Storytelling with Thought Leadership | Adam Zuckerman, Mary J. Cronin, Michelle Mellon, and Christopher Brace
Connecting storytelling to thought leadership. A compilation of advice for using storytelling for…
Our world is filled with a massive amount of content that demands attention.
How do you package your thought leadership in a way that is worthy of your audience’s time?
In order to explore ways to create sustainable thought leadership I’ve invited Christopher Fox to join me. Chris is the founder and managing partner of Syncresis, which focuses on thought leadership for financial innovators: banks, financial service providers, and fintechs.
A lot of brilliant ideas die on the shelf because no one heard them. Chris helps us understand what it takes to get your ideas heard and have the audience embrace them. His method of creating a Content Hive involves using all the mediums available to reach the several audiences and deliver various facets of your thought leadership to them in meaningful ways that actually change perceptions.
While some might think this means blasting your thought leadership out to as many people as possible Chris explains why drilling down to the specific person and position that can have the largest influence on your business can be more effective. Thought leadership created with those people in mind can always be expanded on later for a larger audience relatively inexpensively.
As individuals we have a limited amount of attention we can give to the glut of content and information that is throw at us each day. Chris shares why thought leaders have an ethical responsibility to deliver content that creates a higher value for their audience. He also warns that if you put out content that wastes their time it poisons the soil and makes planting the next idea that much harder.
If you need a strategy to bring your thought leadership to market, Thought Leadership Leverage can assist you! Contact us for more information. In addition, we can help you implement marketing, research, and sales. Let us help you so you can devote yourself to what you do best.
Join the Organizational Thought Leadership Newsletter to learn more about expanding thought leadership within your organization! This monthly newsletter is full of practical information, advice, and ideas to help you reach your organization’s thought leadership goals.
And if you need help scaling organizational thought leadership, contact Thought Leadership Leverage or reach out to Bill Sherman on Linkedin!
Bill Sherman Your audience’s attention is scarce and nonrenewable. So how do you build thought leadership around sustainable practices? It needs to be a good use of your organization’s resources as well as of the audience’s attention. In order to explore this topic, I’ve invited Christopher Fox. He’s the founder and managing partner of Syncresis, focusing on thought leadership in the financial services sector. In today’s conversation, we’ll talk about audience attention, sustainable thought, leadership and partnerships needed to take the idea out to the world.
Bill Sherman I’m Bill Sherman and you’re listening to Leveraging Thought Leadership. Ready? Let’s begin. Welcome to the show, Chris.
Christopher Fox Yeah, Bill, thank you so much for having me. Looking forward to the conversation.
Bill Sherman So you and I both share a passion for thought leadership and strategy. But at the same time, an idea on its own doesn’t have value. It has to get out into the world. So let’s start with the question of how do you get people to hear and embrace an idea that is? How do you promote it successfully?
Christopher Fox Yeah, that’s a great question. I suppose it would be nice if we could all just sit and telepathically transmit ideas to each other without any friction. However, the world doesn’t work that way. We live in a very crowded world of massive amounts of content, massive amounts of things that are demanding our time and attention and for thought leadership. It’s often a bit of a challenge to figure out exactly. First of all, how do you package that idea? And it can be a very fundamental tactical question. Does this idea belong in text? Doesn’t belong in a video? Does it call for a short form? For a long form? My answer to that would be it actually calls for all of the above. And one of the first things for promoting an idea is creating what I would call a content hive and the content hive. It’s all of the different swarms of content that are going around in different formats that present different facets of an idea for different audiences. And then in the aggregate, all of those little bees in the swarm are going out and collecting honey, which is understanding agreement alignment, moving things forward, changing perceptions, bringing that back to the hive. And so that’s the packaging element, the promotion element kind of read between the lines of what I’m saying. Those bees need to go to specific flowers. They can’t just fly around in the air hoping that they bump into pollen. They have to be very intentional about the flowers they go to. And now let me complete the puzzle of that metaphor. What that means is that promoting thought leadership is really not about mass scale, getting everyone to see it. What it’s about is getting it directly into the hands of those decision makers who are receptive and influence the whole that can make up the world by that thought leadership. If you’re just sending it out into the void and hoping various people see it, it won’t have much impact even if it gets thousands or hundreds of thousands of clicks and impressions and all these different things. For many B2B businesses, especially if that piece of thought leadership resonates and builds a relationship with five major decision makers like you’ve won your year. And that can be true. First of all, B to B or very large B to B, where they have equally large scale customers, they can just engage one or two more of them. It changes everything. And the same is true at every level of business, I would say.
