Actively contributing to leading the thinking in your field is now an essential part of what it takes to stand out, according to Mark Hodgson, Mentor with Thought Leaders Global. Having undergone the training program myself almost 10 years ago, his experience in the article below really resonates.
There are a lot of professionals looking to equip themselves for a successful professional life after corporate, or to reinvent themselves within it. If that’s you, or you’re an expert looking to get paid what you’re really worth, the following blueprint may help.
Mark has been an active thought leader for over 5 years, and as a mentor in the Thought Leaders movement and has personally transitioned from a corporate leader to someone who makes a great living as a leadership consultant, author, speaker and mentor.
The model is based on solid experience and maps out what we need to do to build a profitable business around our expertise. Whilst it’s framed mainly for the self-employed, the principles are equally applicable to those building their influence within a business.
BUILDING YOUR EXPERT PRACTICE – 9 keys to capturing, connecting and monetising your expertise
There’s a ton of difference between being an expert and being a thought leader. You’ll require entirely different levels of pro-activity, energy, persistence and flexibility. You’ve got to stick your neck out. You will have to work on your own for long periods. The model illustrates the combination of actions, attitudes and resources you’ll need to grow your expert business. It describes 3 focus stages and 3 levels within each stage. Start at the bottom left and work upwards through each state.
I. DO THIS
1. Think (capture what you know)
The first focus stage is about what you need to ‘do’. At Thought Leaders, ‘think’, ‘sell’ and ‘deliver’ is a fundamental mantra. Thinking always comes first. It’s about capturing what you know, understanding what problems this solves and clearly differentiating solutions.
2. Sell (connect your ideas)
Clever people often present an aversion to selling. Many subscribe to the ‘build it and they will come’ mentality. In my experience they won’t and don’t! You’ve always got to be connecting your ideas with those you help and in-build this process into everything you do.
3. Deliver (master flexibility)
It’s no use having amazing ideas if you can’t communicate them. You have to connect your thinking powerfully using multiple formats – workshops, videos, webinars, keynotes, 1-on-1s, blogs, tweets et al. This is the highest-level skill because it amplifies both our thinking and our selling.
So that’s what we ‘do’. To get real-world traction for your thought leadership, we also need to get into the right mindset to create and maintain growth. This is the focus of the second stage and is about how we need to ‘be’.
II. BE THIS
4. Productive (get more done faster)
If you are going to earn serious money for yourself or your company by selling your expertise, you have to become highly-productive (especially if you are working on your own). You need to become ruthlessly good at getting more done more quickly and develop a constant vigilance around your output levels.
5. Strategic (sequence actions and skills)
We need to have a clear plan of where we are going. This means doing the right things at the right time. It’s easy to embark on too-many projects or to get distracted. This is where 90-day horizons and strict weekly, monthly and quarterly plans are crucial. You need to schedule your activities and say “no”. It’s about developing the discipline to finish what you’ve started (and avoiding shiny project syndrome).
6. Accountable (take responsibility)
Most of us can’t do this alone. The best way to keep on track is to hold yourself accountable to someone else. An external mentor is the perfect person to challenge and correct us and also to encourage us to keep delivering on our agreed actions and targets.
The combination of our ‘doing’ and ‘being’ is a great start to developing and deploying our thinking. The final column details the things that we need to be ‘building’ over time. These are fundamental in sustaining us to enjoy long-term success.
III. BUILD THIS
7. Resilience (know the game)
Business can be tough. Creating a great living selling your expertise is not easy – in fact it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s also the most rewarding. I know it’s the best way to fulfill all of my financial, energetic and legacy goals. Trust me, you WILL experience knock-backs and discouragement. You must counter this by learning to expect and accept this fact of life and to develop your resilience muscle.
8. Support (spread the load)
To help manage your resilience, to stay on strategy and to thrive in a potentially lonely environment, it’s important to build a supporting community. As you build your practice, you must actively seek out and commission those who you ‘get’ you and what you are about. These are the kindred spirits, willing to support your growth.
9. Community (find your tribe)
The ambition of becoming a thought leader in your field can seem audacious, unrealistic and even arrogant. If you’ve got this far, you probably think you have something to offer the world. GOOD FOR YOU! You’re probably right.
One approach I love that breaks down this mental block is to understand that we only need to build a community over time of perhaps 10-50 clients who love what we do. We are not looking to become the next Richard Branson or Anthony Robbins. We just want to serve a small group of people who we’re passionate about helping. That’s all!
Getting clear on the 9 parts of the Practise Plan is clarifying. It’s easy to get lost and discouraged on this journey. Not only have you got to develop, sell and deliver brilliant ideas, you’ve got to run the whole show, often working in isolation. Keeping a lightness of touch and a good sense of humour and humility is also useful.
Need help developing your own thought leadership?
Mark Hodgson runs team and individual programs to help you leverage what you know for personal and professional success using the Thought Leaders curriculum. To set up an exploratory conversation, contact firstname.lastname@example.org