The challenge of explaining what you do

I had an awkward moment with a close friend recently. I’ve known Harsha for more than a decade and she’s someone I’ve leaned on every now and then for marketing advice around the various programs I offer. The awkward moment arose because, after five years of telling Harsha about the Digital Champions Club, she still had to ask me what it was exactly that I do.

At the time I found it quite disheartening, that someone who is clearly switched on, someone who genuinely cares about me and what I do, someone who I’ve spent hours talking to about my work still didn’t have any real clarity about what the Digital Champions Club is or why it exists.

My initial response was a sense of frustration — initially directed outwards at Harsha’s failure to listen, and then directed inwards at my own inability to clearly articulate my proposition. So why is it that we struggle to convey things clearly?

I think firstly it’s because it’s hard to get out of our own heads. What I mean by this is it’s hard to explain things without the context of a whole bunch of other stuff that may also need explaining but that you aren’t aware enough to realise. As a result, the explanations which sound whole and well rounded to us are hollow and incomplete to others.

Second, I think the packaging can get in the way of the product. Our desire to create things that are unique, memorable and exciting brings us to use language that is unnecessarily complex and difficult to follow. Unless it’s meant to be a genuine surprise, perhaps it’s best that we dispense with some of the gift wrapping.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I feel like a bit of a dick talking about myself. Which means I generally don’t do it, and therefore when I do it’s all a little off the cuff and just kind of sounds a bit awkward, which in turn makes me feel like a bit of a dick…and the cycle continues.

So Harsha set me a challenge: articulate the Digital Champions Club in a way that people could actually understand and then share it with all the other people who, like her, are currently unsure of what it is I do.

I’ve been procrastinating on this for a couple of weeks because, apart from the dislike of talking about myself, it feels a little awkward to be openly broadcasting my inherent uncertainty and lack of clarity in a world where ‘experts’ are meant to have endless reserves of both.

Yet perhaps in a small way this is a form of therapy, so Harsha, after hours of struggle and refinement here it goes….

I support small and medium-sized organisations who are struggling to build momentum in the delivery of their technology projects (sometimes referred to as digital transformation). I do this through a combination of monthly coaching (to provide support and accountability), one day workshops (for deep learning) and peer-to-peer sharing (to reduce risk). Collectively, these are delivered as a technology-focused, continuous improvement program called the Digital Champions Club.

So how did I do? No, honestly, I’d genuinely like to know…and it really does still sound hollow and incomplete (or even if it doesn’t) feel free to download it my latest white paper “When Technology Fails to Deliver” which explains a whole bunch of the other stuff that goes around in my head.

P.S. I’ve already been back into LinkedIn to edit this…twice.

4 Comments on “The challenge of explaining what you do

  1. This helps. Ithink the last 2 lines sum it up.
    Perhaps, call that your
    Mission Statement

  2. Hi Simon,
    Here’s what you do. You help leaders make technology projects make money. You know technology inside out. Leaders in small and medium-sized organisation come to you for clarity, accountability and the chance to learn from their peers in the Digital Champions Club.

  3. I feel your pain! I too have had similar experiences. Thanks for being brave to own and share the challenge. There is various advice I’ve come across or been given that seems contradictory. Tell, What you do; No – Tell, How you do it – that’s a point of difference; No – Tell Why you do it – people care about your heart/motivation. It’s a maze. I’m going to experiment with the approach you’ve taken and see what comes from that.
    Maybe we can compare notes one day soon!

  4. Hi Simon. I love this conversation!

    I know what it feels like to not want to put yourself out there in a way that puts you at odds with the way you think you expect to be seen. I am yet to do videos of myself because I am an expert in doing them well – the irony is not lost. However, we are all learning, so kudos for putting it out there.

    Simon, you did a great job of clarifying what, on the surface, you do. It helps. What really helps others connect with your message though isn’t so much what you physically do, but more about how it makes s difference. You eluded to that in your use of the word momentum. Great word – maybe I prefer it to traction! If I’m a potential client or partner, I want to feel like you get me. That you see my struggle. That you can make it go away or make it easier. So I challenge you to go a bit deeper. How does that momentum make a difference in my business and life. What will it enable me to do better? It is all about responding to my why.

    “What do you do?” is the first question we are asked, but it IS a challenge for all sorts of reasons. I loved the way you expressed some of yours. Discoving the answer lies deep within our purpose and values as well as our clients needs.

    I’m currently creating some offers to support people in exactly this and will be sharing some strategies soon. Would be happy for you to subscribe to my blog for updates on this coming soon!

    X Vic

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