Hello my friends,
As you probably know, some of my blog posts discuss issues that I believe are relevant to executive coaching, often subjects that I have recently spoken with one or more clients about. Sometimes, however, I feel compelled to respond to something that I have heard or seen. This is one of the posts that can be accurately described as a rant.
I recently attended a conference where the main speaker made a rather startling statement: he told an audience of professional service providers that their customers cared more about the message then the messenger. Unfortunately, he didn’t stop there. He then went on to state very clearly that your ability to deliver a compelling message was more important than your ability to deliver the goods. I’m paraphrasing, but this was the point:
Your background? Unimportant. Training, education and credentials? Unnecessary! Knowledge and experience? Nice to have, but don’t let your lack of relevant knowledge stop you from calling yourself an expert.
I realize that it may seem ludicrous that anyone would say such a thing, but it was said as a sort of corollary to the Field of Dreams “build it and they will come” message. Put another way, it was “tell people you’re an expert so that you gain customers and thereby become an expert.” As my mother used to say, this is bass ackwards!
I understand the importance of style and delivery, of connecting with your audience, communicating to promote their engagement with you and with your message. I have no problem with this, so long as the substance of the product or service is in line with the promises of the message!
The direction being given though, was way beyond “stage presence”. It was about creating the impression that you are an expert in something, simply by stating over and over that you are an expert. It also helps, it was suggested, when you recruit others who will back up your bogus claims by repeating them. This “strategy” has many names; the most polite one is fraud!
I reject this “style over substance” strategy entirely, and I hope you do too. And here’s an alternative approach I’d like to suggest; integrity, authenticity, and truth. I know, I know… that’s so old-fashioned! Well, it worked back then and it works now. Define your expertise in the marketplace at the actual boundary of your expertise. 1. Don’t tell people you can do something that you can’t. 2. Don’t imply that you can do things that you can’t. 3. Don’t suggest that you can do things that you can’t.
Know what you know, and limit your claims to that which you know. You may get fewer customers in the short run than those who make false claims of expertise. But, you will be way better off in the long run. Your reputation will be much better, your conscience will be clear, and your customers will be much more satisfied with you, your services and your business.
If on the other hand, you rely solely on your charm, charisma, communication skills, manipulation or trickery to get people to become customers, I don’t even view you as having a business. You’re leading a cult! Not a religion, per se, but a cult of personality. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. The customers or followers are treated like sheep, totally disrespected, yet they remain loyal to the dishonest guru or expert. It’s a shame.
When you or a loved one is sick, do you want actors or trained medical personnel to treat you? The soap opera doctors and nurses may be eye candy, but you would obviously choose the real professionals, right? I’ll take substance over style, steak over sizzle, skill over hype every day of the week!
Whew! I feel better. Thank you.
All the best,
By the way, I don’t charge extra for typos. They are my gift to you.