Bill Sherman And I think one of the things that I want to underscore, and you and I share a similar mindset on, is the intentionality of distribution of thought leadership. Thought leadership as an idea needs to be delivered to the right audience. And so I use the framework of, yeah, you can broadcast an idea, you can narrow cast it, or you can point cast it and break podcasting, sort of like scattering an idea to the wind and hoping the seeds land in the right places where, as you know, the relationship and narrowcasting is the flower to the bee. You want to have that symbiotic relationship where both sides are getting something that they need out of it and they find value. And then finally point casting, you made the point here of if you reach five decision makers as senior level, you’ve made your year that allows you to overinvest for those five and say, how do we deliver with almost white glove service to these people that we’re really trying to reach and create bespoke deliverables to them? Right?
Christopher Fox Right. I get – I like that a lot.
Bill Sherman If they are that important, then serve them. Your sales team would.
Christopher Fox No, that’s exactly right. I like that thinking a lot. And once you have that targeted thought leadership that is bespoke, created for those very specific “point” audiences, it’s relatively inexpensive to get it out into the broader world if you also want to do so. Right. I mean, you could certainly spend a lot of money on ads to promote it. I’m not quite sure why you would, but you could you could also just leverage organic, reach through search through social media, etc., to get broader exposure to the ideas and see if you can extract any collateral benefits from it. But only and I think this is really essential only if first you’ve produced it with this highly specific and highly bespoke approach in mind first.
Bill Sherman And it is always easier to start narrow and go broad for thought leadership because otherwise the number of touch points that you need to make someone aware of an idea and get them to consider it. If you’re trying to reach so many people that you’re just touching them once, it’s not going to be sticky.
Christopher Fox That’s right. It’ll it’ll either be very shallow because it speaks to too many audiences. So it reaches none of them with any particular depth. Or it will be too complicated because you’re trying to present multiple facets of an idea that are relevant to different audiences, and they’re all kind of piled together. And often the resulting piece is kind of the worst of all worlds because it doesn’t help anyone. It’s actually kind of convoluted and confusing, and it doesn’t achieve any of the business goals that you originally set out to have.
Bill Sherman Now you’re working with thought leadership in the realm of financial services and whether traditional institutions or more innovative institutions, correct? That’s right. That’s right. And I think you wind up having a continuum between the established financial services giants that have marketing communications teams that have been around for generations versus, you know, a fintech startup where everything is being done on the fly and there is no past history. So how does thought leadership interact with marketing and communications to get the idea out internally and externally? How do you make sure that the idea doesn’t get stuck in that distribution?
Christopher Fox That that’s an excellent question because, you know, as you’d imagine, especially at a larger organization, the resources responsible for marketing and communication, they’re very complex teams. They have people that are highly skilled at what you call them. You know, the horizontal ability of marketing, digital advertising, social events, print advertising, you know, out-of-home advertising, whatever they’re able to do from a marketing perspective or press releases or just name the genre of marketing or communication, they’re really, really good at doing that. They’re typically not as focused on the narrowcasting of, I know, three people to get this too. And I have a way of reaching out to those three people and sending it to them. It’s a very different thing. And as soon as it becomes a marketing project, you run up into a conflict of incentives because marketers more so than people in formal communications department. But let’s sort of bundle it together. Marketers, ultimately, their incentives has to do with mass numbers. And you can see the inherent contradiction between that incentive and what we were just talking about. If you as a marketer come up with a campaign that ends up with five results by you’re done. You’re saying if you’re not going to be around that organization.
Bill Sherman Five people saw this campaign. What were you thinking? Right.
