How to Cultivate Your Own Thought Leadership with Carol Cox
If you’re passionate about getting your thoughts and ideas out there to the world so you can help others, then you, my friend, are a thought leader. But what does that look like, in practice?

With public speaking being the number one fear of humans, and the online space making speaking up feel very vulnerable, many thought leaders hold back their message or don’t share it to the scope that they could.

This week on the podcast, Carol Cox and I talk about how to get past that fear through community and taking little steps toward your bigger message. Because you don’t have to have it all figured out from day one. Your message can and should evolve as you learn more and grow.

Carol shares how to find your own thought leadership message, where to get started, and why your message doesn’t necessarily have to tie to what you do in business.

About Carol Cox:

Carol Cox is the founder and CEO of Speaking Your Brand®, a coaching and training company that helps high-performing, purpose-driven women entrepreneurs and professionals create their signature talks and thought leadership platforms. Carol is host of the weekly 5-star rated Speaking Your Brand® podcast and during election seasons serves as a Democratic political analyst on TV news. Carol was named as one of Orlando’s Women of the Year in 2021 and has been featured in Forbes. Through her company and content, her mission is to empower more women to find and use their voice, to tell the stories that need to be told, and to activate ideas for change. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Instagram.

Links and Resources:

Time Stamps:

[2:06] – A magical summit
[4:10] – Amber’s dream job: emcee
[5:52] – What is thought leadership
[6:45] – Existential crises among business owners
[7:15] – Making a shift from in-person talks being canceled
[8:18] – How thought leaders propel themselves
[9:35] – This is an opportunity to reevaluate what you’re working toward and how you’re defining success
[11:22] – Standing in your truth of what you believe
[13:16] -Developing bravery to put yourself out there
[13:40] – Being courageous and in community
[16:24] – Where to start with thought leadership
[18:43] – The three hats of biz owners
[20:08] – Thought leaders are like therapists
[21:24] – Overcoming the fear of putting ourselves out there
[24:17] – How to avoid the vulnerability hangover
[28:33] – Public speaking is the #1 fear
[29:23] – Not everyone is a thought leader
[32:21] – How to start identifying what you want to talk about
[35:44] – The threads in Amber’s life
[38:00] – Benefit of thought leadership that’s different from your business



Unknown Speaker 0:01
You’re listening to the my biz bestie podcast where female business owners find their support system to have their back through the highs and lows of running a business and to make the journey less lonely and a lot more fine. Here is your host licensed therapist, entrepreneur and your business bestie Amber Hawley

Amber Hawley 0:26
Welcome to Season Seven of the my biz bestie Podcast. I’m Amber Hawley and today I have a very special guest good friend and the founder and CEO of speaking your brand Carol Cox with me today. Welcome Carol.

Carol Cox 0:40
Hi, Amber, I am so excited to be on the my biz bestie podcast.

Amber Hawley 0:44
I know I was we were talking a little bit beforehand. And I thought I can’t believe you haven’t been on already. I’ve known you for a few years now. But I’ve been in your speaking program.

Carol Cox 0:57
We’ve met in person at conferences, which like seems like such an amazing thing. Right now

Amber Hawley 1:01
we know people we know each other from IRL, like your IRL people, we should have already had this discussion. But yeah, and I also have the fortune of being the second time emcee at your upcoming event that I’m super excited about the brave, bold beyond event that features women speaking and thought leaders. And it’s it’s very powerful. And we’re I’m sure I’m going to talk about it again. But for those of you listening, you should head on over and check that out. It is happening on April 1, and it is a free event to attend. And we the first one was October of last year, correct is amazing. And the people the takeaway from everybody who attended, like there was just so much positive feedback. And it was a really powerful event. It was my favorite virtual event I’ve ever been to.

Carol Cox 1:53
Well, thank you so much Amber. And I heard that from a number of women who attended. So I know you’re not just saying that because you’re the emcee?

Amber Hawley 2:00
No, I wouldn’t have been like nails gun.

Carol Cox 2:04
They’re really it was it was really magical. And I think it was a combination of the topics of the women who were speaking because it was in this was our mission of speaking your brand is to help women tell the stories that need to be told. So they were personal stories, powerful messages in 10 minutes, and Ted style talks in 10 minutes. So you didn’t have to, you know, sit around for 45 minutes listening to a presentation. They are concise, but that being so concise, makes them so incredibly powerful. Because you can actually say a lot in 10 minutes, even though it doesn’t feel like it when you first get started. You’re like, oh my gosh, how am I gonna cut this down to 10 minutes, but then it’s very good when you had to memorize it, that it’s only 10 minutes.

