The Mid-Career GPS Podcast

204: Creating Your Leadership Brand Statement with Bill G. Williams

November 30, 2023 John Neral Season 3
The Mid-Career GPS Podcast
204: Creating Your Leadership Brand Statement with Bill G. Williams
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Who says you can't teach an established professional new tricks? Brace yourself for an enlightening journey with our distinguished guest, Bill G Williams, as we venture into the world of mid-career leadership and professional branding. Bill, a leader in his own right, shares his wealth of insights on the art of climbing the career ladder and securing that highly sought-after leadership role. We discuss the power of a cunningly crafted leadership brand statement and its effect on your career trajectory. Plus, you get to hear a personal, career-defining moment from Bill himself that shaped his illustrious career in leadership development.

Our conversation dives deeper into the intricacies of mid-career leadership, underscoring self-awareness and the potent potential of a career shock in refining leadership skills. We emphasize the significance of understanding where you currently stand and where you aspire to be as a leader. And not to forget, we throw light upon the indispensable role of trusted advisors, the importance of nurturing authentic relationships, and the merit of treating your team with respect. We further examine the virtues of continuous improvement and authenticity in leadership.

Learning from mistakes, focusing on personal growth, leveraging strengths—sounds like a mantra for success, doesn't it? We further dissect these aspects, along with the importance of fostering diversity in your team and effectively navigating the maze of organizational politics. We highlight strategies for assembling your personal board of directors and trusted advisors, and introduce the concept of PI - Performance, Image, and Exposure - as foundational pillars in constructing a leadership brand. Remember, leadership isn't just a role; it's a choice, and how you choose to show up can make or break your career. So, join us, along with Bill G Williams, on this intriguing journey to uncover the secrets of effective leadership.

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Speaker 1:

What is your plan to level up your leadership and professional brand? As mid-career professionals, you are constantly thinking about your next move, how to get there and what you need to do to make it happen If you enjoy your work and where you do it. Leveling up internally is a smart and viable move to show your organizational commitment and loyalty while increasing your responsibilities, visibility and overall compensation. Today you will meet Bill G Williams, also known as Electric Bill. Bill confidently states that leadership is not a position, it's a choice. In this episode, Bill shares his favorite tips, ideas and strategies to help you, the mid-level leader, get the leadership role you desire. Along with that seat at the table, it all starts with knowing your leadership brand statement. Let's get started. Hello, my friends, this is episode 204 of the Mid-Career GPS Podcast. I'm your host, john Narrell, and I help mid-career professionals who feel stuck, undervalued and underutilized show up to find a job they love, or love the job they have, using my proven four-step formula. My guest today is Bill G Williams, and he has shared the stage with many profound leaders and experts to help shape leadership development and change organizational culture. Bill's new book, electric Life 12 Micro-Steps to Pay Attention, be Brilliant and Go Deep helps leaders end their day with more energy than what they started with by helping them choose a career path more deliberately and joyfully to swiftly close the gap between the person they are and the person they want to be. I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Bill G Williams.

Speaker 2:

John, I am thrilled to be here with you. Yes, I am Bill Williams. I haven't always been known as Bill Williams, though my mother wanted to call me Billy, and her friend said you can't call him Billy. He's going to be a 60-year-old man, bald just like his dad, in 2023, it won't be appropriate to call him Billy. They put William on my birth certificate. You're actually working with William Grant Williams today, but my name gets even worse. I was born in Northwestern Ontario, canada. The town is now called Thunder Bay, but when I was born there, it was actually called Fort William, ontario. Yes, my birth certificate reads William Grant Williams, from Fort William, ontario. That'll give you a sense. I'm also the principal and president of a boutique leadership development firm here in Toronto, canada, but I travel the world delivering leadership development programs, doing executive coaching, organization development programs and some team building and team spirit. Aside from my keynotes, that's something else that's keeping me busy and really helping us with the mid-career GPS. Let's get to it.