Christopher Fox What is what is wrong with you happened? How could things have progressed to this? Five people that ultimately resulted in a 30, 40% increment to our revenue for that year? Wait a minute. That’s very different thing. But that line is very, very hard to draw when people are incentivized to do the big numbers, not to do the small numbers. And it doesn’t mean that marketing and communication can’t help. But I always see marketing and comms partners as complementary to the process. Rather than essential to that all of the direct targeting, they can build out more of the kind of the collateral targeting of who else happens to see it, which is it does it’s it’s powerful for the brand. It reinforces marketing messages. It often does plug in to particular elements of the marketing strategy, but it has this more fundamental goal like we were talking about before.
Bill Sherman And I think you alluded to something that’s worth exploring a little bit further, in that marketing. The language that marketing speaks is not always the same as the language of senior leadership and the PNL owners, right?
Christopher Fox That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. So, you know, the language that marketing speaks, they have a great sense of what the brand architecture is, what is the messaging around the products. They usually have a pretty good sense of how to segment that for different audiences that they’re marketing to and the kind of this this broader sense to build awareness. But first of all, you know that that element is a very different language from what we were talking about before. The other thing is just being very tactical about the production of thought leadership content, because marketers are great at marketing. They might not necessarily be great at some very complex aspect. You know, look, let’s get into the financial services, examples of derivatives or options or commodities trading or crypto or financial regulation or all of these things that are very hard to speak about. So having a dialog directly between marketing and the thought leader or the subject matter expert can result in a lot of confusion, a lot of friction, a lot of fairly elementary college 101 level explanations of the material that come at the expense of getting really, really deep into the subject matter. And so marketers can certainly help in that broad dissemination and translating the thought leadership into marketing collateral and marketing messages. But at that point of production of the thought leadership, I really believe you need a thought leader partner who works with that subject matter expert to ask them the right questions are often very tough questions to push them hard about. You know what this idea that you have. Why is that relevant? Why does it matter? Okay. You’ve given me an answer to that. Well, why does that matter? I just keep pushing them further and further and also challenge them when, you know, sometimes the things that we know and believe are innovative ideas are a little bit close to conventional wisdom about the topic. And it’s hard as a thinker sometimes to separate what you’ve picked up just from the overall kind of general dial tone around you versus your specific, unique insight. That makes it a very, very different thing from what everyone else talking about the topic has to say. And the thought leadership partner working with a thought leader can help crystallize all of that and drive it forward. It’s much, much more difficult for a marketer to do that because the marketer, you know, they’ve learned and live and breathe marketing and that’s great. They should. But it’s very hard for them to then jump to the other side and work in that level of depth with a thought leader.
Bill Sherman And that intellectual sparring, I think, is a good entry to a question that I think we should turn on ourselves as thought leadership practitioners, and that is the ability to speak the language of the business and also the language of our audience. Right. So it is not enough for us to or subject matter experts to simply know their expertise. We’ve got to be able to understand how does this impact the business if we get this idea to scale? Why does our organization care about this and how does it impact? What are we trying to measure? What does senior leadership care about? And similarly. If our audience listens to us, why are they going to care? Why are they going to give us any time? And I think we spend a lot less time on that question than we should.
Christopher Fox Yeah, that’s like the emphasis is a little overindexed toward the thought and a little underindexed to the leadership, because in order to have it be a leading point of view, it’s not just that it’s out there or no one has said it before. That’s kind of just like the first level.
Bill Sherman It’s table stakes, right? Say something that’s valuable and worth my time.
Christopher Fox Exactly. But then beyond that, the leadership element. What is your audiences point of departure and what’s that point of arrival that you have in mind that you want to lead them to in terms of a transformed understanding of something that matters to them? If you’re not doing that, then it’s not leadership. It’s just thought. Which, you know, it has its own place. I’m plenty patient for that kind of thing. But when we’re talking about the specifics of thought leadership, you can’t forget the second word in that phrase.
Bill Sherman Well, and thought leadership without the leadership winds up being closer to academia. It’s an idea which is explored, debated, published and discussed, but not designed to be acted on in the same way. It’s a conversation among people, whether it’s in literature or philosophy, etc. These are things that we can talk about rather than, okay, what do we need to do next week?
