One of the most common questions I ask people during their coaching calls is: “If I were to ask former co-workers and managers what you were like, what words do you think they’d use to describe you?”
The answers frequently come after a long pause. A pause that tells me that either they’re nervous about giving me the “right” answer or they haven’t thought about what they’re known for professionally. My guess, it’s probably a little of both.
I wait. I wait, and the answers I usually get are:
Would use these same words to describe yourself? Probably. And not undeservedly.
Don’t you want to be known for who you uniquely are? Don’t you want to stand out from a sea of sameness? And if you’re a hiring manager, aren’t these words just the price of admission? Don’t you want to hear something more, something different, something compelling?
You need a better answer.
When I first started working with people on why they’re uniquely awesome, I used to ask them to ask five people who professionally know them and love them what four words they’d use to describe themselves. Morgan Molnar and Kim McCleary took this idea and ran with it. In both cases not only did they get impressive results but had a pretty uplifting experience in the process.
But even with Morgan and Kim the words were still on the “same” side. They’re still words we all use to describe ourselves. While it’s a great and emotionally rewarding place to start, it’s not really answering the question.
The simple solution to this question is to book a session with me. (I’m going to brag for just a second, hang on.) I had over thirty one-on-one coaching sessions last week, and not ONE of them ended up with the same language. Think it’s because they’re from random backgrounds and industries? Nope, the majority were from two teams in two different companies. Five of the people, if I were to look at a job description, basically had the same job.
If you haven’t heard this yet:
But what if booking a session with me is not an option? And if asking the five people isn’t enough then what can you do?
A brilliant friend made a suggestion the other day. “Why not,” she asked, “ask for words to describe who you’re not?” A little bit and back and forth on what she meant, and we have a new challenge for you.
Identify five people who know you and love you professionally – colleagues, mentors, former co-workers, managers are all great examples.
Ask them for two things:
I have a hunch that the combination of these questions will give you more insight into who you are. Oh, and if any of you do this experiment, I’d love to hear about the results. Either tweet me at @joannabloor or drop us a line at [email protected] We’d love to know!