I've said it before, but I'll say it again because I keep seeing it.
Build your profile, be an expert and a thought leader. But follow through on what you say.
Being in business is hard, building a profile as a professional in any capacity is competitive and time consuming. The best way to stand out is to be really good at something different, and to tell everyone who will listen.
The problem is that almost everyone is starting to do it, which means to stand out there are some pretty outrageous claims people are starting to make about the things they have done, can or will do. Now, I am a fan of outspoken opinion, controversy, disruption and generally challenging the status quo. However, if you make a claim, make sure it's actually a direction you can take.
There are three types of claims and ways to position yourself, each with their own challenges and benefits.
- The Aggressor
This is the person who takes the approach of pushing themselves forward and any competitors aside. They are the ones with a view to dominate their field by attacking the way others operate. They take a position of authority over their contemporaries.
Taking this position gives the Aggressor the advantage of a stark point of difference from those around them. From there they are able to make their opinion clearly and without competition. The Aggressor doesn't make their case as being in someway better than others, instead they are different.
The challenge for the aggressor is making sure their actions are as bold as their position. Political leaders are common examples of aggressors - the damage to their reputation and sentiment towards them is directly affected by the way they deliver on their claims. For anyone taking this approach, it can be a hard road, but the success of it is linked to the commitment to the full extent of the claims made.
- The Revolutionary
This person is about doing things in brand new ways. They aren't necessarily about the current way being wrong, but seeing better options for the future. The revolutionary is generally positive about the way forward, encouraging positive thinking and action. Usually they will call for people to follow them in changing the way they act.
Revolutionaries tend to be inspiring to most of the people they speak to. This makes being a good one very beneficial as you can build support quickly. The flip side is you can lose support very quickly too.
Many Revolutionaries are people starting their own business, who speak about changing the way things are done and generate a following built around those who already have a connection to them. The more vibrant they are, the more that following spreads. In the short term the Revolutionary is usually able to back up their position effectively.
The most common problem they will face is due to the 'real world'. Unfortunately the need to cover costs and pay bills often gets in the way of the Revolutionary completely following through on their claims.
We need the Revolutionaries - if you're going to be one though, be careful how bold the claims you make are. Over delivering is always the better choice!
- The Challenger
The final type of person is the one who sees the current way things are done and asks why. They make others justify their position, looking for reasons behind the actions. At one level the Challenger is a middle ground between the Aggressor and the Revolutionary, however it can be deeper than that.
Challengers are often highly analytical, making informed decisions based on research and discussion - they are less likely to 'go with their gut'. The result of this is usually a more balanced stance on an issue, which means they are easily agreed with by a wide audience. They are common participants in panel type forums, rather than being presented on their own.
This makes them ideal as representatives of large organisations, as they provide valuable perspective without ostracising parts of their audience. Being a challenger usually requires experience and reputation to be successful, as the claim isn't as striking as the Aggressor or the Revolutionary,
Whichever position you choose to take, the key to its success is the same:
If you don't follow through, you do more damage than good.
Being seen as not able to deliver on your claims is only ever perceived negatively. Even if your audience has sympathy for some period of time, eventually they will turn away from you.
And getting them back when they've found someone new to follow is much harder than it was to win them in the first place.