Christopher Fox That’s right. And I would say there’s even a place for that more philosophical or academic material in an overall thought leadership strategy. But it can’t be the only thing that you’re doing as part of the thought leadership strategy.
Bill Sherman Right. Right. It can be the backbone, just like sort of pure science. Research is the backbone for things that go out into the world in evolution. It’s how we got the Internet was pure science research, right?
Christopher Fox Right.
Bill Sherman But at some point we have to look and say, how do we apply this idea to problems that we want to solve and create value? End of story.
Christopher Fox That’s right. That’s right. And you also can look at it over time, because over time, if you’re succeeding as a thought leader in influencing audiences that matter, you are actually bringing them along forward and you’re creating room for a little bit more of the kind of philosophical, academic or even just fun, speculative stuff that sits alongside the pieces that are more directly focused on this piece will influence these decisions.
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Bill Sherman So I want to turn our attention now to the concept of sustainability in thought leadership. And you and I have talked about that. But when you talk about sustainability for thought leadership, what are you thinking of and how do you explain it to people? So let’s start with the 101 basics before we go deeper.
Christopher Fox Yeah. So, the one on basics come down to some facts. One is the fact that everyone just inherently understands, which is that there’s this massive content glut. Everyone knows that there’s too much content out there competing for people’s attention. And beyond that, there are all sorts of other messages, logos, everything. Just demanding, demanding, demanding your attention. Well, attention is a limited resource, right? As individuals, we actually only have so much attention that we’re able to devote to any one thing. And when I talk about sustainability and thought leadership, I actually take that metaphor pretty far because I’ll ask that question is what we’re talking about creating here. A useful and valuable consumption of attention that delivers something higher value or produces something higher value through the consumption of it? Or is it attention pollution? Are you wasting people’s time? Or are you wasting people’s good faith in what you have to say with thought? Leadership that. It’s simply a waste of time. Simply a waste of energy. Simply a waste of attention. If you pollute the ground in that way, it’s very hard to grow anything new in it. And so that idea of sustainability, it’s partly at that level and partly for me personally, it’s an ethical commitment. If I’m asking for someone’s attention with something, I feel really compelled to have some very good reason for doing so, rather than simply blathering or simply trying to get a message out. Simply looking at my audience as targets. I do use that word sometimes, but it makes me wince every time because it’s so violent and it’s so exploitative to think of people as targets. They’re not targets. They’re humans with human needs. They exist in a human context. They have many, many other competing priorities in their business and personal life. And for you to ask of any slice of that energy and that attention to ask for that comes with a huge amount of ethical responsibility. I feel, and we don’t really talk about it a lot in the industry. It’s pretty abstract, it’s pretty theoretical, it’s a little bit challenging because it actually creates some pretty high stakes and a high bar for when marketing can or should be done, when thought, leadership can or should be done. But I think it’s really fundamental to this idea of overcoming, of content glut, of thinking about the legitimate and most valuable ways to leverage or call for other people’s attention. And, you know, I mean, it’s and even to like some of the industry data about thought leadership and there’s these ongoing studies that are done, collaboration between the PR agency Edelman and LinkedIn, and they’re constantly finding things like this. I think the most recent was that when you survey decision makers about the thought leadership that they’re consuming, they consume a ton of it, but 30% of them rate what they’re seeing as somewhere between mediocre to poor to very poor. And only 15% say that it’s very good or excellent. And I feel like that that is. Partly due to just fundamental quality of what’s produced, but it’s also an effect of a, you know, a polluted, messy ground where there’s just litter all over the place. It’s hard to see the nugget of gold.
Bill Sherman And I think we could even layer another nuance there. And I think that’s a great point, is not only is it the questionable quality of different pieces, but it’s also the relevance because you and I could stumble across the same piece of thought leadership. It may be deeply relevant to you at that moment of time, but not relevant to me. And we may rate it at different levels of quality because they both been pushed out on social. You look at and you go, Wow, this is exactly what I need. And I’m going, Yeah, yeah. Not my interest, not my jam. Even though I got 32 other things, I’m going to forget about it. Right? And so delivering an idea to when someone is receptive. Is a profound challenge, especially if you’re talking from an ethical perspective. And that leads to a question of are we pushing? Is it a pull from the individual who is seeking? And if they’re looking for it? Do they even know to how to find the asset that we’ve created? If it’s pull.