Speaker 1:

Bill, thank you so much. I am honored that we get to spend some time together. I'm curious, though in everything that you've done in your career and what's led you to where you are now, what would you share with us as your mid-career moment that really shaped or pivoted your career to the success that it is today?

Speaker 2:

Wow. Well, john, I would have to share with you the late great Stephen Covey's definition of leadership, and that is communicating to people their worth and their potential so clearly they actually come to see it in themselves. And so back in 1985, I was a banker. I always wanted to be a banker as a kid playing monopoly, anything else like that I always wanted to be a banker. And back in 85, british Columbia, vancouver, canada, invited the world to Expo 86. And somebody in the small town community that I was working in tapped me on the shoulder and said hey, bill, we think you'd be really good at facilitating this program to help the citizens of British Columbia learn how to treat people coming from around the world, with diversity and different experiences and different backgrounds. And so I got into training and development there, and that was something I didn't even know that I'd be good at. I didn't know that it would be my passion, and it absolutely changed 180 degrees the projectile of my career and got me to where I am today.

Speaker 1:

When you work with leaders, and specifically for our conversation today, we're talking about those mid-career leaders, the people who maybe have stepped into a leadership role for the first time or they have some leadership experience at the manager, director, maybe even senior director type level. Where do you feel like mid-career professionals need that shock to their career that truly elevates them as leaders and gets them more visible within the organization?

Speaker 2:

I've got a couple of things there for you, John actually a few. I'm also electric bill is what I'm known as by my friends with my book Electric Life and I'm here to shock people out of their static daily routines. The first thing that I would say is that leadership is not a position. People Don't be looking for the title. Leadership is a choice. Absolutely. Make sure that you are always demonstrating your leadership ability, your leadership potential and sharing your leadership experiences with people. I love the GPS metaphor that you're talking about because it is something that I work with in my leadership development programs. I use that metaphor to say there's two really important pieces of information that your GPS needs to know in order to get you where you want to go. That is, where are you right now and where do you want to go? Then I ask people so, given that, which is more important, do you believe? Oftentimes they say, oh, where you want to go? Where you want to go? Without question, John, I share with them. Yes, this is true. However, if your GPS does not know where you are right now, it can't get you to where you want to be. I think it's really critically important to be aware of where am I right now? Go looking, ask people, what are my blind spots, what's something that I think I'm good at, that I don't really know that I'm not good at, or I could definitely get better at. So get those really trusted advisors, those confidence that we'll share with you. This is something that you need to work on. If you remember the Seinfeld episode with Elaine, where she thought she was a really amazing dancer and everybody else was like Elaine, no, you're not so good. We need that information Then the final thing that I would share with you, John, is that I often ask large audiences, thousands of people, how many of you have life insurance? Raise your hand, if you have life insurance, and almost every hand in the audience goes up. And then I'll ask them how many of you have a leadership brand statement? And they look at me and they look at their neighbor and they go what's he been talking about? A leadership brand statement is that short piece that you can share with people around, who you are and what you're about. And then the next question I ask is so if you have life insurance but you don't have a leadership brand statement, what are you more prepared to do? And what's the answer, John. They're more prepared to die than they are to lead a team, so I really challenge them to ensure that they have that leadership brand statement, Mine. I believe in brilliance and I'm here to help you build your best. That's what I do with my coaching clients and all the leadership development work that I do. Over and above that, I have a personal life purpose statement as well. So why do I exist? So I really challenge them to have those things.

Speaker 1:

For somebody who's listening, that is kind of dealing with a mouth drop right now, when they're saying to themselves, yeah, I don't have a leadership brand statement. What are some tips you have for them to help them think or craft that statement that will help move them forward professionally?

