Updated: Apr 1, 2021
One of the most common leadership challenges I help executives with is identifying their value proposition. When you clearly define and communicate the value you bring, other people recognize and compensate you for it. You can deal with challenging situations. You become more resilient. You lead your team more effectively. Many people find it hard to figure out their value proposition. But it’s easier than you think. You already know it. You just need to surface it.
What You’ll Learn
Many people find it difficult to articulate their value
How to create your value proposition
Knowing your value helps you become a more effective leader
Your value is an indisputable fact
I speak and coach constantly about the importance of articulating your value. I’m so passionate about this topic, I wrote a book about it. This is something that many – almost all – people find challenging. In this blog I’ll explain exactly what I mean by articulating your value, and why it’s so critical.
Your value proposition is what makes you uniquely qualified in your role. It's what keeps you progressing in your career and earning promotions. It's what moves you up to the C-suite and into the boardroom. Your value proposition is how you differentiate yourself from other qualified candidates. It's how you become a memorable thought leader and how you gain credibility. Knowing your value is also key to tackling the challenges of leadership.
Accomplishments and Skills Are Not the Same Thing as Your “Value Proposition”
At this point in your career, you have accomplishments and core skills that are table stakes. Articulating your value goes far beyond reciting what you’ve accomplished. It’s about identifying, articulating, and communicating the “so what” of what you’re good at.
Identifying the “so what” is more strategic than listing the skills required for your role. To do this, you need to roll those skills up to what they've helped you accomplish. Then, you've got to identify what your accomplishments mean for your stakeholders.
Identifying Your Stakeholders Helps You Identify Your Value Proposition
Your stakeholders encompass a wide spectrum. They include the people who work for you, the people you work for, your investors, partners, customers, and your board. Anyone you interact with and who is impacted by your work is a stakeholder. Can you identify the highest value you bring to your stakeholders?
To do this, think about the skills you have and what they’ve helped you accomplish. Now, go beyond that and ask yourself: what has this helped me accomplish for my stakeholders?
An Example: My Skills as a Founder & CEO Roll Up to a Higher-Level Value Proposition
I’m a technology founder and CEO who has raised money, productized complex software products, and scaled companies. It takes a wide set of skills to:
Architect and productize technologies
Convince customers to buy from an early-stage, nascent company
Negotiate partnerships with big companies like HPE, Dell, and Intel
Secure board directors from Dell, AT&T, Intel, Palo Alto Networks, and other big companies
Secure multiple patents to solidify competitive differentiation and increase company valuation
Delivering value to my stakeholders as a founder and CEO requires those skills. But they aren’t my highest-level value proposition. My higher value proposition aligns with my personal brand and my thought leadership as a speaker and executive trainer and coach.
My Highest Value: Telling the Story of People, Products & Companies to Optimize Outcomes
My value proposition is that I tell the stories of people, products and companies to optimize outcomes. Those outcomes include getting hired, raising money, and securing exit valuations.
I tell the story of people: As a founder and CEO, I recognize and nurture talent. I hire the right people for my companies. As an executive coach, I tell the story of people, so they stand out and get hired. I do that by helping them identify, articulate, and define their value propositions and personal brands
I tell the story of products: I crystalize the value of complex technologies for customers and investors. For customers, I frame the problem we're solving and the benefits the product brings. For investors, I show how the product solves a market need and why they should invest.
I tell the story of companies: I help identify existing or emerging markets for companies. I help leadership teams scale. I help companies reach high valuations for eventual exits.
Identifying Your Value Proposition
When I do workshops about this topic with large corporations and with individual leaders, most people struggle. It’s not because they don’t have skills and accomplishments. It’s because they aren’t trained to map those skills and accomplishments to powerful value propositions.
And it is indeed a mapping exercise. I encourage you to think of the “reporter questions.” Who do you bring value to? What problems are you solving for them? How do you solve those problems? Why does it matter? Brainstorm the answers to those questions. Think about the things you’ve accomplished. You have repeatedly accomplished them for your stakeholders. You have solved similar problems. You have done it unique way.
The most important question to answer is, “why does it matter?” This is the “so what?” What value is that driving for your organization or industry? Answering these questions is the magic formula.
I have a step-by-step exercise to help leaders create their value proposition. I walk individuals and groups through it in executive coaching sessions, workshops and webinars. Or, you can walk through the exercise yourself in my book.
The Secret Voice of Self-Doubt
You might be surprised to learn that many high-level executives harbor a secret voice of self-doubt. I hear about it a lot in workshops and in coaching sessions. “I sometimes feel like I don’t deserve to be in my role.” Or “I’m worried someone is going to find out that I’m actually not that great at anything.” This is imposter syndrome. It’s very easy to create an antidote to imposter syndrome. It takes a bit of work, but it’s not hard.
The antidote is knowing your value. That’s why I do the value proposition exercise with my executive coaching clients – even if they’ve come to me with different priorities – because it’s a fundamental first step.
Why It’s Critical to Identify, Articulate & Communicate Your Value
It’s critical that you can say with confidence, this is who I am, this is what I do really well, and this is the result. It’s foundational to many other things: leadership development, personal growth, or securing promotions or board roles.
When you know the value you bring and why you deserve a seat at the table, you knock down other leadership challenges down like bowling pins.
Your Value is a Fact, Not a Boast
Identifying and communicating your value is only the beginning. You then have to embody it. You have to believe it. You have to present it to the world as a fact. Because it is a fact. You are good at what you're good at. What you’re good at is what brings value to your organization and your stakeholders.
I am asked all the time – and I mean all the time – how to be confident without seeming boastful. Part of this is learning some kick-ass communication skills and executive presence. A huge part of it is internalizing that your value is factual. You won’t feel boastful if you present it that way, and then follow it up with solid, top-notch delivery.
Knowing Your Value Dissipates Fear and Uncertainty
Leadership challenges are easier to overcome when you know and embody your value. Many uncomfortable or difficult situations stem from wondering if people accept your credibility or your authority. When your factual value takes up more space in your head than doubt does, that value will start to replace fear and uncertainty. I’ll cover this topic in more detail an upcoming blog. I also cover it in my book. [LINK]
Can You Articulate Your Own Value Today?
After reading this blog, you should know why it’s critical to know the value you bring and how to start identifying and communicating it.
Can you articulate your value today? If you are unclear, consider doing the value proposition exercise, on your own or with your team or organization. It’s a fun exercise of self-discovery. You’ll realize that the answer is there and always has been. You just haven’t surfaced and identified it yet. I’d be honored to help you do that. Reach out to me today.
Learn more at www.tissarichards.com