Many people have found themselves at a transition point in their life and careers because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is difficult to manage when, through no fault of your own, you find yourself out of work along with close to 30 million other Americans.
In my last post, Knowing What You Have To Offer, I showed how to identify your marketable assets, strengths, talents, knowledge, expertise and skills.
If you have worked in a corporate environment, you know that taking personal initiative can be risky, increasing your occupational vulnerability, instead of an opportunity to excel. Yet, it is through personal initiative and risk taking that new opportunities are discovered. For entrepreneurs and the self-employed, taking initiative and accepting risk are part of the game. Taking personal initiative is now a mindset and a set of skills that we all need to acquire.
I’m not advocating for excessive risk-taking as a strategy. Rather, I see that all initiative to create impact involves risk-taking. In Change Early, Not Late, I describe four approaches to change. At the extremes we find the risky approaches of the Change-phobic person and the Change-junkie. It would appear that the Change-receptive person takes the fewest risks. However, in our day and time, a passive approach to change is far more risky than even the Change-junkie. For that extreme just may stumble onto some opportunity that no one else would naturally find. As odd as it sounds, the safest place to be regarding change is to be a Change Initiator. It is because you are establishing the terms by which you will accept change. To be a Change-initiator requires thoughtfulness, intention and a clear sense of purpose. The person who regularly take initiative learns how to respond to change, knowing when to say Yes, and No.
Think of risk, not as danger knocking at our door, but as steps out the door to explore the unknown. It is a way to take a different route than we would normally take. It is about stretching the boundaries of what is possible in our life and work.
Knowing More Than What You Have to Offer
It is important to know what you have to offer, as I wrote about previously. However, that is not everything you need to know. At best, it is 30-40% of what you need to know.
Too many times I’ve met with someone who is trying to sell me their services, and all they tell me is what they are selling. The only offer is for me to give them my money.
Every day people connect with me online to sell me services. They is no indication of the impact that they aim to create for me. In one of those conversations, I asked one guy how he would market to people and businesses in transition. He was honest. He had no idea. He said that his firms markets to the titles in an organization.
To fully understand what you have to offer, you need to be aware of three areas that are important.
When you walk into an interview or a meeting, where there is a possibility that you will be able to discuss what you have to offer, it is important to know where you are. Not just physically where you are, but socially and emotionally.
Physical context matters because there are some conversations that should not be conducted where the conversation is either too public or too private.
For example, I was introduced to a bright, passionate young woman whose entrepreneurial idea I immediately got. The synergy between us was tangible. A friend who was with me was amazed at how quickly we connected. What did I do in this instance? After listening to her project idea, I briefly shared my Circle of Impact model of leadership. We established that there is a reason for us to continue our discussion.
This encounter was a success because we both listened to the other person in the context of the other person’s life and work, and what they had to offer.
It is important to understand the business context of the person.
Is she the owner of the business, or a hired executive? Is he a middle manager or a colleague of someone who could use your service? It is important to demonstrate an understanding of their specific business setting. The only way to learn this is to ask questions and listen.
This means that you are not starting with your story, but her story.
My rule of thumb is that before I ever say anything about what I have to offer, I’m going to try and find out what their situation is so I can speak specifically to it. This is what understanding the context means. As a result, I only share what I think is necessary to carry the conversation to the next level of interest.
Impact versus Deliverables
If you are hired to provide a product or service to a client, it is important to understand the relation and difference between the impact that you want to achieve and the product that you are contractually obligated to deliver for payment.
Let’s take my encounter with the entrepreneur in the coffee shop. I obviously want her to succeed.
The question we need to be prepared to answer is the impact that I want from this meeting?
For me, success is too vague a word. It has too many connotations for it to be helpful. Whether it is designing a project plan or just the outcome of a meeting, it is important to ask this question.
What is it that I want to change when we are done?.
I am not saying that you must control the conversation. No. I’m saying that you should be prepared to offer a step of initiative. Not as a reaction, but as a response. Reaction is not thought out. Response is a prepare answer of varying possibilities.
To talk about impact is to identify the change that you want to see happen. If we do a project together, what is it that we want to see that is different when we are done? Is it the receptivity of an idea? How do we know an idea has traction in the marketplace? Is it the number of times it shows up as a Twitter hashtag? Or is it something else? Determining impact is a key part of any strategic thinking process. If you can’t say what is to change, then how do you know when you are successful.
Impact is the goal. It is not the deliverable. The deliverable is the process which produces the impact.
It is important to keep the distinction between these two products in mind at all times.
An action plan or an application of technology to achieve that impact is the deliverable. In other words, when we provide a product or service to a client, there is a difference between what we offer and what is achieved through what we offer. It is an important distinction that keeps us from over-promising and under-delivering.
Consider then, what it is you offer, and then how it is delivered. In the process of developing this understanding, you also answer what is the impact that we should expect. And when you make your pitch, begin with the need and what is the desired change. That’s when you can show what you have to offer, and how you will deliver it.
Value versus Values
Every discussion about a business opportunity is a discussion about value and values. The financial value of what you offer is the cost of the service to the client. That value is based upon a set of values that give the value its worth.
How you value your talent, knowledge and expertise is translated into a financial value that makes sense to you and your client?
It is not simply perceiving the impact that you want to achieve for people and their businesses. It is also how that impact is to be achieved.
You are selling a process that leads to the desired impact. This process is a balance of many different criteria, from time, degree of change required and whether the process creates a sustainable environment for the impact that is achieved. All these factors are calculated into how a project gets valued.
In every business discussion, values are constantly in play. You bring a set of core values into the relationship with the client. Even if you are not able to state what those values are, they are already present in your thinking. It is important that you establish clarity about your values so that you will not find yourself in a position where your true values are being compromised.
They bring their values also. It is important that you understand how their values and yours align. If they do not, then you need to ask what is the impact going to be from that lack of alignment.
Long-term client relationships have as much to do with values as they do with the project deliverables.
Your value to a client or an employer is not based on your values, but rather the value that you bring to them. Your value is a reflection of their values. To understand this is to understand that values are not just ideas, but an entire orientation to every facet of our lives.
Knowing Who You Are and What Matters To You
If you are one of the many who are now in transition from steady employment to the possibility of being self-employed, make sure you are clear about the answer to these questions.
Who are you?
What ultimately matters to you?
What do you have to offer that makes a difference that matters?
How do you deliver the impact you offer?
What the value of your impact and how you deliver it?
This is a hard transition for many people to make. It doesn’t begin with your skill set. It begins with your self-understanding as a person who can deliver a change that makes a difference that matters.
If you need help, I’m here.