Speaker 2:

Well, you know, I have to share with you. For me it came from Porter Gale. Her last name is spelled G-A-L-E, I'm sure we can get that out to your listeners. Her book is called your Network is your Net Worth, and in that work, john, she challenges people to do what she calls your funnel test. And so, just very, very quickly, your funnel test are what are your top three passions? And then, of course, in that Venn diagram that they're creating, the sweet spot is right in the center, where those three things really come together. So for me, it's people, it's leadership, it's continuous improvement, always constantly getting better and better and better. The next thing that she invites us to do with that funnel is to then put it through a filter so that only the purest you actually comes through and it holds back all the junk, all the stuff that you don't want to come through. My personal filter is respect. And, john, my mother, alice Margaret Foster Williams, watching down on me right now, she said Billy, you know, always treat people the way you want to be treated. She raised me by the golden rule, john, and it wasn't until I was about 45 years old that I realized how disrespectful the golden rule is, because it's assuming that everybody wants to be treated the way I want to be treated. So at 45 years old I elevated and for the last 15 years I've lived by the platinum rule. So I work really hard as a leader to treat people the way they want to be treated. Now what does that mean? I must get to know them. I need to learn how do you prefer to be treated? And that's truly what respect is for me.

Speaker 1:

That warms my heart to hear that in so many ways, because taking time to get to know the people you are leading and working alongside of, and building those kind of relationships, truly makes for such a more genuine, authentic, meaningful and impactful relationship that people, sadly enough, don't always spend the time doing.

Speaker 2:

You know, and just two more quick things on that, john, because number one, that's my filter. So then the purist me that comes through is that leadership brand statement. So for me, again, the three passions people, leadership, continuous improvement filter that through respect and then the brand that comes out the bottom. I believe in brilliance. I'm here to help you build your best. But the other thing I would invite you to do, john, is change the emphasis onto a different syllable and you notice how the word sounds very different. And so what I challenge you know leaders to do is don't focus on your leadership, focus on your followers. It's not about you anymore. When you're at that level where you're moving from director to VP, vp to SVP, evp, c suite if that's where you want to go, really be careful with your stories, and your stories, as you're sharing in interviews or otherwise, should not be about you. They should be about your team and what your team accomplished. Now, as you're going for that final senior level of leadership, yes, you need to be able to articulate what did I do to enable my followers to achieve these incredible results? And now that puts you in that true leadership position and leadership capacity. So your GPS is now on course and on track to get you where you want to be.

Speaker 1:

So, bill, as I'm listening to you and for our listeners, we're recording this the week before this episode drops. So it's actually we're recording this the day before Thanksgiving here in the United States of America. I'm recalling the story about the founder of Open AI, chat GPT, who was ousted from his job at the beginning of the week, was immediately picked up by Microsoft to come over and lead a project there and, as I read in the report, over 700 employees of Open AI threatened to walk out because he was ousted from the company and they're like, if he's not there, we're not going to be here. And in his statement he said something to the fact of and I'm paraphrasing this I am looking forward to going back to work at Open AI under the new board and the amazing people who work there. In a situation like that, bill, as a leadership expert, what does that say to you about followers who are willing to rally around a leader like that?

Speaker 2:

What it explains to me abundantly clearly is that the board had no ability to measure his leadership. Leadership is subjective and I can only imagine that boardroom as they're deciding and then calling him on a Saturday to say you're fired, and then what they got to observe and what they could actually measure, because you gave me the number. You can't measure leadership, but you can measure followership. He had 700 people. Now Microsoft did they want his brilliant ideas? I'm sure they did. But you know what? His brilliant ideas and his brilliant vision where he's going is what enables his followers to follow, because it's like ah, I see where you're going, I want to get on that bus with you, I want to ride with you. And my guess is Microsoft, as much as they saw him, was really looking for the people that could actually do the programming and actually make the stuff happen. And they, as much as they wanted him, they saw his followership and they knew that they would get those 700 people. So I would say the board was inappropriately measuring leadership, should have been painted a little bit more attention to followership and then see what goes on. Now it will be interesting because he has been rehired, he has been brought back into that role of CEO and it will be interesting to see with the new board. When we make mistakes and I actually don't refer to them as mistakes, I refer to them as mis-hyphen takes the question is more should be focused on what did you learn? How would you do things differently? I mean, how did Einstein define insanity? Doing the same?