Christopher Fox Yeah, that’s a great question because it ties into the idea of thought leadership being predicated on a relationship or a relationship between two people. And in any context, like you and I having this conversation. Right. Is it is it push or is it pull? It’s kind of neither and both at the same time. Right. Because it’s dialogic. It’s based on a relationship. Rather than me thinking of you as an IT and I’m going to target it and I’m going to deliver my messages to it. It’s you and I are having a conversation between you and that back and forth you to me.
Bill Sherman So in working with the subject matter experts, you know, when you’re working with folks in fintech, do you push them to think beyond the abstraction of an audience to specific individuals? Let’s close back to that narrowcasting. Do they have people in mind that they’re writing for or creating ideas for, or do they. Do you have to pull them out of the thinking of, Oh, this is my audience?
Christopher Fox Yeah. So it’s a little bit of both. And the ideas that they have about it exist at various levels of precision. So sometimes they’re just thinking about the client and I’ll say, All right, well, let’s talk a little bit more about what has the client been asking you to get into that conversation a little bit more? They’ll give me some information about what the client, this kind of general obstruction of an audience looks like. I’ll say, well, you know, specifically not just the client, but an individual. And what is what is the chief operating officer, the chief investment officer at this investment management firm that you want to talk to? Like, what do they care about a little bit more and try to try to push it down even a little bit further and say, well, all right. Now let’s look a little bit more in detail about what segment are we talking about? Are we talking about asset managers that have funds in the you know, the hundreds of millions? Are we talking about multibillion dollar players of a very different set sense of complexity, very different set of needs? So it’s pushing them a little bit to let’s get more detailed about what we mean by the client, which, by the way, just talking about the client is a little bit of an artifact of marketing speak.
Bill Sherman Absolutely.
Christopher Fox Slowly nudging them. Let’s get a little more specific than that. Let’s get a little bit more specific than that. And then I think the final piece of that process or that conversation is what is it look like if. The decision maker at some X sees this, reads this or what? What does that person know, feel and do differently as an individual, not just as a generic abstraction or persona, but as one real human.
Bill Sherman And I think one of the ways that if you especially in a B2B setting or thought leadership, you put out a piece and someone responds and says, this is exactly what we were trying to figure out in our last meeting.
Christopher Fox Right.
Bill Sherman How did you know? Did you book our bug our office, sort of thing when you are so in tune with your audience that they feel like it was written for them specifically. Then you’re focused and you’re tuned in and you’re not doing that broadcasting approach. That’s right. That’s right. I even think about that in terms of my own approach to LinkedIn. I’ll post something that just doesn’t necessarily get a lot of impressions or a lot of engagement. And if three weeks or weeks later. A client was mention it to me. You know, I, I finally realized or I when you spoke about that, it really resonated and I did X or Y and none of that shows up in the numbers, right? Because people that have said have a material impact on my business, my livelihood, my ability to, you know, be and do the things that I want to do.
Bill Sherman And at the same time, we’re using this imperfect measure of likes and comments and thinking that that’s a predictor of impact. There are many, many people that I would describe on LinkedIn as readers or lurkers, if you will, that will rarely engage. But they may take action based on that. That’s right. And unless you’re open to that feedback cycle, you’re not going to hear it right. If you’re not actually talking to the people that you’re trying to reach. And so I think that’s a great example. I want to pivot to one last area of conversation, and I want to begin by asking briefly. How did you get into thought leadership? Because as far as I know, you did not go to school for fall leadership. You went to school for something very different.
Christopher Fox That’s right. That’s right. My path to this particular stage of my life and professional journey has been a little bit windy and certainly unusual versus other professionals in the space. I started off, finished my doctorate in French literature and I taught at the university level for two years before I more or less ran screaming from academia, realizing that it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t sad or mad that I devoted the amount of time and energy that I did to get to that point. But I knew that it was not going to work over the long haul for my overall. Sense of how things should work. What?
