of room for new members. What do you do in that situation? It turns out, fortunately, that all is not lost and you do have an option. And that option is to start something. And I will tell you a story about that. Because for many people that may seem too bold may seem impossible. Like what? Start what? Um, I want to tell you a story about a friend of mine named robbie samuels who's, actually, somebody that I am profiling in my next book, which is going to be coming out next march. Um, it's called, stand out howto find your breakthrough idea and build a following around it. And so robbie is one of my case, a place that I profile in there. And so he he's a nonprofit fundraiser, and he discovered that, you know, maybe you guys have found similar things in your own industry. He realized that in the boston nonprofit community where he was based, it really felt like things were siloed you know, media on lee makes sense that if you're a fundraiser for an environmental cause, you should probably be talking to fundraisers, fund raisers you do health care, our fundraiser should you animal welfare or whatever but they weren't they weren't talking because everybody was so busy so heads down you know where they were just kind of doing their job and he would talk to people sometimes about will you know, should we get together? Should we trade ideas trade best practices and they'd be like, oh, a hobby you know were way to busy we can't do that even though they all knew intellectually that it would be beneficial. And so he said, well, how do I solve this? There's got to be a different way, you know, there's gotta be a way around this somehow and so we got to thinking and what he ended up doing was he created a meet up group and you guys are probably familiar with with meat up for anybody at home who's who's not it's a really great sight meetup dot com that allows you to create events for free so let's say I like knitting and I could say, well, you know what? I'm I'm in san francisco right now, so I wanted to create a san francisco knitters club and so you you pick up a location you know, such and such you know, bar and we're all gonna meet there on saturday night and go, nate and anyone who's interested in that cannon search, you know? Oh, knitting san francisco will find your event, and then you come and it's an opportunity to make friends pretty pretty good idea to bring people together and it's a way that you do it with basically no cost. And so robbie said, I'm going to create a meet up group, and I am gonna call it socializing for justice and his his pitch was look, it's, not work. This is for nonprofit advocates and their friends and it's purely social it's bowling for justice, cocktails for justice trivia night for justice who would not want to go to such a thing, right? And so it became really popular really fast. Hundreds of people were signing up for it, and, in fact, eight years later, robbie started eight years ago. He has twenty, four hundred members in the group. They even, you know, he got such such a following that the city council named robbie samuels day in boston a couple of years ago on his birthday. And, you know, he's really had this incredible impact because he didn't stop, you know, when he had this vision of bringing nonprofit advocates together. You know when people said oh robbie were too busy he didn't just stop and accept it and say oh, well I guess you know that's not gonna work he said what is a way around the problem just like lisa and craig that we talked about in a previous session where you know you get kind of blockaded and you say, well, what's what's the way toward my goal sometimes you have to think differently and robbie did that by creating socializing for justice by saying, well, you know what if we can't bond over this work thing if you're too busy let's make it fun and so he did it and he built this powerhouse but what this has to do with personal branding I mean that's a great way to build a network and you know, to have fun, obviously, but think about it for a moment what it would mean if twenty, four hundred people in your community in your industry knew who you were I got an email from you every single week and not on ly recognised your name, but every time he saw it in the inbox it oh, how what cool thing is happening because of this person it's the ultimate way of paying it forward, putting something positive into the environment and, you know, helping other people network and connect people have found jobs because of socializing for just this they've found dates if you had a good time robbie in fact, speaking of getting some benefits, robbie met his wife through socializing for justice and was able teo to get married recently and so it's it's a way that if you start a group you were inherently recognized as a leader people looked to you and say, you know all of these benefits that I've derived from it you get credit for it and it's it's one of the best ways of building your brandon who heard earlier that sometimes people think like, oh personal brand you get viewed as being too aggressive or you know, like you're promoting yourself too much but you can promote yourself by giving to others you can promote yourself by creating something that is really truly valuable and people are grateful and that's one of the strongest ways you can build an amazing brand and so something that I'd like to do right now with you guys is an exercise in the workbook it's on page four for those of you who have your workbook in front of you it's called the leadership role audit and what I'd love for you to do right now is to think about what leadership activities are you currently