Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Successful Leadership to Elevate Your Career and Your Organization





10 Steps to Successful Thought Leadership to Elevate Your Career and Your Organization

As employees seek to strengthen their identity in the workplace they must find ways to make an immediate impact for the betterment of the company as well as themselves.  This requires a commitment to share your voice with others so that your influence can be naturally felt throughout your team, your department and the organization.   Strengthening your identity is not a self-serving act, but rather a responsibility to those that you serve.  The goal is to become a thought leader.

What is a Thought Leader?

A thought leader is a person who identifies trends, common themes and patterns within a particular industry or functional area of expertise to help others identify new opportunities or solutions for growth.

Most people believe that thought leadership is only for senior executives. In the traditional workplace, this still is the case. However, in the new workplace where the sharing of ideas is welcomed regardless of hierarchy or rank, any employee can be a thought leader. In today’s business world, the most relevant employees are starting the conversations – and benefitting both individual and corporation.

What are the steps to becoming a thought leader as an employee in your organization?

In the brave new world created by the economic shifts of the last 5 years, successful participants will let go of old-fashioned thinking, change their resource model and vision, and begin to get to know the new hierarchy. They’ll launch their thought leadership based on the strength of their onsite and online community that they have developed.  And they’ll develop an identity that will give them longevity and security in an insecure world.

After many years of developing my thought leadership platform (The Immigrant Perspective), I would like to help you with yours.   Here are my (10) most effective steps to successful thought-leadership:

1. Define and Manage How Other People Experience Your Personal Brand.
Before you can become a recognized thought leader, you must define and manage how other people will experience the following four characteristics of your personal employee brand:
  • What is your brand’s enduring idea?
  • How will your brand best differentiate itself?
  • What is the primary experience your brand will deliver?
  • Whom will your brand serve?
2. Identify the Methodology that Defines the Problems Your Personal Employee Brand Solves. 

You may be knowledgeable about a particular subject matter, but have your experience and insights given you enough breadth and depth to earn the right to propose solutions in your area of expertise? As a thought leader, your personal employee brand must support a proven step-by-step methodology that defines the approach for the problems your brand solves. Your methodology must be able to show how to overcome the most challenging set of circumstances.

3. Manage Your Thought Leadership Profile.

A thought leadership profile is your management tool that keeps your personal employee brand, methodology and subject matter expertise updated, fresh and relevant. This profile should be a living document that you update on an ongoing basis. The following are the primary elements to include in your thought leadership profile:
  •  Subject matter expertise
  • Problems that my thought leadership solves
  • My methodology
  • Target audience
  • Industry pain points
  • Industry opportunities/ROI outcomes
  • What my audience needs to hear
  • Targeted media outreach
  • Conversations and topic ideas for articles, blogs, tweets and video blogs.
 4. Write it Down! Share Your Ideas and Experiences.

Seasoned thought leaders know that writing and sharing of experiences is a natural extension of their leadership role and responsibility. Convert concepts into practical applications that support your methodology. Be innovative in your thinking, yet simple in your writing style. Don’t limit your audience.

In your thought leadership profile, prepare a list of topics of conversation that you would like to share with your audience. Create a list of useful resources to support your writings. Demonstrate that you can articulate complex issues in terms that a broad audience can understand and apply. Show your audience that you care about the problems that it is trying to solve. Assemble a “knowledge vault” of materials that support your writings to further demonstrate your commitment to solve your audiences’ problems.

Finally, allow your community to connect with you personally in your writings. Share personal stories that support your content themes. People want to connect with your voice in ways they can relate to personally. Sharing your personal identity (within reason) allows for a more purposeful and meaningful relationship to blossom.



5. Speak and Speak Some More.

Writing is your starting point to speaking and articulating your thought leadership ideas and ideals. Identify trade shows and conferences that customers and industry influencers are attending and participate on panels or lead workshops. Find out about the local associations that host speaking events and offer to give a keynote or sit on a discussion panel.

Your ability to remain active as a speaker is critical to becoming a sustainable thought leader. When speaking, focus on providing useful information. No one wants to listen to you pitching your product. You are there to inform and educate, to provide a unique perspective.

6. Create a Blog and Activate Your Social Media Tools.

Create your own blog and activate your favorite social media tools (ie. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.) to make it easy for your community/audience to follow your writings, upcoming speaking engagements, trade interviews, media appearances, etc. As a selected voice that represents your organization, your blog and social media tools must be a prominent and visually appealing outlet that supports an interactive two-way exchange of knowledge and ideas with your community.

7. Share Your Secrets and Build Trust with Your Community.

Make it simple for people to access your content. In the end, thought leadership is about building a trustworthy relationship with your community. You begin to lose that trust once you appear to be holding something back. No secrets allowed! Though your community may not always be responding (in the form of commentary), they are reading and listening to your words carefully. Your content (regardless of format) is generating a two-way communication stream of thought, ideas and trust.

8. Cultivate Purposeful Relationships with the Media.

Don’t leave it solely to your PR agency. As a thought leader, you should have a list of 15 writers and editors who regularly report on your industry market. Journalists are very busy people, always on a deadline. So, when you call you need to give them something that they can use to make their life better and easier – a lead, a story, some insight, a quote, customers to whom they can talk for quotes.

Don’t wait for the media to find you. You must be proactive in building relationships with the media. Research media outlets and key contacts that would benefit from your subject matter expertise. You can always hire a PR agency, but when getting started it’s best to get your hands dirty and learn how the media really works yourself.

9. Control Your Google Identity and Relevancy.

In today’s business world, people initially experience your personal brand identity and its relevancy as defined by Google. When you Google a person’s name you immediately create an impression of that person based on what you read and its context. So who is controlling your Google identity and relevancy? Is it Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Twitter? Or, is it your blog and its articles, video blogs, white papers and all of your original content that supports your methodology and what defines the experience of your personal brand?

As a thought leader, you must become best friends with Google. You must be accountable to manage how Google positions your personal employee brand and subject matter expertise. This inherent responsibility is important not only for your own personal benefit, but more so for your community. How do you control your Google identity and relevancy? Follow points 1 – 8!

10. Make a Commitment to Thought Leadership!

The sharing of ideas and insights do not require your organization to have market share dominance or millions of dollars. In today’s new normal, content is a commodity and readily available. Thought leadership is a difference maker. Your generosity and transparency can help you outsell your competitor. It can lead to higher margins. In a world in search of trust, it’s all about people and your thought leadership will expand the breadth and depth of who you are as a person and how others interact with you.

We are transitioning from a knowledge-based economy to a wisdom-based economy. It’s no longer just about what you know, but what you do with what you know. It’s about trust, transparency, opening up your heart and leading with kindness. Thought leadership is another form of corporate social responsibility. It’s about leaving a legacy and earning the respect of your community.

Thought leadership is your path to career security, continuing relevance, and a vibrant company environment.  It is no longer optional for those who want to control their path through business life; it is mandatory.

May my journey help you with yours!  May this immigrant perspective serve you well.

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