Bill Sherman I have so much empathy.
Christopher Fox And so what I did is I looked out and I look deep at what can I take from this very, very specialized and precious little thing that no one else in the world outside of not only academia take, but outside of the world of literature departments is even going to understand the hell what did you do? What does any of that mean? And I just looked hard to figure out what could I take from there in terms of the ability to look at texts, at levels of complexity from multiple perspectives, look at thinking about those texts from different levels of complexities, get into topics very quickly and very in-depth because you have to it’s just the hardest part of the training and part of the academic approach to learn how to do that. And I brought that to a consulting firm. So we were talking in the kind of the stages of this, the first dot com boom, and I parlayed it into a position of doing content strategy, this a content strategy for any kind of online platform. It was intranets for, you know, internal employee groups. It was sales portals, marketing portals, h.r. Portals, all this kind of stuff. But. I think it was juxtaposing the business needs of solving those problems with my academic training that allowed me to see, well, there’s this there’s this different approach to there’s content that helps people just complete a task. It’s incredibly useful when it’s necessary. But there’s also there’s more of a strategy here to to communicating and leading people forward. And that’s how I began to discover thought leadership. And then the finance piece of it is a little bit of coincidence, just happens to be by virtue of the clients that I worked with at this firm that I developed at least some entry level understanding of some of these more complex financial services topics. And when I started my firm think of we’re now looking at 27, started my company and started off as a bit more of a generalist. We would work with health care companies, financial services, education and edtech was kind of, you know, taking all comers. But it was only in 2015 that I had that realization. Just focus in on the one thing, take one, go with it. It was kind of a knife edge, like 2022 election style between health care and financial services. But financial services won the day. And from there, after doing that and working with clients throughout the industry and all kind of all spectrums of the financial value chain, I learned an enormous amount and I work with other professionals on my team that has had some kind of hybrid relationship to finance and content creation, whether through literary or through marketing perspectives or whatever it is.
Bill Sherman So you and I share a background in literature. I was in English literature and I finished and to borrow your phrase, ran screaming from academia before my Ph.D. was earned. But I was in the doctoral program. I want to ask you this question, because this is something that I consider a lot. What did you carry forward and in terms of your literary analysis? Because for me, one of the things that I found most useful was the ability to use different critical theories of literature and look at the same text through different lenses. And to say, if I look at the text through this lens, what stands out? Okay, if I change my lens and I focus with another type of theory, other things in the text pop out. It’s sort of like using the blue and red filters for the 3D glasses.
Christopher Fox Yeah.
Bill Sherman So what was your experience? Because that’s the thing that I carry forward.
Christopher Fox That I would very much agree with that as a major element of carrying forward. A few things I would add to that. One of them is just handling a lot of complexity in a fairly short period of time where, you know, when you’re in a graduate level literature seminar, you are reading hundreds of pages a day all the time.
Bill Sherman Plus critical theory and the articles that go with it. Yeah.
Christopher Fox So just being able to assimilate and make sense of something at scale and at speed, which is certainly not the way that most academics would describe it, as shows what happened to me afterwards. But being able to assimilate highly complex and highly diverse points of view at scale and at speed is kind of an extension of what you were just saying. And I think the other thing about it is you bring in a sense of the tension between story and discourse, right? Because of work of literature. You know, let’s look at a novel and it has a narrative thread is plot, there’s characters, is all these things. But you also have to get a little bit inside the head of the text, so to speak, to understand like where is it going, when, why? Why are these things here the way that they are?
Bill Sherman And be able to put the work or the text within the context of where it was written and then how it’s been consumed by different periods of time. So if you look at Shakespeare, for example, Shakespeare performed on stage in Elizabethan or Jacobean. England is very different than how it was received in the 19th century versus how it would be put on stage today or read today. And so, you know, we all encounter ideas or parenthetically text differently at different times. I think that’s right.