Amber Hawley 2:45
Not only that, I find, I mean, to me, it takes a lot more skill to deliver a message in a shorter timeframe. Because you’re really having to, you know, break it down to really just the most important stuff, right? So it stops all that rambling, which I’m a Rambler, so I know that that it reels people in but it does keep people’s attention. And you know, for me being ADHD, like 10 minutes is great, because then you get that nugget. And it felt like the day it’s an all day event, but it went so fast, because it is that like, boom, boom, boom, next thing and it keeps your interest going.

Carol Cox 3:23
Oh, yeah, we keep things moving along. And then you of course, Amber, as the emcee, you know, keep us energized, keep us dancing, as we go from section to section. So I’m really excited to do it again on April 1, and to add some new features that we didn’t have the first time around. And like you said, it’s free to attend. This is our thought leadership project, speaking your brand, this is a way for us to give back to our community and to give back to women who are interested in speaking in thought leadership and want to see these types of speeches in action. And so there’s this, I’m just excited to be able to put this on again.

Amber Hawley 3:56
Yeah, I can’t wait. I we had our rehearsal run through yesterday. And there were times where people are doing their little snippets. And I’m like, No, don’t stop. I want to hear the rest of this story. So I personally can’t wait, you know, but I do love the like my dream job is being an emcee or hosts because then I get to entertain and not have to memorize a speech. So here’s like, my favorite thing in the world. And we actually did just a couple weeks ago did a podcast episode on your podcast, the speaking your brand podcast, where we talked about how to be a good emcee at an event. So that was yes,

Carol Cox 4:32
and we realized preparation is really important. It’s not the same thing as writing and memorizing a speech but you this definitely is definitely not a no preparation role.

Amber Hawley 4:41
Absolutely. No, absolutely. I just thought you know that. That like showing up on the day giving those talks and you have all like so nervous I still got nervous. Don’t get me wrong at the very beginning, but But yeah, not having to okay, I can flu. I got this. I’m prepared. I’m ready to go. It’s Gonna be fun. And then you know, it doesn’t hurt that you can just dance every time you don’t know what to say, this is a good, that’s some music. But

Carol Cox 5:11
yeah, as a speaker, you could do that you could just totally just randomly know, while you’re delivering your talk, just be like, Alright, everyone dance party time.

Amber Hawley 5:20
Let’s get it go with me. I know, that wouldn’t be weird at all. I might try that one time. So yes, I it’s perfect timing, because the event is coming up. And so you can, uh, will obviously share the links in the show notes. And you can head on over there to speak in your brand and sign up for that for that event. But I thought it was also a great opportunity for us to kind of talk about that, that idea of thought leadership, but one thing that what I do love about following you on social media, and actually knowing you and being in some of your programs before, it is, I really do appreciate, you know, the being really socially aware and the activism that you do. And that’s really important to me that there are, you know, women business owners out there really caring about that stuff, and doing the work that they should be doing and, you know, to support themselves in the community, and to be more aware of how we’re impacting one another. And so I wanted to have you on to talk about, as I feel like we’re coming out of this really rough year, which I know is still going. But I finding like even with the clients that I’m working with, there’s a lot of people having kind of like an existential crisis or feeling like, you know, what, like, I don’t feel fit, I don’t feel fulfilled either in my life or in my business, and I want something more or I have something to say, but I haven’t been able to say it. And you know, there’s lots of reasons why people don’t use their voice or feel like they have a voice. And so I thought it would be great for you to come on and talk about that since thought leadership is such a big piece of you know, what you’re trying to do to impact women in the world.

Carol Cox 7:09
Yes, and Amber and I I’ll say about having an existential crisis that I definitely felt like I had one last summer, because when the pandemic first hit in March, and April, and of course, everyone’s speaking engagements started getting postponed and then cancelled, of course, all of our clients speaking engagements, as well, and then you know, switching to virtual, which is fine, but then realizing that, you know, so for so many of, of our, the people in our audience and our clients, like they want to be on stages, they want to go to conferences, they want to speak in person, of course, like we love that. We love the adrenaline, we love the energy. We love seeing people, we love delivering our message to an audience. And then during the summer, I was like, Well, does this mean my business is over? Like, what am I supposed? You know, like, obviously, I knew it wasn’t. But I still had the same like, well, what are people going to pay for? Like, what are they going to hire us for? If they’re just doing zoom presentations and doing webinars? Of course, we help with that. But it didn’t seem to be like as big of a business, like a biggest business opportunity. And so I started doing research on thought leaders like Brene, brown and Simon Sinek. And Rachael Rogers, and looking like what is it? Like? How did they propel themselves, and what it wasn’t that they had. So I found these elements that they had in common, I did an episode about that last summer in I think it was in August. And then I realized that they all had a container for their thought leadership messes like a project, so that it could live beyond just them so that the people who were interested in it could like pick it up and carry it, and do what they wanted to with it with it. We’ll start with why with Simon Sinek, of course, Brene Brown all the research that she does on shame and vulnerability and connection and belonging. And so certainly, that’s where I started thinking, Well, what we’re going to do is speaking your brand, we need a thought leadership project, so that we can actually walk our talk. And that’s where the idea of the first summit came up, which we did in October of last year, because I realized, well, we need to do some type of an event or project so that other people can get involved with our mission and what it is that we’re doing. And I think without that existential crisis, that event wouldn’t have happened. And that event completely transformed our business.

