Over the weekend, I had the chance to participate as a speaker for a women’s community I have long been a part of. Sharing my expertise in thought leadership and personal branding is always a pleasure – even when I’m customizing a talk at 8 AM on a Sunday morning!
Following the session, we had a chance to connect in break-out rooms with other participants and the conversation quickly turned to ‘how do you overcome your fears and doubts and actually get some thought leadership efforts underway?’ That’s a challenge I’ll admit I still struggle with, no matter how long I’ve been doing this.
Here are 8 ideas that seem to work for me (and I hope you’ll add your ideas in the comments):
Start Out Small
If I can push myself to just get brave enough to take one step, that often pays off enough to go further. (This follows the great research from B. J. Fogg about how to create new habits by starting with one tiny step.) If I publish one article, write and give one talk, or create and post one short video that shares my expertise, then ask a few people from my trusted network to amplify that content to their community, I am usually motivated by the positive reactions to do more. Just as fear can be self-reinforcing, so can bravery. And it’s often a flywheel effect – the first steps are hard but the next ones get progressively easier.
What’s your next one tiny step that you can take right now?
Another way I get over my fears is I get mad about something. For those old enough to remember the movie Network, if I can get to that place of “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore” (here, watch the clip, you’ll love it!) then that will galvanize me to write or speak or amplify possible solutions. Find the emotion that pushes your fear to second place – maybe for you it isn’t anger but joy or compassion or a recognition of the consequences of not speaking out. Then use that to motivate yourself to act.
How can you cultivate the emotion that gets you moving?
Scope Our Your Competition
Competition can also be a great motivator for me. I look at others who do the kind of work that I do (there aren’t many) and I see them putting forward their content more regularly than I am and that pushes me to get a move on. Especially when one of them puts out some ideas or an approach I disagree with and I want to set the record straight. (Who doesn’t like to be right?!)
Who are your ‘competitors’ that motivate you to want to ‘win’?
Talk to your clients
Talking to my ‘customers’ can also get me to re-focus on my thought leadership efforts. I ask them what they don’t know, what gets them stuck, what they wish they had a handle on and then I write content about that. (Like this piece, for example, that came about as a result of my recent conversation.) When I can develop content in my area of expertise that I think will actually help someone overcome their challenges, then I no longer feel the doubts and fears, but the calling to be of service.
How might you engage with your potential ‘customers’ and find out exactly what questions they have you can answer?
Schedule a Time That Your Feel Inspired
When I was writing my book, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chip Conley, a thought leader and prolific author I have long admired. He shared how he overcame the challenge of negative voices by waking up to write at 3:30 or 4:00 AM because then ‘his brain was awake, but his critic wasn’t.’ For me, that time is first thing in the morning, too, but closer to 7AM rather than earlier!
Are there times of the day (or night) when your inner voices are quieter?
Develop Accountability Measures
Another thing that gets me moving is developing some accountability structures, even artificial ones. For example, when I launched this newsletter a few months ago, I chose that I would publish a new edition bi-weekly and it’s right there in black and white at the top of the page. Now, I haven’t been perfect in actually achieving this, but knowing that I made this ‘commitment’ is always niggling at the back of my mind, reminding me that I need to write some new content. I often serve as this accountability for my clients – while I never require them to get anything done, they begin to push themselves because they know we have another call coming up and they want to have something to brag about.
What accountability structures can you put in place to help you get more done?
Get a Mentor
Having a mentor and friend like Sam Horn can also keep me going on building out my thought leadership platform. She has this great expression – “No one can get on your bandwagon if you keep it parked in the garage.” (Here’s her recent post about it.) She’s right! If I have something underway that I need people to get involved with, or I am trying to get people to think or act in a new way (the very definition of success in thought leadership, according to Neil Gregory), it doesn’t help me to be quiet about it. I need to get into action, share it widely, build my followership and community. None of that happens when I’m letting fear take over.
What’s the bandwagon that it’s time you took out of the garage?
Remember your WHY
Finally, remind yourself WHY. Think about the top ten reasons why you want to be a thought leader and write them down, then look at them frequently. Maybe you can put them in a note on your phone or on an index card by your bed or tape them to your bathroom mirror, so they are front and center. Commit to re-reading them once or twice a day so they are always top of mind. This strategy helped me get my book done – and I still have that index card eight years after I started that book, and each of those reasons are still valid. As Simon Sinek taught us, it always begins with why.
What are your reasons why you want to be a thought leader?
Feel free to reach out and share your own strategies for getting unstuck. I’m sure you have a few that I haven’t thought of that can be helpful to others!