Christopher Fox I think that’s right. And the only other thing I would add to that is the at least the way that I was doing things and my own approach, very multi-disciplinary. So I was always really interested in the intersections between literature and the natural sciences at that point in time, and sort of juxtaposing those very two different things of, well, here’s a novel and here’s a treatise on this. This is a literal thing that I wrote about on Spontaneous Generation. How and why is it that this novel, the metaphors, the structure of the novel, are working the same way as this theory about how organisms spawn spontaneously out of the air? Why is it that there they are absolutely lockstep and consistent with each other, and what does that mean? And I wrote a lot about that for in a lot of different areas.
Bill Sherman And that ability to situate in a larger context, I think, yeah, you’re absolutely right. Thought leadership does not exist in a vacuum. Whether you’re doing thought leadership for fintech or you’re doing thought leadership for any industry. There is a xigaze of what’s going on, what other people are talking about, and those cross-currents from other fields influence. Right. That’s right. Yeah. You have to be, from a global leadership perspective, aware of not only what the field is talking about, what the world is talking about.
Christopher Fox Yup. That’s right. That’s right. Because that’s just the field talking to itself. It’s not any of the things that we were talking about earlier.
Bill Sherman Right. Right. So I want to close with one last question, Chris. What advice you talked about going into the world of thought, leadership, post academia? What advice would you give your younger self in that consultancy based on what you know now? Because there are a number of people who are entering the field of thought leadership. They’re trying to figure out and make their way. What advice would you give? With hindsight.
Christopher Fox I think the advice that I would give, especially with what’s going on in the field of thought leadership right now, is. Look at all of the things like the barrage of how tos and formulas and advice that you’re getting. Let’s say LinkedIn is a great example of this. There are a lot of people saying a lot of things that are very good how to and here’s my formula for content success and here’s how I tend to x my impressions in the six weeks of all of this stuff. And it does create a little sense of anxiety like suicide. I do it like, should I be worried about this? Should I be applying these magic formulas? Should I be buying these courses that tell me how to do these things? I think as a younger professional, if I didn’t have the kind of the firmness of the stomach that I have now for it, I might be tempted to waste a lot of time, money and attention with applying formulas and how tos rather than doing that deeper and harder work. So a little bit of self-reliance and confidence of know how do I do it and how do I do it in a way that will work with the clients that I want to work with in the way that I want to work with. So that’s really the piece of advice that I would give to people. Entering the profession now is to take it under consideration. I’m not saying that these people are just selling snake oil. You know, everyone’s got a message and everyone wants to put it out there one way or the other, but make sure that it’s not kind of just a blind application of these formulas. Make sure you don’t come to the false conclusion that there’s a formula out there and all you need to do is learn it and apply it because it’s always going to work by something that’s fundamental within you and honestly is not repeatable. By anyone else in any other way. And your counterpart, who is the thought leader, the subject matter expert? And you can’t do that if you’re only bringing formulas and buzzwords and conventional wisdom to the table.
Bill Sherman Absolutely. It’s a deeply human process and you have to be fully present with the if you’re doing that intellectual sparring with the person that you’re sparring. No checklist is going to take you the whole way.
Christopher Fox Yep, that’s right. There’s no decoder ring. There’s no x ray specs. And none of those things exist.
Bill Sherman Yeah.
Christopher Fox And it’s. It can be hard to recognize that, with, some of this concept, which I believe that people post these things in entirely good faith. But if you think about the impact on someone entering the profession, it’s a little bit anxiety producing, it’s a little bit of envy producing, right? Because they’re making all these huge promises about numbers and stats and things that.
Bill Sherman Well, it’s clickbait. There’s the one weird trick that gets you to an audience and thought leadership. No, there isn’t.
Christopher Fox Right. Right.
Bill Sherman So, Chris, I want to thank you for joining us today for this conversation. I’ve had a blast, and I really appreciate you sharing your experience and your insights.
Christopher Fox Thank you as well. It’s been a really good conversation and really appreciate your time and engaging with you.
Bill Sherman If you’re interested in organizational thought leadership, then I invite you to subscribe to the RTL newsletter. Each month we talk about the people who create, curate, and deploy thought leadership on behalf of their organizations. Go to the website. OrgTL.com and choose. Join our newsletter. I’ll leave a link to the website as well as my LinkedIn profile in the show notes. Thanks for listening and I look forward to hearing what you thought of the show.