involved in sort of the groups that you are a member over that you go to regularly just, you know, start writing them all down it could be you know almost anything you participate in regular it could be an alumni group maybe it's a professional association it could be an advocacy group maybe there is a cause you care about maybe you do your local chamber or you know a civic group like your neighborhood association you know hack maybe it's even your you know racquetball club or whatever it is but what are the groups you participate in regularly that's number one and number two are you currently in a leadership role with any of them if you are right that down and if you're not thinking through are there any that you think would actually be interesting or advantageous to be in a leadership role in you know what's what's the sort of plan is there any place where you can expand your involvement so let's take a moment teo to write that down mean for me I know when I actually started my professional career I launched my consulting business eight years ago now it was actually years ago in the beginning of june and I kind of went crazy I mean I know from my personal experience I made the mistake that alan weiss tells us to avoid which is that I joined like ten groups and I wanted I kind of spread myself too thin really I joined my local chamber I joined my regional chamber I there was a women's group that I that I joined actually they're several women's groups that I joined and you know I was I was spending all of my time just like shuttling around I was doing crazy things I uh you know I mean well some people wouldn't think they're crazy but for me getting up at like six o'clock in the morning to go downtown to like a seven seven thirty breakfast that's crazy I would not recommend that for myself if you like you know early morning things good for you awesome but I very quickly realized it like you know I'm you know for me I'm like not sleeping are doing like horrifically unhealthy things it was like no no mohr breakfast meetings downtown esso I wised up about that but you know so I had to overtime really limited I really had to cut it down to figure out what is going to be the most valuable for me where is the r a why or is the return on investment and uh you know you have to do that for yourself to find out what's going to be beneficial and you know what what constitutes a beneficial association that's gonna really vary bye person it's it could be you know that some groups you just determined you have more of a cultural fit with like you know these people they feel like my people so I want to participate there other ones maybe you're learning really interesting things like some of them have great speakers and every time you go you really learned something powerful other ones it turns out maybe better in terms of business referrals you know, maybe maybe there's a networking group that is really good and it seems like it's always giving you good leads whereas other ones you know, not so much yeah way actually have some some safety questions because when you're meeting people out and about you oftentimes don't even know them uh maureen and montana brings up a good point that says I think you have to use common sense just like any way of meeting people meet in public places not meeting someone alone maybe google people first if you get a weird feeling do you have any best practices just around uh having some common sense around around how you organize these meetings if you choose to have them yeah yeah so you're talking about if you're starting a meet up or something like that yeah absolutely mean the basic premise of meat up itself and I would say, you know any sort of similar things that you were launching on your own I mean obviously you know, you don't want to, you know, meet up for, you know, random untested group of people like in your living room that could be kind of weird, so for instance, what robbie did was you know, he found hey found bars you know you can find alternate you know non alcoholic alternatives as well depending on your target audience but you know bars air usually very eager to have groups of people come particularly like you know early like right after work because oh hey they want new customers and they want people to come in and buy things from them so you know that's that's good you can you really find a symbiotic relationship with places but there's a million great things you know, I've had plenty of events in libraries many community libraries have function rooms you can rent for either extremely little money or oftentimes if you are a member of that library card holder you can rent the room for free and have it there so there's a lot of ways of doing it oftentimes you may also have a friend this is this is good you know you may be on entrepreneurs a creative professional but almost almost all of us probably have some friends that work for you no fancy shmancy cos right you know let's say there is some kind of ah ah and executive in a company and you know what's great about knowing executives and companies they had access to board rooms and we can ask them to borrow the board room when I was executive director of a nonprofit it was always like super handy because you know there's always like some random law firm where we could be like who are you using that thursday night? And, uh and that was pretty useful, and you also brought up a really great point on setting boundaries around what is and what is not a value add activity. S o e swanson says, I've recently stepped away from all my groups and the leadership roles I was holding because I felt like in my circle, I was