If you are a business owner you might have experienced an identity crisis. Your personality feels disconnected from your business. Not a comfortable feeling.
The question is – why does this happen and is it inevitable? Do you have to become someone else when you set up a business? Is it possible to be YOU in business?
When I coach clients this issue frequently comes up – because if you don’t feel like you are being you – you struggle with communicating effectively.
Why the identity crisis?
Let’s say that you have lived a bit – you have learnt stuff. You have had jobs that have added to your experience and life events which make you who you are – warts and all.
When you set up in business you combined all this experience with a dollop of courage and passion.
Then one day, you start to tell a business mentor about your past – and you hear these words:
What are the feelings triggered instantly – anger, confusion, hurt, embarrassment?
Maybe a combination. These feelings are not positive ones.
Your mentor continues – the meaning behind the words is explained – you sort of ‘get it’ – yes, rationally you get it. Your business-self gets it.
You get that what ‘nobody cares’ means is:
‘When you want to engage people with your business, you need to start with what value you are to them – they don’t need to know your credentials. They will assume you know what you are doing – you are in business’
Well – it is undeniably true that the golden rule of marketing is ‘start with the why’.
And the why will be something that goes to the heart of these things:
So – telling them about your life experience is not the why – not the starting point.
However – humans often run a million miles in the opposite direction or hide when they feel under attack or wounded – and hearing the words ‘nobody cares’ could have that effect.
The consequence of this is that you have a nagging sense that you should NEVER talk about your experience – your stories – your skills….
And that makes you feel as if you have disappeared. It makes you feel that all the unique things about you count for nothing. You must paint yourself magnolia and get equipped with the right ‘business buzzwords’ – join the club and just lose you.
Surely there has to be a way to combine the unique YOU with your business.
Do you have to be a ‘business you’?
Fair enough – you have to be professional and you have to be able to adapt to different people – work colleagues, contacts and clients. You have to realise that the way you dress is relevant to your business image – and it might be a tweak or two is needed from your ‘at home’ you. There are always adjustments to be made.
However – you should be making these in full knowledge of what you are doing – you are in control. You also need to realise that the idea that there is just one authentic you is misleading and unhelpful.
You have more than one authentic self. You are not the same you sat on the sofa in your pyjamas of an evening as the you presenting to investors!
So – the answer to the question is – you have to be true to your values, let people know you have a personality – but keep control of which bits you bring to each situation – just bring the the best you – the one that builds interest and trust in you and your business.
Don’t ever become an unrecognisable stranger to yourself – it will erode your confidence and it will set up a disconnect between you, your business and the people you want to engage.
What about your story?
This is the fun part.
Ok – we agreed that you don’t want to lead with your life story and CV – but…
You should tell your stories – if you do this right people certainly will care. They will care for these reasons:
Use your stories wisely and they will be a vital part of engaging people with the value of your business. They will also allow people to make a human connection – and in a data driven world full of fake news – being a real human is a selling point
So it is about balance.
Do not go running in the opposite direction or hide your unique self under a blanket of business speak. There is a sweet spot – and using your story strategically will get you there.
The next time someone trots out ‘nobody cares’ – challenge them!
That well meaning business advice needs different words.
I suggest ‘nobody cares’ should be ‘Your story matters – so make it matter to them.’
Never lose the connection between you and your business. Good communicators feel connected and they make others feel connected.
Coaching will help with this – objectivity and a safe space to spot and sort all the barriers – and find the sweet spot between your stories and the story of your clients, work colleagues, customers and prospects.
I help people become more effective communicators through the kind of coaching that offers a safe space to explore and rehearse and better understand the impact they have. My blog is full of insights and tactics that will help you break down the barriers that prevent you from being a truly effective communicator. These insights are based on my own experience as well as the issues raised during coaching sessions and workshops.