When I ask leaders to answer the question, “Who are you?” I usually hear a long—very long—description of what they do. And when I say long, I’m not kidding. I’ve clocked these introductions at an average of three and a half minutes and up to seven minutes at times!
Many people include a list of accomplishments, job titles, and companies where they’ve worked so long it becomes hard to follow.
One of the most common challenges I help leaders with is clearly identifying their value proposition.
You’ve probably been advised at some point to have an elevator pitch at the ready. But these pitches are so generic, so long, so unfocused, and so…boring.
Even when someone manages to be brief, it’s rare when they successfully answer the question, “Why you?”
But something truly transformative happens when you can clearly define and communicate the value you bring:
- Other people recognize and compensate you for it
- You can deal with challenging situations
- You become more resilient
- You lead your team more effectively
The trouble is, many people find it hard to figure out their value proposition. But it’s easier than you think. You already know it– you just need to surface it.
What Exactly is a Value Proposition?
Your value proposition is what makes you uniquely qualified for your role. Your value proposition goes beyond the “what” to the “so what?”
It’s what keeps you progressing as you lead your team. Your value proposition is how you differentiate yourself from others. It’s how you become a memorable thought leader and how you gain credibility. Knowing your value is also key to tackling the challenges of leadership.
Accomplishments and Skills Are Not the Same Things as Your “Value Proposition”
You no doubt have accomplishments and core skills that are table stakes. But articulating your value goes far beyond reciting what you’ve accomplished. It’s about identifying, articulating, and communicating the “so what” of what you’re good at.
Identifying the “so what” is more strategic than listing the skills required for your role. To do this, you must roll those skills up to what they’ve helped you accomplish.
First, Identify Your Stakeholders to Help You Clarify Your Value Proposition
Your stakeholders encompass a wide spectrum. They include the people who work for you, your investors, partners, customers, and your board. Anyone you interact with and who is impacted by your work is a stakeholder.
Can you identify the highest value you bring to your stakeholders?
To do this, think about the skills you have and what they’ve helped you accomplish. Now, go beyond that and ask yourself: what has this helped me accomplish for my stakeholders?
To illustrate how this exercise works in action, I’ll use myself as an example.
I’m a technology founder and CEO who has raised money, productized complex software products and scaled companies. It takes a wide set of skills to:
- Raise money
- Architect and productize technologies
- Convince customers to buy from an early-stage, nascent company
- Negotiate partnerships with big companies like HPE, Dell, and Intel
- Secure board directors from Dell, AT&T, Intel, Palo Alto Networks, and other big companies
- Secure multiple patents to solidify competitive differentiation and increase company valuation
Delivering value to my stakeholders as a founder and CEO requires those skills. But they aren’t my highest-level value proposition. My higher value proposition aligns with my personal brand and my thought leadership as a speaker and trainer.
My value proposition is that I tell the stories of people, products, and companies to optimize outcomes. Those outcomes include getting hired, raising money, and securing exit valuations.
Now, Identify Your Value Proposition
When I do workshops about this topic with leaders, most people struggle. It’s not because they don’t have skills and accomplishments. It’s because they aren’t trained to map those skills and accomplishments to powerful value propositions.
Think of the “reporter questions” we all learned in elementary school. Ask yourself:
- Who do you bring value to?
- What problems are you solving for them?
- How do you solve those problems?
- Why does it matter?
Brainstorm the answers to those questions. Think about the things you’ve accomplished. You have repeatedly completed them for your stakeholders. You’ve solved similar problems. You’ve done it in a unique way.
The most important question to answer is, “why does it matter?”
This is the “so what?” What value is that driving for your organization or industry? Answering these questions is the magic formula:
- Why does what you do matter?
- What is the outcome when you deliver your value?
- What problems do you solve?
- What blockers do you remove?
- What growth do you enable?
- How do you drive change or transformation?
- Why do people care about your results?
Why It’s Critical to Identify, Articulate, and Communicate Your Value
It’s critical that you can say with confidence, this is who I am, this is what I do really well, and this is the result. It’s foundational to many other things: leadership development, personal growth, securing board roles, and getting funding.
When you know the value you bring and why you deserve a seat at the table, you knock down other leadership challenges like bowling pins.
Knowing Your Value Dissipates Fear and Uncertainty
But identifying and communicating your value is only the beginning.
You then have to embody it. You have to believe it. You have to present it to the world as a fact. Because it is a fact. You are good at what you’re good at. What you’re good at is what brings value to your organization and your stakeholders.
Leadership challenges are easier to overcome when you know and embody your value.
Many uncomfortable or difficult situations stem from wondering if people accept your credibility or your authority. When your factual value takes up more space in your head than doubt does, that value will start to replace fear and uncertainty.
Can You Articulate Your Value Today?
If you’re unclear, consider doing the value proposition exercise, on your own or with your team. It’s a fun exercise of self-discovery. You’ll realize that the answer is there and always has been– you just haven’t surfaced and identified it yet.
Once you stop shoehorning everything you’ve ever done into a traditional elevator pitch and instead, craft a compelling message that clearly tells people why you matter, you’ll be a more authentic, resilient, and effective leader.
Tissa Richards is the author of the award-winning book, No Permission Needed: Unlock Your Leadership Potential and Eliminate Self-Doubt. One of the small group of women who have founded and funded technology startups in Silicon Valley, today’s top executives, and companies trust Tissa to help them articulate their compelling stories to get hired and stand out. As a keynote speaker and consultant, Tissa helps executives and founders develop leadership skills and launch companies. Learn more at tissarichards.com.
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