becoming the default leader for all the activities I felt the need to try and help empower others around me to say, step up and take leadership roles and participate more, and it seems like, you know, whether you want to start one or not it's understanding what the boundaries are, do you have any best practice hips around? How do you set boundaries around your time? And if it's not going well, how do you think you're making a graceful exit? Yeah, absolutely it's really it's really important? So I do have a few thoughts about that. I mean, one is that as you're deciding where you're going to invest your time, you've got, you know, sort of a few questions, few key questions that you need, you need to answer it's the first one is you could have a personal development goal, and so, you know, it's, one of the things that I think it's really powerful is that volunteer activities, particularly, you know, for civic groups or associations, or things like that, you're doing it for free, which means that you have a heck of a lot more latitude to experiment. Then you do when you are doing things for a client who is paying you money and who expects youto really know what you're doing. And so if you decide, you know what, I want to learn more about social media, you're not necessarily going to, you know, immediately dive in and start saying to your client's, hey, and I'll do social media for you if that's not something that you know about, but what you could dio is to say, you know what? I will be the social media chair this year for this organization, and that way I could practice, I can learn, I can get comfortable with facebook and twitter and lengthen and whatever and get really good at it, and then I could either use it, you know, those things for my own business, or maybe I can incorporate that as the service that I do for my clients. So think of it as your own personal curriculum, that's, that's, the way you can do it in terms of skills development, thie other thing, in terms of which organizations to really dive into, and how much is it? Thinking about, you know, there's there's a saying, you know, it's, a well known saying that I think bears repeating here, which is if you're the smartest person in the room, you know, run, you want to be in a group where you feel like you are learning from other people and you know, that doesn't that doesn't mean like you're of course you're probably the smartest person in the room at something, you know, a debt can probably kick all of our behinds when it comes to walking on stilts. I bet she's the expert there, but if if you know we are but presumably we can help teacher other things too, because there's things you're better at there's things that I'm better at and so we can learn from each other. So that's fine if you're the best that's something, but you're still learning from everybody else. But if you're in a place where you feel like you are not learning, you're just giving, giving, giving all the time that's not very satisfying and it's not very professionally beneficial either you've got to be in a place and choose your organization where you feel like wow, this is this is a great peer group where it's a very symbiotic, so does that answer the question? Thank you so much awesome, yeah so guys, I'm really curious what uh what you have come up with so you know, maybe tomorrow I can I can start with you what kind of groups are you involved in? Do you do any of this stuff? Um not yet unfortunately I'm kind of member ofthe thiss a question targo first not work but frankly doesn't worry that well, like you're saying, I don't feel like I'm learning really sad thing for me because I really feel like a queen star first here are really like withholding thing oh yeah they don't give the information way that easily so personally for me doesn't worry better well, yeah, yeah so gotcha uh, but I'll, um I'll try to research some more today yeah, yeah, absolutely and, you know, you sound slightly bashful, so don't be okay first of all, it's it's okay to not be, like, totally plugged in and involved yet because a lot of people have the same issue where they feel like, you know what? I tried something and it, you know, wasn't that good or it didn't work the way I wanted and especially you know what you're talking about. I am assuming if I'm reading between the lines correctly that the reason these folks maybe slightly withholding is that maybe there's a little bit of a atmosphere of paranoia like oh, these are my top editor person I don't I don't want to tell them how much I charge and I don't want to you know, share my trade secret yeah that's that's exactly how it feels but what I discovered throughout my years off uh experience is that first of all by giving people you're learning them better yes and the second thing is that you're not actually giving it away your like investing and it's another reason to move forward so it really feels really awkward for me to meet those people and be like uh you know we're not really talking right? Yeah no it's it's an awkward situation if you're you know sort of like you know when they know but you know nobody but we don't want to talk about it, right? Yeah so I mean, what do you do in a situation like that so I would see there's there's basically two potential paths you get follow and maybe more if you can think of more for tomorrow I feel free to write him in you know you could do that but to immediately come to my mind so the first one is you know, it depends it depends also what your goals are right? So maybe you want a professional advice and support about photography in general so maybe if the equine photographer's association is