Amber Hawley 9:20

Carol Cox 9:21
So there are two there can’t be a silver lining to these.

Amber Hawley 9:25
I do believe that. I mean, no one likes to go through a crisis no matter what. But I think it can be an opportunity to kind of reevaluate things reevaluate your business your life. Yeah, what you’re working towards, you know, what your how you’re defining your success. So, even though I’m sure we would all choose to get the learning without the crisis. That’s not how we do it people. As humans, that’s not how we do it. But I love that I love that I’m sure it felt terrible at the time, but And I think the key is you took action, you started saying, Okay, what is it? What what is? What is the next thing for me? And yeah, I personally am so glad that you did that. Because I know that event last year was really phenomenal. And I’m not just saying it, because I was involved in it, because we all know I’m a good snarky person, but, but I really did feel that way. And I feel that kind of my takeaway to as somebody who was witnessing these talks, or being able to hear the women speak, you know, either at the event or even afterwards, as they talked about it, was, it felt like, yes, like, what is my bigger picture? And what is it that I want for myself and my business? And like really starting to question it? Because I think sometimes we get so used to doing things in our business, that we don’t stop and kind of question like, like, what is it that I care about? What is it? How am I different? How do I feel like I can impact the world in my unique way, like that kind of stuff? You know, we might cursory think about it. But I felt that give it gave a lot of people an opportunity to do a deeper dive. So I’m very grateful that you did that.

Carol Cox 11:10
No, well, thank you, Amber. And this idea of, of having kind of a mission, or, you know, a bigger thought leadership message related to one’s business is something that for me is really important. Because yes, I want a profitable business, obviously, a need to bring in revenue to pay our team members and to pay expenses, and you know, all of those things, but what motivates me to get up every day, and to continue to do the things in business? When business is hard? Because business, you know, there’s hard moments, and there always will be when things get hard is waking up every day and realizing well, what is my bigger mission? What is why am I doing this other than just signing out a new client or getting money in the bank? That’s just that’s not enough? I mean, for some people, it is there for me, it’s enough. It’s not enough, I need this bigger mission to be working towards and to to, because otherwise they’re like, Well, why am I adding team members? Why are we growing the business? Like what is the end goal and for us is because we want to help more women who want to find in user voice, so that it’s not just me who can help them only one person? How can we then bring on more coaches, and you know, and develop more programs so that we can help more women out there who want this.

Amber Hawley 12:18
I love that. And again, I think the important thing, so many people want to you know, either write a book or be a speaker, a professional paid speaker, they want to get their, their story or their vision out there. And yet we also know those are things that people are terrified to do, which i That’s why the you know, brave, bold and beyond thing is, are sorry, brave, bold, beyond, there’s no AMS is so good, because I think you want to be bold, because that’s the part about right standing in your truth of what you believe or your vision for things. And what I think this, what you talk about a lot is about how we develop that bravery, how we put ourselves out there in that way. And because it is scary, and it is overwhelming. And like you’re saying like, why am I adding all these things? Why am I putting myself through this? Why am I doing this to myself? And you know, you have to have a bigger why for that, like you’re saying,

Carol Cox 13:22
yes. And the other thing that had that I have found interesting Amber’s over the past six months or so is that this these, this idea of bravery or being courageous? A lot of times we think it’s something that we just kind of have to like willpower ourselves to do that, okay, like there’s a cliff, and I might be brave enough to jump over the clip, or I need to be brave enough to post something on social media or do a podcast episode, or do a talk where I’m digging deeper into my own personal story. And I have that vulnerability. I’m not sure how this is going to be received. So yes, there’s a little bit of that, okay. Like, I’m just going to kind of push myself to do it. But what I have seen is that when you do it in community, with other women who are going on a similar journey, having that support and seeing other women open up and be vulnerable, it becomes contagious. And then you kind of borrow their courage you borrow their bravery for yourself, and you almost can’t help them to take those steps. Because you see those other women around you doing it as well.

