There are these people that others just flock to – the gurus. Some of them have been around for ages, others have only recently appeared. Thanks to social media – it is easier than before to see these “gurus” that everyone likes. Suddenly everyone seems to be a thought leader (few are). Suddenly everyone is a superstar (few are). I’ve even watched people become such a “guru” – developing a following and having a magnetic identity online. Some of whom have become very popular and successful at it. So what’s the secret then?
Having studied many of these people, I’ve deduced four elements that make these people stand out given all the millions of other voices. What are these four elements?
- Their identity is described not in terms of themselves, but instead their followers.
- Their identity is not a façade, it’s a real incorporated part of their personality
- Their identity provokes interest in their followers to solicit the other person’s opinions
- Their followers invest in the identity of the leader
Describe who you are in terms of challenges of your audience.
Tony Robbins, perhaps the epitome of framing in life coaching, frames who he is in terms of not what he has accomplished, but in terms of the needs of the audience he was trying to build. Even now, if you look at what he says and does, his self-introduction is not about accomplishments, but about his intent with respect to your goals and desires.
Those who remember Robbins in the 1980’s – he was known for the product Personal Power. His identity was that of someone who wanted to demonstrate to others that they could overcome abuse, poverty, uncertainty, or any other challenge in their life. That was the point of the idea of “Personal Power”. He sympathized with an audience by relaying how he had also faced significant challenges in his life, and was ready to tell the audience everything he knew and had found, in terms of ideas, so that they may solve their problems.
That’s fundamentally different than lots of people I’ve met in my life who are “coaches” or who claim to be able to help others – regardless of business. The first thing we usually hear is a list of accomplishments, achievements, etc., as social proof for why the information you’ll be receiving is of value.
The reality in life is this – unless you’re a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant, or a pilot, nobody really cares about your education, your accomplishments to date, or your certifications. Unless your certification is essential (usually to avoid death or malpractice), nobody cares about it. All they really care about is results. So do not be afraid to answer that question upfront. What are the results? Describe yourself in terms not of social proof, but in terms of answering the penultimate question:
How do you help me with what I want?
Their identity is not a Façade
This is a true story. When I was ad executive, I had the misfortune of having had a client who was a chiropractor who saw himself as the “next Tony Robbins”. He was dabbling in producing videos and books and blog posts designed to help other chiropractors be as “successful as he was”. He was arrogant, abrasive, misogynistic (he routinely employed attractive young women in his practice who wore outfits intentionally revealing of cleavage), and really didn’t particular like his clients within his chiropractic clinic. What did it for me was when he said, “You know, I need this coaching thing to take off because I really don’t like touching people. I want to make a lot of money so I don’t have to touch people ever again.”
That was the end of our business relationship. Although it fell on deaf ears, I explained to this client how the reason he admires Tony Robbins (or the reason why admire any coach) is because of a belief of their genuine interest in our personal achievement. It’s not a façade, it’s who you are as a person that comes through your work. Your work is a manifestation of the deep belief you have – it’s part of the execution – it’s not a magic show designed to flim-flam.
I actually met Tony Robbins briefly in an elevator in a hotel Los Angeles. He was a genuinely warm person. I never worked with him in coaching, but anyone who has listened to his products, who has attended his seminars, genuinely believe he wants to help them. It’s not a façade, he genuinely does – not particularly understanding whom he helps individually – but it’s not an attempt of theft by swindle.