Are you swimming in your lane: 4 Cool Questions to Ask

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Are you swimming in your lane: 4 Cool Questions to Ask Before You Step Outside of Your Core Competency

Can you believe I gave a speech on diversity? Why?  because I was greedy, ignorant, and needed the money. If you know me, you know that I speak on branding better and speaking gooder (OK- better) – that’s it!

But, I took the speech anyway thinking I can just research myself to a great talk – WRONG! The lesson that I learned the hard way is simply this: swim in your lane. When you try to jump into another lane, you drown.

#Branding means swimming in your lane; don’t become a Swiss Army knife of skills. Click To Tweet

Very few people are like a Michael Phelps with the keen ability to swim the butterfly, breast stroke, backstroke and freestyle. Heck – we are experts if we are a master of one style, let alone four of them. And, more importantly, pretending to be an expert in all categories makes you a fraud in all of them.

BUT, if you seize a specialty, if you brand yourself in one area, you reap all of the powers of branding – strong word of mouth buzz, endless referrals, loyal clients, and more revenue.

4 Questions to Ask Before You Say Yes

SO, here’s my recommendation: Resist the temptation to say yes to everything (sorry, Shonda Rimes). Instead, ask yourself if the opportunity is:

  1. Your Core Competency – If you’re a financial whiz and you get asked to take over the books for your fave non-profit, go for it! It will probably boost your reputation, help the cause, and even present amazing opportunities for you. Me? I’m all in when it comes to branding and speaking.
  2. Fraught with Controversy – Make the decision if you’re ready to deal with the fallout. It’s a delicate dance as controversy sells. I was asked, for example, by The New York Times (really!) to discuss how to rebrand the State of Israel so that it would more likely reach peace. Even though I’m a branding expert, I am not a political relations expert. I turned it down.
  3. Burnishes Your Reputation – I want so badly to jump into the fray of Trump vs. Clinton, but alas, I’m staying out of this one. There is just no way for me to win new business by jumping in.
  4. Attracts The Right Tribe – I recently turned down a speech for a group of non-profit executives. Why? It was neither a paying gig or my particular target market.

All I can tell you is this: every single time I’ve taken an assignment that was a little off, I’ve paid the price. Either the event bombed or I was so consumed with the project that I had to turn down a perfect assignment.

Please don’t do it! If the next something comes your way and your logic and your gut says no, say no! (Do you promise?) Share your stories in comments below.

2 Comments
  1. Liz,

    This is really great advice. I typically refer assignments I don’t think are my sweet spot. Although I gotta say — Israel could USE some better branding. I’ve always said the other side has better PR!

  2. Hi Eve:

    Like you, I have NOW learned my lesson and turn away irrelevant projects. That issue is one of the reasons that I like to keep a network of referral partners.

    And as to Israel, I kept with “no comment.”

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