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The 3 Circles of Thought Leadership tool

Your clients only ever care about two questions: (1) Do you get me? (2) Can you help me?

One of the best ways to show you get them is to tell your story. You see, people don’t hear your story, they hear their story in your story. 

One of the best ways to show you can help them is to draw together 3 aspects of your expertise, that when combined, make you distinctive, idiosyncratic and one-of-a-kind. 

For this, you can use The 3 Circles of Thought Leadership tool.

This isn’t the tool but Jessica Hagy draws very funny Venn diagrams!

Grab a sheet of paper. Draw 3 large, overlapping circles. And then read the two stories below. 

I get you… 

I asked Niiamah Ashong, one of my high-level clients, if he could describe what he is about in 3 words. He said, possibility, inclusion and impact. 

They are interesting words but they are also generic and overused. And they are at too high a level of abstraction for someone to get excited about or to respond, “Oooh! I know exactly who to refer to you.” And that’s what you want. 

So, I asked him a series of questions, designed to draw out his thought leadership:

  1. What did you love to do when you were 6 years old? (Be specific. If it was playing with toys, what kind of toys? If it was being outside, what precisely were you doing and why did you love it so much?)
  2. What were you known for, before becoming a coach?
  3. What could people count on you for?
  4. What makes you different?
  5. What was the single biggest life lesson you got, growing up?
  6. What are your 3 top principles for life that you’d want your kids – or your clients – to know?

When he finished, I asked some further questions to draw the threads together. I grabbed my pen and drew three circles:

That’s you, Niiamah, I said. Dead centre of these 3 circles. 

And then I spoke him into the room:

My name is Niiamah Ashong. I’m the first generation of my family, from Ghana, West Africa, to grow up in America. My strongest feeling as a youngster was how different I was. I’ve been defined by 3 distinctions my whole life:

  1. Outlier vs Outsider

For most of my life I thought I was an outsider. I was actually an outlier. 

I was one of the only students of color in my gifted class. One of the only students in my high school to be accepted into an Ivy League University. One of the only graduates to pursue a career as an actuary. And one of the only black actuaries in my field and black employees in my tech company.

An outlier is a statistical anomaly. It’s an observation that lies an abnormal distance from other values in a random sample from a population. And this definition leaves it up to the analyst to decide what will be considered abnormal.

When I focused on being an outsider, I ached to fit in. Once I realized I was an outlier, I was able to really utilize my unique strengths and talents. 

  1. Pioneer vs Programmer

For most of my life I thought I was a pioneer. I was actually a programmer. 

I was literally a programmer at the start of my career. But I was also “programmed” – by my upbringing, my schooling, my culture – to believe that I needed to fit in. The truth was that I’m not supposed to fit in. 

A pioneer is among the first to explore or settle a new country or area. They’re also the first to develop or apply a new method or area of knowledge. 

I’m a pioneer. I think differently. I’m meant to stand out. 

  1. Maverick vs Maven

For most of my life I tried to be an expert – a maven. I was actually a maverick. 

A maven is a trusted expert in their field. And, from a young age, I aspired to be an expert. I became known as an expert when I worked as a consultant for one of the world’s top consulting firms. And I was an actuary – one of the most specialized careers on the planet. 

What I missed, in my focus on expertise, is that I’m actually too unorthodox and independent-minded to be an expert in the normal sense of the world. It’s why I had to leave behind a lucrative career that many people aspire to have.

A maverick is unorthodox and highly independent. And because I spent so much of my life trying to fit into the box, I’m uniquely gifted at helping others to break out of theirs. 

My name is Niiamah Ashong…

Leaders come to me… to understand, design and model new and complex plans. 

Leaders come to me… to launch something when they can’t figure out how.

Leaders come to me… when they’re tired of conventional success and they’re ready to create their next act. 

If you’re the kind of person who breaks the rules to get things done… If you are known for saying, Why not? If you are unorthodox and independent-minded… If you’re an expert in your field… and it’s no longer enough… Then you and I should have a conversation. 

I can help you…

Sarah Neumann is on my team because she is one of my secret weapons. She’s helped me grow my business. She’s challenged my thinking. And she uses her unique strengths to complement mine. 

As well as supporting my business, my team and my clients, Sarah works as a consultant for just a handful of private clients a year. 

When I asked her to explain what she does, she described some of her unusual business certifications. She’s a member of the International Association of Online Business Managers. She’s a certified Kolbe Consultant. She’s a certified Profit First Professional. And she’s a graduate of AssistU.

These are fascinating qualifications. But as consultants and coaches, we tend to lean on our qualifications as a crutch. They help our professional self-esteem. And our clients don’t actually care about the letters after our name, or the professional bodies we’ve joined. 

They just want to know, Can you help me?

So, I pushed Sarah to go deeper. 

  1. What are the top 3 issues your clients face? 
  2. What’s your Zone of Genius? The thing that energizes you and lights you up but totally drains other people. 
  3. What are your top 3 strengths?

When she finished talking, I pulled out my pen and drew 3 circles:

This is you, Sarah, I said. You have a proprietary system called the 3P Analysis, for working with business owners:

Step 1: You run a 3P Analysis of their business. You clarify the blocks – and the possible leverage points – to their growth and success, at 3 levels: People, Profit and Processes.

Step 2: You draw out a roadmap for handling these issues. You identify the precise people and systems they need to make their business run like clockwork. And the financial systems they need to actually make a profit.

Step 3: For a select few business owners, you’ll work as a consultant to help them hire the right team, put in place the right systems, and manage their cash, so they thrive. 

The top 3 issues Sarah sees that business owners face are (1) People – that’s team issues, such as poor hiring, poor communication and poor management. (2) Processes – that’s systems issues, such as poor marketing systems, poor data systems and poor technology. (3) Profit –that’s financial issues, such as a focus on growth and revenue but not profit. If they can transform any one of these they’ll be far more successful than most. When they can transform all three, they are on their way to exponential success.

If you are an entrepreneur, looking for a trusted advisor, you want one who has a relentless focus on transforming a business that is already strong into one that is superb. You want advice from someone with a track record in building a team, to achieve a goal. And you want a partner who is continuously improving – both themself and the business. And in Sarah Neumann, you have all three.  

What are your 3 Circles?

Niiamah always has a big grin but both he and Sarah were smiling widely by the time I’d finished with them!

And just like Niiamah and Sarah, you’re already a thought leader. You probably just haven’t thought about it enough… 

Go back through this article. Answer all the questions that I asked Niiamah and Sarah and fill in your three circles. 

Love. Rich 


PS. More transparency here: almost 20 years into my coaching career, I still get nervous every time I launch a new program. When the first person signs up, it always feels like a fluke! And it’s only after the second person is in that I believe it’s real.

Well, the first two people have already signed up for The $100K Club, so strap in, we are ready to fly!!

There are now just 13 spots left at the early bird price. They include a gift ticket to my four newest programs (a $3,686 value bonus). Don’t miss this opportunity to join an exclusive group of coaches committed to growth and success.

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