Amber Hawley 14:24
I love that. Yeah. And yeah, when I think about it, that’s that is part of like, I see somebody put themselves out there and be so like, I don’t want to say the word. Not unashamed, but they’re so like unapologetic about it. They’re like, this is me, this is why I’m taking a leave and I love that. And that does make me feel bolder and makes me feeling braver about things. Because I’m like, Oh my God, look how look how much I love this person because they do that. I maybe I could do that for somebody else. And so I never thought it that way but I love that Like you’re borrowing their courage until you have it for yourself, and then you’re gonna pass it on. Right? Exactly. Yes. That is so great. So if somebody is saying to themselves, okay, like, yes, maybe I, you know, have a, I have a message or I have something in me or I want to get out there and either be a speaker or, you know, be putting my message out there in a, in a cohesive way, because that’s the other piece like you’re talking about, they have this container, they have this thoughtfulness and in this intention in which they’re doing it, where do people start with that? Because if they’re like, Okay, I have this idea. But I don’t even know where to start, like, how do I? What if that even doesn’t have anything to do with my business? You know, I just did the great thing of asking more than one question.

Carol Cox 15:50
I do that sometimes on my podcast, too.

Amber Hawley 15:52
And we recommend it when interviewing people. But I guess that’s where I, you know, and as I’m thinking about it, like, I like hearing people, that’s always the thing of like, oh, this doesn’t even have to do with what I’m doing, or I don’t know what it fully is like, I have an idea, but I don’t have it fully fleshed out, like, where do people start?

Carol Cox 16:12
Yeah, this is a great question, Amber. And so I see your someone’s thought leadership message and thought leadership project as running parallel to their business, for some businesses is going to be very well aligned. Like, obviously, what we do is speaking your brand, and then what our thought leadership messaging project is, is very much aligned. But for other businesses, it may be more loosely aligned. And that’s okay. Because I think that your thought leadership message and project, even if it’s not directly tied to what it is, that you do in your business, can still support what your business does, in the sense that it’s helping to bring awareness to what matters to you, what your values are, what you care about what it is that you want to see more of in the world. And so then just by natural extension, people hear that message, they see what you’re doing. And then they look at your business. And then even if you’re a CPA, and whatever you’re doing for your thought leadership is not directly related to helping people with their accounting. And there are books that if you see their thought leadership message, you may be more likely to say, well, that’s the kind of CPA I would like to hire, because I see what’s important to her. And that’s important to me, too. So we are lined.

Amber Hawley 17:24
Yeah, that’s so great. Because I think, as a type A person who sometimes like I can get stuck looking at the bigger picture and making sure everything fits, and it seems cohesive, so it’s not confusing. And then you can kind of put yourself in this little box like, these are the I can only, like you’re saying, If I’m a CPA, I can only talk about numbers. But that is some of the people when we when we know like, yeah, your values align with me, or I know that you’re somebody who really cares about, you know, promoting women or promoting and supporting, you know, the bipoc members of society. And I really want to make sure that we’re, we’re addressing the social, you know, the racial injustice in the world or whatever. If that’s something super important to you, then that’s probably going to be somebody you want to be working with, right? And I think that’s a very freeing thing to realize, like, it doesn’t just, you could have something inside of you to say that might not be just about whatever it is you do in your business.

Carol Cox 18:27
Yes. And they’d let me hear this might be helpful for the listener. So I when I when we think about being business owners, being entrepreneurs, I mean, there’s many hats that we wear, but I can kind of divide them into these three hats. So as business owners, then we say to our prospective clients, you need help with x, we can help you with that. So very much problem solution, you didn’t help with public speaking, we can help you with that very well defined problem solution. As marketers the next hat. This is much more aspirational. We say to our prospective clients, we can make your dreams come true. We can help you make your dreams come true. You want to stand on that TEDx stage, we can help you to get there. You want to do a deliver a you know a fantastic keynote at this really important industry conference so that you get asked back or you get more keynote speaking engagements, we can help you with that. So it’s very aspirational. And the client, the prospective client knows what that dream is, like they already have in their mind what that dream is for themselves. The third hat is a being a thought leader. And a thought leader says to their audience, prospective clients audiences. You haven’t thought about x yet? What would happen if you did? So you’re bringing to awareness, a topic and issue, a question that the audience hasn’t thought about yet. And that’s where the thought leadership piece comes in. You’re ultimately helping your audience learn more about themselves, how they relate to others and how they show up in the world. It’s kind of like what therapies therapists do right now So thought leaders are kind of like therapists in the sense that they’re help dirt like they’re a mirror or reflection to their audience to help them understand themselves better.

