How Does The World See You?
Let’s say you think you’re funny. As far as you’re concerned, a sense of humor is one of your best traits. There’s just one problem: Nobody else thinks you’re funny. It’s not enough to only consider how you see yourself. You must also consider how the world sees you. If nobody else thinks you’re funny ... well, you’re probably not funny. Humor is in the eye of the beholder. So are likability, leadership, and a range of other subjective qualities that are rooted in the perception of others. You get a vote, but your listener has veto power.
You want your messages to connect, or to educate, or to inform or to inspire. No matter what your message is about, each one of your messages has an intended purpose. Each time you communicate, you want people to listen and remember that message, and to positively anticipate your future messages. You want them to take action, change a behavior or be inspired.
In a recent experiment, one of the most famously exquisite violinists of our time, Joshua Bell, played in Washington, D.C. down in the subway, anonymously and without fanfare, drawing attention to his music only with his skill and priceless violin. Yet 1,000 people moved right past him through rush hour, oblivious. If one of the most celebrated musicians of all time cannot compete to earn attention in a distracted, competitive environment, how can you?
Today it’s not enough to be the world’s best if no one realizes you’re there. In the battle against competition, our talents and skills are hopelessly lost unless we find a way to fascinate our listener. It’s your job to show us why we should care. Luckily, you already have the defining traits you need to stand out and be heard. Which is good, because you’ll need to call upon every one of them. You’re doing battle in a distracted and competitive world. Get ready to encounter the three deadly threats.
Distraction threatens your connection with others. Your listeners are distracted. Your customer goes from vendor to vendor. Your coworker goes from email to email. Your employees go from putting out one fire to the next. Every time you introduce yourself, you have about nine seconds to engage your listener. This is your window of opportunity for connection. If you earn their interest during those nine seconds, people will be more likely to engage further. If you fail to add some sort of value in that golden window, they’re less likely to listen to what you say, let alone remember it or take action on it.
Competition threatens your ability to stand out and win. While businesses have been focusing on being “better,” customers have gone in a different direction. Different is better than better. Different doesn’t try to turn you into something else. Different allows you to highlight the singular traits you already have within you. You aren’t necessarily better than your competition. But you are already different.
Commoditization threatens your relationships and loyalty. Commoditization is a silent assassin. It permeates your relationships with complacency, shaving off your points of difference, sapping your defining qualities, and eventually transforming you and your vibrant one-of-akind edge into generic replicas. If you become a commodity in the eyes of your customers, it means you’re vulnerable. You can be easily replaced.
Beyond earning attention, leading with your specialized personality traits, and fighting the good fight even after you have earned the business, there is something you can be doing — should be doing — that will allow you to fascinate and succeed at every phase of the business cycle:
Add distinct value. If you want to add value ...
• You become admired for a noteworthy ability to contribute a specific benefit.
• You’re worth more than you’re being paid.
• You deliver more than would normally be expected.
• You are the preferred option, even if you are more expensive or less convenient.
Your highest distinct value: You’re already quite familiar with these three words, but they take on special meaning when combined. Let’s break it down:
- Highest: The pinnacle of who you already are; what makes you already exceptional.
- Distinct: How you are different.
- Value: Your specialized ability to deliver above and beyond what’s expected.
When you live according to your highest distinct value, you become your most fascinating and most valuable self.