Listen to the audio version of this post here.


You know how sometimes you have a chance to walk your talk … and it feels like walking the plank?

Maybe you were with me last week for a robust discussion of mass lay-offs, badly handled. It generated considerable response.

There was this from one reader: “I hope some HR folks are on your mailing list. You should pitch this to the HR publications. Excellent article!”

And then there was this, from a reader who actually is in Human Resources: “You just lost a listener, who up to now valued and shared your insights, when you referred to the HR person as the Angel of Death. I am insulted by your generalization of HR as a profession.”

Huh. Interesting.

If you’re a regular here, you know I’ve been writing sometimes about the Fascinate® Advantages and the assessment that can tell you yours. Why? Because it really is better to be different than better. Here’s why …

We’re all up against three dynamics.

Distraction. How do you get people’s attention and then keep it long enough to make an impact, when there are so many other forces competing for their eyes and ears and mindshare?

Competition. No matter what you do for your clients or customers or colleagues, you know there are hundreds, maybe thousands of professionals who offer pretty much the same thing. Why should they choose you over all those alternatives? What makes you stand out?

Commoditization. If you don’t stand out, they see you as a commodity; you are vulnerable and replaceable. And you’re likely to lose out to the one who charges the least, unless you are the one who charges the least. And who wants to be that?

The answer to all these threats is to focus on who you are rather than what you do. To highlight how you stand out from those others. To add your highest distinct value by using your natural advantages to create that state of intense focus we call fascination.

That brings us to polarity.

If we talk and write and work in a way that absolutely delights some people, keeps them in our orbit, and makes them want to refer us to their friends, the chances are pretty darn good that some other people are having the opposite reaction to us.

Fascination® Advantage creator Sally Hogshead keeps vanilla ice cream in her freezer because everyone in the family and every guest who drops in will eat it. Nobody hates vanilla ice cream. Of course, it’s nobody’s absolute favorite ice cream either. Not one of them is sitting around after dinner dying for a dish of vanilla.

Pistachio, on the other hand? A lot of us would turn up our nose at that bowl of cold, green, creaminess with crunchy lumps. And some of us would dig right in with relish because pistachio is our absolute favorite ice cream of all time and there’s no treat we’d rather have.

If we want to fascinate our clients, colleagues, and yes, readers … it pays to be pistachio.

The downside, of course, is those people who scrunch up their face and go “Ewww.”

This is what it means to be different.

When we’re clear on our particular Advantages, we create an anthem – think of it as a sort of tagline for your personality. A quick way to communicate what you do and how you do it when you’re at your best. And how you differ from all those other people who do the same basic thing in a way that’s not like yours.

My anthem? Irreverent Impact.

It’s based on my Primary and Secondary Advantages, Innovation and Power. When I’m at my best as a speaker, consultant, and yes, as a writer, I make an impact on my audience whether that means a group sitting in a hotel meeting room, an individual who wants to become a better speaker, or you reading this article.

As I thought through what makes me different from all the other communication experts who do speaking, coaching, and blogging, this became clear. I often make that impact with a twist on conventional wisdom, a wry turn of a phrase, a slightly skewed point of view. My mother called that being a smart-ass. I call it irreverent.

I’m aware that “Irreverent” does not have universal appeal. In fact, a colleague in my Certified Fascinate Consultant class warned me that my anthem is all wrong. “Nobody,” she declared, “wants an irreverent coach.”

She’s right about a lot of people. They don’t want an irreverent coach. I could introduce them to some talented trainers who are not irreverent. Those talented trainers are not me. For better or worse, I’m pistachio. 

Here’s why it’s better.

There’s the obvious stand-out-from-the-competition factor. An organization chooses me as a speaker because their members would be intrigued by irreverence. Or at least they’d stay awake for a presentation. This is why I’ve been encouraging you to embrace what makes you different from others in your field—it gives you a competitive edge.

And I’ve discovered another whole benefit to embracing what makes me different. It turns out to be a natural pain-reliever!

Back in my talk-show-host days, “You just lost a listener” was a knife in my heart. I could agonize for days about a badly scrawled, barely literate bit of hate mail. A dip in the ratings was a deathblow. What people thought of me had enormous impact on me, especially if it was negative.

In a ratings-driven industry, it makes sense to care about the audience. It’s crazy to read and reread critical comments, lie awake at night mentally replaying the insults, and worry endlessly about Don from Arlington Heights.

Embracing my anthem seems to have made me less crazy!

I wasn’t happy that I hurt the HR director’s feelings. I apologized, in fact, and I sincerely hope she stays connected. I did not, however, wonder if I’m a horrible person who clearly has no future in this business because of my tongue-in-cheek name for the HR guy who sat in on my dismissal from WLS in 1997. What a relief!

And that’s why I’m telling you this story.

You can have that same freedom from personalizing a critical comment or a bad review. When you lean into your Fascination Advantage you develop a deep understanding of how you delight some people, and you can let go of that need to satisfy all of them.

You can attract the clients or customers for whom your work is just perfect, without wasting time trying to please people who’d be better served by someone else.

You can be pistachio. Or chocolate fudge ripple with nuts.

PS: Here’s the place to take the Fascinate® Assessment.  And shoot me an email for perspective on your Advantages, suggestions for putting them to use, and of course some Irreverent Impact.