Speaker 1:

thing over and over again.

Speaker 2:

Back to that different result. It's not going to happen. If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got plotted on a graph. That's a flat line. You're dead. So what will they learn? How will they do things differently now, and a quick, authentic recovery may actually serve them extremely well.

Speaker 1:

It will definitely be interesting to follow and see how this story transpires and everything. Yes, Bill, when you talk about mistakes and what leaders and individuals get to learn, I often hear from my clients who are stepping into leadership roles or they're looking to grow their leadership that there is an internal battle, if you will, with them between should I be spending more time on my strengths or should I be focusing more on my areas of growth, improvement, those blind spots you talked about that often come up in that ever-dreaded performance appraisal review. Whenever it happens For leaders who they want to do good, they want to serve, they want to be impactful, where do you believe is their best return on their energy? Is it in terms of focusing on their strengths, their areas of improvement or blind spots, or is there a way to marry the two more effectively?

Speaker 2:

Well, I challenge leaders to be abundantly clear Know what you're good at. Absolutely know what you're good at. Know what you're not good at. I've got to say, john, my strategy has always been if I'm not good at that, I mentioned to you I wanted to be a banker. Well, guess what? I'm not good at math. I don't use Excel spreadsheets. Even people are using Excel now for Word documents, if you will like, for verbiage versus numbers. Excel was built for numbers. I'm not good at that. So, knowing that, and be abundantly clear of what you're not good at, and make sure that it's not just a bashful thing, it's like, oh because. Again, when it's your regular, when that's something you do all the time, maybe you're better than you think, but my guidance to people would always be hire for your weaknesses, know what you're not good at and make sure that you surround your people. Now, in the movie Jerry Maguire, there's this trash line that's in it. Ah, you complete me. Well, in a romantic relationship, I don't need anyone to complete me. I'm imperfectly me and I'm totally fine with that, john. But in a business environment, I want to know what I'm good at and I want a second in command, a third in command, if you will, other people on my team that have diversity. So that and what I've always believed, john, is that if you and I have the same thought, one of us is not necessary. So how do I find people that think differently than I do that can add value to my ideas, and then they will actually allow me to add value to their ideas so we can make amazing, incredible things happen. So I would challenge leaders don't work on your, on your weaknesses. Hire people that your weakness is their strength and find teams that complete each other so that you've got a lot of diversity, a lot of different opinions, a lot of people pulling in different directions, but in order to achieve the same objective.

Speaker 1:

Hey friends, if you are actively looking for a new job and are feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of the things you think you should be doing in your job search, I've got a free checklist to help you remove all of the overwhelm and get laser focused on the task at hand. Visit my website at johnnarrellcom to download your free copy of my mid-career job seekers checklist. Let me help you get organized, focused and ready to find that job you love, or love the job you have, and start building your mid-career GPS right now. Let's get back to the episode. I really appreciate everything you said there and the whole idea about leaning into your strengths is vital. And when I think about that mid-career leader who wants that position, they want that seat at the table, they are ready for it. A lot of times they will come up against those organizational politics and competencies and things that you know. They'll hear things like it's just not time right, and I remember in some previous organizations where I worked that time and role was something that was valued. It was also, in my opinion, an excuse right that they didn't necessarily have the developmental conversations with people to say you need to be focusing on this and I would oftentimes have to clean up conversations after the fact, or as I call it, collateral damage, and you'll get the broom out and start like mopping some stuff up and cleaning things up. In that, regard. Thank goodness it was a broom and not a shovel, but anyway, yes, right, exactly. Yeah, yeah, you know well, you know small steps and I but like. But so in that I share that with you because you know feedback is critical, right, and I recently did an episode on building your personal board of directors. Who are those people that are going to give you feedback and get it? Who are the people you believe mid-career professionals should have on their personal board of directors and essentially keep close as those trusted advisors or critical friends?