just not doing it for you maybe you could join a more broad based photographer's association and so you know let's say there's sort of general topics of interest all photog ra first maybe it's like well hot away by my own health insurance or you know what air water strategies for dealing with bad clients or you know, whatever it is those air things that whether on the wedding photographer whether on the sports photographer whether on the horse photographer we can probably commiserating about and you can probably learn a lot so maybe you decided to invest in that kind of a pure group that's one possibility another possibility that you could do is I am willing to bet that you are not the on ly equine photographer in the area that is frustrated with the way that the group is going there's there's probably other people who you know like the silent majority right that are frustrated and cash and I wish I could have it honest conversation with people I wish that you know, we could really talk frankly. And so I would say if you can find a way either through your interpersonal network to identify like one or two of those people or even you know, to put out a call you know you could you know, find a way to just email, you know, group or whatever and say, look, I'm starting my own thing it's you know, really informal it's you know, it doesn't have to be like a big thing a big group it could literally be, you know, because presumably, you know, these folks so in this case, it's probably safe to invite them here living room and you could say, you know what? I'm going to have a few people over and we're just going to talk, you have an honest talk about the profession and, you know, talk about what it's like and trade ideas and best practices, and it could, you know, literally just be once a month maybe you have a potluck and invite people over or something, and it could start small but be a really valuable way for you to get the knowledge and the support you need within the industry, and I'm willing to bet that if it really is useful and interesting, you know, like that beacon, you're going to start attracting people to it who like that way of doing it. The important thing, the powerful thing about starting your own group is that you get to set the culture you know, this the current culture of the equine photographers group sounds like it's not good sounds like it's kind of quiet kind of paranoid, you know, whatever and it's that way, probably not because everyone in the group is like that because the leadership of the group is like that so if you don't like it you can make your own culture based on openness and based on transparency and the values that were important to you what do you think? Yeah I think it's a really good idea like infirm ality well this yes, I think that's the key because um I had an experience when we tried to start kind of photography club back in my hometown in russia but it didn't work out because everybody was extending like a lot of speakers and interesting topics and nobody was willing to do anything about it like we did like I don't know town meetings is and then we ran out of the topics and that was it yeah, but informality is the really good idea thank you, yeah, absolutely I mean, you know as long as you are up front with people about you know here's here's what the group's going to be like and here's, you know, sort of the values that we have, you'll really be able to sort of essentially weed people out and you know, with the wrong people out and bring the right people in because they say, oh, that is what I've been looking for so that's that's pretty cool so I'm curious what what are what are we hearing over the transom here from our from our friends at home well, there are some complexities there without going into too much detail. One of our chatters actually is is sort of facing the identity situation, the leadership a role that they perhaps wanna play but they have complex uh, abuse issues that got anxiety issues they've got some actual personal issues no burn a brown has been talking about that vulnerability, a conversation how would you put vulnerability or some of the woes or challenges or pain or struggle into how you move forward with who you are? Yeah that's really interesting so you know, I want to say first of all that you know, for you guys here and also you know, all of you guys at home but the way that I'm talking about these elements of personal branding I very much wanted to be a smorgasbord you know, this is something where you take the pieces you like and if you are not interested in certain things or if you know something you know if you're looking at this and you say, oh my gosh, do I have to be the leader of a group because that's like I do not want to be the leader of a group, you know what that is? Okay? There are many ways to get to the destination and so all of these are meant as props there meant is ideas and their menace possibilities but in order to have a strong personal brand, you definitely don't have toe literally do every single thing we're talking about the goal is to pick the pieces that feel good to you because you know, you could spend your whole life doing, you know, every single thing and it would be completely overwhelming you can still have a really great personal brand if you pick a few of the element is that we are talking about now and we'll be talking about throughout the course of the two days together and really focusing on those things. So for instance, I mean justus an example some people really hate public speaking, you know, everybody talks about how oh, you know, it's like people fear it worse than death and whatever and