Amber Hawley 20:09
Oh, that’s so good. See, this is why she’s the queen of frameworks. I’m telling you people, she knows how to put a container on stuff right there. I, that is such a fantastic. Yeah, illustration and definition to kind of help people understand that. Because, you know, I think there are people out there to like, what is a thought leader, like, they have no clue. But when you think of it like that, I mean, it’s, it really does open up. It opens up for you to do things in your life that are more fulfilling to you, because it really is about you addressing like, you’re saying that that x thing like, what about this, this thing that may seem unrelated to, you know, me selling widgets, or doing books or even doing therapy, you know, but it’s something that I feel very passionate about. And it’s important to me. And I think a lot of us have that in us, we’re having these things that we want to be saying we want to be talking about, but maybe we’re scared or we feel like people won’t receive it well, or we’re not even Yeah, it hasn’t been fully fleshed out for us. It’s just that like, inkling, you know,

Carol Cox 21:16
and here’s what I would say about the fears. And it’s definitely common to have fears, you know, we have just those kind of like primal fears, fears of rejection, fears of ostracism, fears of getting kicked out of the tribe, and then we’re all by ourselves in the forest, and then we’re gonna die. So we don’t really have those kind of like, that’s, it’s like, right, like, physiologically, we have those fears. And then there’s a fears of, you know, Will I lose clients? Will I lose business? Will people not like what I have to say, am I gonna get pushed back on social media, and I will say that those things could happen. But for me, the rewards are so much greater. When I have women who come to me and say, Carol, thank you so much for doing, you know, such and such a podcast episode, because it helped me to open up and to think deeper about some things that, you know, related that have been going on to me or, you know, thank you so much for what you’re doing with these events. Because I see now, like, there are so many women who are, you know, I don’t feel as alone, because I’m hearing other women talk about their stories and their experiences. So sure, there may be some podcast listeners out there, or some my email subscribers who decided they don’t want to listen to anymore, they don’t want to read anymore, because what I’m talking about doesn’t align well with them. And that’s okay, I that’s, that’s what maybe they’ll come back later. Maybe I’ve planted the seed. And that’s good enough. And then for the women who are ready to receive it now and ready to act on it. To me, there’s no greater fulfillment, than to see that and to have them tell me that.

Amber Hawley 22:42
Right. I agree. And I think it I think as we do that, we feel it does actually help us really clarify our messaging in our businesses, but it makes I feel that there’s more bravery that comes with that. Because the more you know, like, Hey, I do you have people out there, I have my peeps that are, you know, I always say, like my people, not my people, because there are many people who do not who are not down with this. And I’m like, that’s cool. And I sometimes say that, like, it’s easier said than done. But I think as you are attracting those people, more and more, I’ve genuinely been like, I’m cool with that, and really meant it not just like I’m saying, I’m good with you leaving my list. Are you not wanting to work with me? But it feels good? Because why would I even want to deal with that, like, who I want to be with people who get it, you know, like, we want to start that movement of people who who are in the know. So I think that’s a Yeah, it helps with all of that, like you’re saying that feeling supported feeling connection with people and increasing our own our own bravery and understanding our message is valuable.

Carol Cox 23:55
And then I would just say for listeners, you know, you don’t have to go like all in in one in one single social media posts or one podcast episode, like, like bear your entire life, you know, you can do that if you want to, but you don’t have to, you can kind of like tiptoe into it. If you if it makes you feel more comfortable. maybe say something you know, in a social media post or an email newsletter, it kind of, you know, test the waters, see how it goes. And then go a little bit further, go a little bit further and just see how it feels as you go along.

Amber Hawley 24:22
Which I actually think is really smart. Because especially with people with anxiety, like you have that like, what is it called? Like, where you divulge too much information.

Carol Cox 24:34
There’s the vulnerability hangover moment, but

Amber Hawley 24:36
I was gonna say yes, vulnerability hangover, where you share too much and there’s that nervousness you feel until you start getting feedback. But then there’s like, Why did I do that? Which is why I do not post on social media too. I am when I’m having my little mini existential crisis.

Carol Cox 24:55
So yes, but really hangovers are real. I just would like to remind people that there are normal are to be expected. Just put like a little post a note on your computer for the next morning says it is normal to have a vulnerability hangover. So you’ve worked, remind yourself and it’s okay. And so yes, I have been known to wake up at 3am. And think about, oh, the podcast episode is going out at 5am this morning. I don’t really feel about that. And I just let it go. But I just I just let it go.