Speaker 2:

Wow. Well, as many as you can, and don't stop. You know, too often we are looking for someone who agrees with us Again, that singularity of thought rather than diversity of thought. And so you know they'll ask four people and they'll say, no, I don't agree, no, I don't agree, no, I don't agree. And then finally that fifth person agrees and goes see, I knew I was right. No, you weren't Just found the one person that agrees with you. Four other people gave you some really great stuff. A little controversial here, john. I don't believe in feedback. Okay, feedback does nothing for me. I can't change five minutes ago, five hours ago, five days ago. I can't change five months ago or five years ago. What I want is feed forward. The next time I have a chance to do this, how would you recommend I do it differently? What ideas do you have to help me get forward? But really, what I wanna say, john, is I'm back to some early work that I did with here in Canada we call it the Canadian Management Center. Down in the United States it's known as the American Management Association, ama and I learned a piece of theory called PI, and so I would always encourage leaders to have a really clear sense of how big is their piece of PI. And what does PI stand for? It's an acronym. Performance is the first P Early in our careers. You know first line supervisors, team leaders, type of thing. It's really based on your performance Can you get the results. But as you move further and further up the corporate ladder, it becomes less and less about your performance, more about your team's performance. But keep in mind, if you were to take a circle of PI and divide it into these three slices, how big a slice is your P, your performance, how big a slice is your I, which is your image, and your image is that leadership brand statement. And if you don't have one, be careful. Now, what I also challenge leaders to do is to develop their leadership brand statement. I believe in brilliance. I'm here to help you build your best. But then go out and ask three people that know you really well and here's the question ask them this If you didn't know me as well as you do, how would you describe me in three adjectives? And see the data and the information you get back. Is it aligned with your leadership brand, with your image? If it's not, you need to change your behavior in order to achieve that result. So it's about their perception. Is their reality? You've got to align to that Now. I also challenge them to go in and ask three people that they've just met and say knowing me as little as you do, how would you describe me in three adjectives? Again, do that assessment. But then, more importantly than anything else, is the E so of your pie. P is performance, I is image, E is exposure. And how well are you known at the board level? How well are you known in the C suite of the organization? You know it's great to have our champions. For me, a champion is somebody who you know is banging the table, shouting your name. It's time for John. It's John's turn. John would be amazing. John can do this. But even more importantly, find out if you've got supporters out there or sponsors out there. Sponsors, you don't always know. They're banging the table for you, trying to get the door open for you. And I especially think about this more so because I'm doing a lot more work now, john around diversity, equity and inclusion. I actually refer to it more as idea, which is inclusion first, because that's a choice. Diversity second, because it's data. That's a fact. We can look at our data and our employee team and see where the diversity is. E for equity it's not the same as equality, it's equity and then A for accessibility, you know. And so, given that, especially the sponsors and the supporters of our at-risk communities, if you will, our marginalized communities, our communities of BIPOC, black, indigenous People of Color, 2s I don't know if you have 2S so much in your acronym there, but we have 2S LGBTQI+ and then even just thinking about other things around accessibility, somebody who's maybe visually, you know, disabled or hearing disabled, physically disabled, even if they've just broken a knee and they're on crutches how do we help them get into these positions? And also, I wanna add into that women going through menopause. We don't spend enough time with men creating and even understanding physically what's happening. And how can we support these people that are at a great mature level within our organization and give them the opportunity? So pie, performance, image, exposure. And who are your sponsors? Who are, you know, pushing for you, even though you may not know it at this moment?

Speaker 1:

That is a fantastic acronym and message. I know people who are listening need to hear and I hope they will take it and if they get a moment they will hit that rewind button a little bit on their app and go back and listen to that part again and take some notes. But performance image exposure really super helpful for anybody looking to just build their leadership brand and presence. Bill, I appreciate this conversation so much. We are gonna start wrapping up, though, in the essence of time here and I wanna thank you so much. What advice do you have for people listening to help them build their mid-career GPS?