if you hate public speaking, I mean, is it a good thing for you to like, take it head on and face your fear and get comfortable with me? Yes, of course that's a good thing to dio, but if you really hate it and it's horrible, don't do it, don't do it. You know that doesn't mean you are permitted to not think about your personal brand because I really think people should I think that's important, but you could do it in other ways maybe you become a blogger instead and that is how you share your voice so there's going to be ways for everybody so if somebody is writing it and you know if if this is if it's something they wanted you we could talk about that in the second but if it's something that they're looking at and they say oh, wow you know this this is going to cause some problems for me if I do it then by all means I want to say that one definitely does not have to do this as a means not right now too yeah, they always say that they meaning you know, a lot of speakers have come on here say they can on lee now talk about the difficult part of the story now that they have the point of view of, you know, having some years between themselves and and the experience at the time to say, hey, that actually did help to shape who I am yeah, but you had to kind of get through it and be on the other side before you could really have a different perspective on it yeah, so so it's an interesting conversation and that was very, very well put. There is one more question from marcy and send santiago that's in chile, isn't it? Yeah yeah I have a leadership role that's brought me great contacts and leads but for family reasons we're moving to another country how do I start over in the new city that's that's really interesting? Well, you know, marcie, I'm actually in the same place right now is a matter of fact, because I actually I was telling I was telling these folks, everybody came into the studio today they're all like, oh, you're from boston, and I'm like, well, yes, sort of, because I have lived in boston for nearly two decades, ever since graduate school, I lived in boston, but literally five minutes ago, I moved to new york, and I literally just finished unpacking. And then I, uh, then I immediately came here on my business trip, so I'm technically from new york, but I also don't even, like know, what's around the corner from my apartment. So so that's, kind of a weird place to be. And so one thing that I will suggest to marcie, which I think is really interesting, I think it's fantastic, that you know, that she has these great contacts from her time in santiago to pieces. One is that if the group that you are in has, you know, some kind of ah related branch or sister ruth, by all means, try to get introductions now and or just reach out cold to them because, you know, if you I have been involved in the santiago chamber of commerce you know, chambers love each other, they're all friends, you know? And so you could reach out to your new town and say, hey, look, I was involved in the santiago chamber, I'd really love to learn more about your organization, potential ways to get involved, and they're gonna be thrilled to receive that. The other thing which I am planning to dio is to actually take your most interesting friends, so literally we'll talk about this a little bit later, but true, you know, triage your friends, right? Think about who you know, who you think is absolutely the coolest, you know, who's, the most interesting, the smartest awesome is therefore, the most likely to know interesting in awesome people and go to those people and say, you know what? I am moving to actualize the city, who do you know there that I should meet? And people are very open to that, um, and it's it's a good excuse, you know, because when you're new, everybody understands that you want to be expanding your contacts, you want to be meeting new people, and I'm planning to use in new york, where I'm gonna go to my friends and say, who, who should I meet in new york, and I am willing to bet then as a result, over the course of the next year, I'm probably going to develop a really interesting and very diverse social network because much more so than I would have just because of people that I happened to meet in my day to day travels because I'm going to be making an effort not just to be looking out for people on my own but to be, you know, really asking a kind of widely diverse a group of people, so I hope that at the end of the year, I've got broadway actors and hedge fund managers and, you know, be whatever people who run greek diners, you know, I want I want all kinds of people in my network and if you ask a lot of people for for their contacts, uh, you know, they're going to be willing to introduce you so that's one way to do it just to speak to that and tomorrow you were talking about you know, the horse you would have a group just touting the benefits of being in the chat room on creative live carrie portis is just to shout out you have a fellow horse photographer listening in and I will join your group if you start one way alright, congratulations to creative life way to do it horse photographers unite we feel the power here today, it's also cool. So, anyway, this, you know, so this is sort of exciting. So I hope that, you know, for those of you at home and here in the studio, uh, you know, just kind of can't start thinking. Starts start the wheels, turning about the group's you're involved in and which are the ones that you love, which the ones you kind of want to jettison a little bit, and which are the ones that you would really like to double down your investment into to get more involved, spend more time.