Amber Hawley 25:21
It still comes up. I know funny. I actually had an interview a couple of weeks ago, or the last podcast episode that came out with Nikki Ramirez. And it was so weird because it’s something I’ve talked about before, but never, on, never recorded. And I talked about like one of my vetting processes, and it involved the effort. And so like, and I could almost feel her like HR like, oh, and then I was laughing, because I’ve used it for years. But I’m telling you, when I realized, oh, shoot, I really want to put that out there. Like what if everyone thinks I’m awful after I do that? I had that moment of it. So I did hold on to it for a couple of weeks. But then I was like, eff it. Let it go. But yes, those things come up.

Carol Cox 26:07
They jump in. Are you and are you glad that you put it out there? As it as it was?

Amber Hawley 26:11
Yeah. Because it was a great interview otherwise, and I haven’t gotten any feedback that, you know, people absolutely hate. It was such a small thing. It was just one of those things where Yeah, where it’s like, I’m not following social norm. And so it was like, Oh, it’s okay. When I like to say things like, really? I like to be provocative, but in when I can see people so that I can read the room, you can be like, Oh, okay, that’s not good to hear. Don’t do that anymore. But when you’re just putting it out there and not seeing the feedback, you’re like, Oh, is that gonna be bad? But yeah, it’s usually way worse in our minds than it ever is, in reality. I think that’s

Carol Cox 26:53
100% Yes, and that and that. So basically, I talked to him, I’m sure we all do this, but I didn’t, I’ll talk myself down from the ledge of my mind, I’m like, Carol, it’s fine. It’s all gonna be fine. If I tried to reassure myself, and it is it always is

Amber Hawley 27:07
that sometimes you have to be like, my children love Me, My husband loves me, my dog loves me, whatever, you know, like people have to go through there. I still have friends. But I do think people go to that place, you know, you’re talking about the, you know, we have that, like stuff that’s built into our DNA about being afraid of being cut out of the tribe, I mean, and that there is a lot of research about that is a very real thing. But I see clients that even will go there with putting themselves out like that, like taking a stand for something, they’ll say, oh, and then I’ll lose clients and like, everyone will hate me, and everything’s gonna blow up, and then no one’s want to work with me, and then my business will close, I won’t be able to pay my rent, and I’m gonna be out on the street. And I feel like a lot of the women that I talk to are like living under a bridge, like, for some reason all women anticipate living under a bridge, that I

Carol Cox 28:01
I had literally the exact same line of thought.

Amber Hawley 28:04
Exactly. So I mean, so it’s still very real. So, you know, putting yourself out there is a scary thing. And this is why public speaking in addition, is also the number one fear for people of all the phobias, it’s number one, but because putting ourselves out there is taking a risk it is we are getting vulnerable, we’re putting ourselves out there and saying something and taking a stand for something. And, you know, when I think of thought leadership, I think of even more, so you’re taking a stand. It’s not just like, here, I’m sharing some ideas. It’s like I’m taking a stand on something. And so that’s that, that the fear of what the pushback will be, I would assume is a lot bigger.

Carol Cox 28:53
Yes, initially, it can be that I think when you get to a certain point where you’ve been relaying your message enough on different channels, whether it’s podcasts speaking, social media, and so on, you start to get that feedback, positive feedback from people, and then you get that kind of virtuous cycle then started, and then you want to share more, because you see the impact that it’s happening. So it’s just getting over that initial hurdle that will block us. And here’s the thing, this is why not everyone is a thought leader. Because not everyone gets themselves over those initial hurdles to truly put themselves out there in a way that, you know, it can be a little bit scary, but ultimately, it can serve your audience so much more. You know, we have I mean, COVID just exacerbated this with so many people did having to work from home and, and all of that. But there are so much content online. Maybe we’ve been saying this for 10 years now. So many podcasts, so many social media posts, so many email newsletters, like blogs, I mean, there’s just so much out there, that even nowadays, it’s even harder to break through that noise. And especially if you know we’re worse all entrepreneurs were small business owners. And so developing that audience who is loyal to you, and who like seeks out your content and can’t wait to hear the next episode I can’t wait to, to read the next thing that you write. That’s the kind of relationships that you want to build, with the least depending on your, your type of business. But for me that my business is developing those really close relationships with our clients, which is why like, we do deep, high touch long term relationships with our clients, versus we versus the like, you know, here, buy this thing, and we’ll we don’t even know your name, and we’ll never see you again, type of thing.