Speaker 2:

Wow. The advice that I would challenge people to get is going back to that almost original piece for me, which is that, you know, leadership is not a position, it's not a title, it is a choice. And how do you choose every single day to step up? Really think about you know. Where do you wanna take your people to? What is your vision? Especially those that are hearing. It's just not time yet. Well, maybe it is time and maybe you need to work a little bit more on your vision. Where do you wanna take people to and how are you gonna help them get there and navigate to get there? So, you know, find people who challenge your thinking. Find people who think differently than you do. Find people at work that actually irritate the heck out of you, john, because those people have a different perspective than you do, and I think it's really important to understand their perspective. From a leadership position for me, especially as you're at that midpoint and you're really struggling, don't look for people who will agree with you. Don't even look for people that you agree with. Empty your mind, don't have an open mind. Have an empty mind and really allow their vision, their ideas, their thoughts to influence you, so that you can influence people to follow.

Speaker 1:

It is a great opportunity and an even greater gift of vulnerability to be open to hearing those things and I thank you for sharing that very, very much yeah.

Speaker 2:

John, just another little tiny, controversial piece. I know going with our friend Brene Brown. I had the honor to work with her, but you know, I don't put the emphasis on vulnerability, I put the emphasis on courage. Be courageous to be vulnerable. Don't be vulnerable, because that almost puts a lot of people, especially cisgendered, white, entitled, privileged men we often think, oh, I can't be vulnerable. Well then, don't be vulnerable, but be courageous and share your vulnerability with people so that they can see you as an authentic, genuine human being. Yeah, agreed.

Speaker 1:

Yes, good stuff. Thank you, bill. I'm going to turn the mic over to you. Please share with us where people can connect with you. Can you learn more about you and your fantastic book and your speaking? My friend, the mic is yours. Oh, awesome.

Speaker 2:

Thank you so much. One of the best places to go right now is everybody's current version of the resume LinkedIn. You'll find me under Bill G, like Grant, bill G Williams. Also, please check out my website, billgwilliamscom. Or if you want to look more at my corporate entity, it's b4groupcom, but it's the letter B like Bill. The number four is spelled out, so B-F-O-U-R groupcom, and they'll find a ton of information about me, how to reach me, follow me on LinkedIn and actually, john, every month I'd love for them to get their electric bill, and it's not a bill they have to pay, it's a bill that hopefully will pay them so that they can find new and better ways of doing what they're here to do, to get extraordinary results.

Speaker 1:

I will make sure all of that is in the show notes. I can personally vouch your electric bill newsletter is awesome and I enjoy it, so thank you so very much. Bill Williams, thanks for being an amazing guest on the Mid-Career GPS podcast.

Speaker 2:

John, my pleasure. Much success to everybody in your office. Reach those heights you're aiming for Thank you so much.

Speaker 1:

Well, my friends, if there is one takeaway that I particularly have with my conversation with Bill today, it was his very powerful comment about how leadership is a choice. When you think about building your mid-career GPS right now, we challenge you to think about where your leadership is a choice and build that leadership brand statement that Bill walked us through earlier in the episode. Think of those people who you need to be talking to, even the people who you irritate and they irritate you. As he said, to empty your mind, to fill it with things that will help you build not just your leadership brand, but help you progress and build your GPS to whatever advancement opportunities you desire. So in the meantime, my friends, remember this you will build your mid-career GPS one mile or one step at a time, and how you show up matters. Make it a great rest of your day. Thank you for listening to the Mid-Career GPS podcast. Make sure to follow on your favorite listening platform and, if you have a moment, I'd love to hear your comments on Apple Podcast. Visit JohnNarrowcom for more information about how I can help you build your mid-career GPS or how I can help you and your organization with your next workshop or public speaking event. Don't forget to connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on social at JohnNarrowCoaching. I look forward to being back with you next week. Until then, take care and remember how we show up matters.

Bill G Williams
Developing Mid-Career Leaders and Followership
Learning From Mistakes, Leveraging Strengths
Building a Mid-Career GPS
The Power of Choice in Leadership