Amber Hawley 30:39
Yeah, that is, that is one thing that I really love about the programs that you guys offer because of that. And I think, you know, because there is so much fear about pushback, and even even just clarifying your ideas, like having someone to bounce it off of is really helpful. And so when people so when people come to you, and they’re like, Okay, like you’re saying, there’s a lot of people who are going to be, hey, I’m a behind the scenes, I do you know, things that are important to me or I address, you know, I social justice issues, or whatever, but I do it quietly, and I do it my own way, and that’s fine. But for the people who kind of want to put themselves out there more or be in that space, I know you have a whole program that’s like a Is it three months or six months, or the thought leader Academy is four months, four months, okay? And loves in between those in there. So it’s four months of you helping people kind of clarify all that. But if somebody’s thinking about, Okay, I have these things that I feel kind of strongly about, but I’m not quite sure like, what would be my thing? Where can people start with that to kind of, are there questions that they can ask themselves to kind of figure out like, what is it? What is the thing that I want to talk about?

Carol Cox 31:57
Yeah, so there’s a few quick question prompts that can be helpful. And here’s what I look for when I’m talking with someone is where do they get more energetic? As they’re answering these questions? Like, what really kind of like gets them where like, you can just tell like, they’re getting more excited as they start, you know, answering these questions. So the ones would be things like, what’s important to you that you’re noticing is missing? So like missing in your industry missing in your area of expertise, or topic, the community that you work with? And then another question is what ticks you off? Or what gets you riled up on your soapbox. So when you know you’re having a conversation with someone, and you’re just like, like, you get on that soapbox, and you’re just like, super animated? And you’re like, No, like things should be this way instead of this way? You know, what is that? That particular thing? What makes you think this isn’t right? There must be a better way of doing something. What are people not seeing or understanding that you do see that you’re you see, because of a particular lens that you see the world through because of particular experiences that you’ve had, whether those experiences were when you were very young, all the way through to the present day. And then also kind of combined with all of those is what do you want to be known for? So there are certain things that I could get on my soapbox about, but I don’t necessarily want to be known for those things. Like that’s not the direction I’m going to take my thought leadership message. Because I can probably get on my soapbox about 20 different things. So like, what is it that you want to be known for, and this is probably relates back to what you do in your business. Like, for example, I don’t like pesticides, like, right, like, so I don’t like it and try to buy organic fruits and vegetables, right? Cuz I don’t really want to eat pesticides, because it’s like, good for you. But I’m not going to really like go and get on my soapbox and develop a thought leadership message around organic products versus pesticides. But there are other people who will, because that is the thing that they want to be known for.

Amber Hawley 33:48
Yeah, oh, I love that distinction. And I’m sure that’s probably a helpful one for people because there are so many things. I’ve had that happen to her, I get really I get well, I’m a little I can be overly passionate at times. And I get really passionate about things and I get really amped up. And then somebody will say like, oh, well, why don’t you do XYZ? And I was like, because I don’t care. Like, I’m not gonna do that. Like, I don’t want that to be my life’s work. But it still pisses me off. Right?

Carol Cox 34:18
Exactly. Like for me, I like I remember being in I don’t know, middle school or early high school age. And there, I think, you know, studying history and probably like, you know, women’s history and feminism at the time. And, and then I kind of, I think I had this thought, whereas, like, what, people don’t think women are equal by default. Like, why would we even have to have this discussion that we were we need feminism or we would need a women’s movement, right? Like just kind of like, of course, I’m equal to any boy or to any man so I think that’s what set me off. No way back when I was 13 years old. That has led me to the work that I do now.

Amber Hawley 34:57
Yes, yeah, I’m good. thing for a lot of people, it’s those themes of things that are important to them have been coming throughout their whole life. And yeah, figuring that out and testing that out of like, you can still talk about things. But that might not be the thing that you want to be known for. I love that.

Carol Cox 35:14
I think so. Amber, I have to ask you now, like, what did what are the threads that you see through your life?

Amber Hawley 35:19
I know, you know, as you were saying, well, there’s a little bit you know, being ADHD, I can be a little blurry. There were times where as you were talking, I was like, so would I be talking about vaginas all the time? Because I do find myself I feel talking about vaginas a lot. But no. Also, let me preface this, I do you know, sex therapy with couples, also like helping clients. And I do have a dream of one day selling candy vaginas in a nonprofit to raise money for trafficking, I have a whole I already have the domain and everything so so I feel like I do talk about vaginas a lot. But that is not actually the thing. I think for me, the there’s a lot around, probably what led me into therapy is really wanting people to feel heard and seen showing up for them and giving them support. Because I see a lot of people too. And I think I mean, I’ve experienced this throughout my life, and I’m sure a lot of people have of feeling very misunderstood, or feeling really judged. And especially as you know, we go through things or traumas or, you know, all the stuff that we’re going through, and we’re just trying the best we can and then finding out like the ADHD thing, where there’s just a lot of judgment and stigma. And I think, Oh, you just don’t get it like that doesn’t. I think we’re a little too black and white sometimes, like I think we miss the nuance of people. People are very complex, as you were talking like, I was thinking about the complexity of human nature and vaginas. So I say, which actually might be me in a nutshell, I don’t know.

Carol Cox 37:01
All right, right? Well, I’m gonna have to think about this a little bit more to see how we can like, combine these things together. This is gonna be a good project for me.

Amber Hawley 37:11
To be honest, I have like 15 to 20 things that constantly are running through my mind. So part of it is also like, which one do I grab out of the atmosphere? As we’re talking?

Carol Cox 37:23
Here? Oh, actually, this is a really great point, Amber. So for someone’s thought leadership message and their thought leadership container, or the project that they’re doing, it can evolve and change over time, you don’t have to stick with it. So this is actually a benefit, which is to the thought leadership, which is different than a business, because most of the time, I mean, I’ve This is speaking your brand is my third business. The first two were software development businesses, you know, for like a while ago. And so yes, you can have different businesses, but for the most part, you’re probably going to want to kind of like stay on your business track and not not totally change it completely. But we were thought leadership, you can, you can do an event one year, and then your next thought leadership project can be an initiative and then you can do a book. And so that can be on like one message like one similar message. But then you could also completely change your thought leadership message or go into a different direction. And that actually can make it more fun. And make it so that it is not as monotonous and is not as boring, because if you think about like Simon Sinek he had, he started with the start with y. So that now has his own momentum. It has his own movement that carries on really without him like his books exist. His workbooks exist, people, you know, watch his TEDx Talk still. And then he had his next one, which like leaders eat last. And then he has the infinite game that he’s doing now. So he is changing his thought leadership message along the way,

Amber Hawley 38:45
which is great to give yourself that permission and understanding for you that things do evolve, like as time goes on, but I definitely think that’s going to speak highly to my ENFP sevens on the Enneagram ADHD years, shiny objects seekers, like it’s nice to feel like like, I don’t know, do you want to commit to something to be in another rut? Like not that it’s a right but but we can feel that way we feel like we’re being held to like one thing. And sometimes that’s great and sometimes that’s not so great. I feel like I could keep talking to you forever about this but I want to be respectful of your time. Where could people go to find out more information about the thought leadership program and also the brave bold and beyond event?

Carol Cox 39:39
Yes. Thank you so much Amber, I’m delighted to share with the listeners so I will I have a landing page set up so that they can go there and get everything in one place. So if they go to speaking your brand, comm slash bestie so B E S T ie speaking your T and what they will get there is there’ll be a A graphic that has a link to the summit to register for the summit, it’s entirely free. So no reason not to register and attend the summit, there’s also going to be a graphic with the link to our thought leader Academy. So you can get more information about that. And the next group is starting in mid April. So enrollment will open on April 1, the day of the seventh. So you can get started getting the details and when the interest was there, and then also on that landing page will be an opt in to get our thought leadership workbook, which has our framework in there. So it has six steps to position yourself as a thought leader, it has our voice acronym framework, because of course, I have an acronym for this. And it has some question prompts and some more some of the things that we talked about today, plus more. So it’s a really great workbook to start kind of journaling and thinking about what your thought leadership messaging container can be wonderful.

Amber Hawley 40:48
I think that will be really helpful for those of you out there listening that are thinking like, Yeah, I’m looking for something more. And I like when we have those structures to help us kind of go through that process and figure that out for ourselves. So I’m sure that I’m gonna hop on over there and check that one out, too. So this will be a super valuable resource, as is the podcast, but I just want to thank you again, Carol, for coming on. And we’d love to hear from you. And we’d love to see you at the live event because it’s a lot of fun. I mean, bring your Kleenex is because there’s some tears, but there’s also laughing and dancing and networking and it is literally the best virtual event that I have ever attended. And you know, I’m a joiner. So I’ve attended quite a quite a few events. But thank you again, Carol.

Carol Cox 41:38
Oh, well, thank you Amber and thank you for bringing our in. See again, I am so excited to have you on board as part of our project and can’t wait until April first see you then.

Transcribed by

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