Working with career women keen to raise their visibility and influence at work, this is one of the first places I start with them. “Let’s find your unfair advantage or your Secret Sauce” I say. I start with this question.
“What is it about you or what has happened in your life that you’ve struggled with?” The reason I ask this question is that it’s often exactly these sorts of things that actually make us who we are and – if we recognise them – become an “unfair” advantage to us.
When I asked myself question, I knew what my “unfair” advantage is.
Being 6ft tall since I was 14. Growing up I was often teased and asked “what’s the weather like up there Lurch?” and “is there enough oxygen up there for you?” oh, and one of the best ones can still be “Ooooh, aren’t you tall?” – I’d often (and still do) say “oh, thank you for telling me, I hadn’t noticed!” In my teens, I used to get to parties and immediately take my shoes off saying my feet hurt. In reality, I wanted to be smaller, to blend in more.
Now I recognise being tall means I’m noticed, I’m remembered and often when growing up, was assumed to be either older or wiser (or both) than I was. My height gives me a natural presence, which, in business just as in life, helps. I had no choice; I was – and still am – 6ft and the choice was always how I deal with it – what I make it mean to me.
It could have been easy to have slouched, to have tried to hide it by wearing flat shoes all the time but actually, I really like being tall and wear high heels as and when I want to – oh, and I’m married to someone a fair bit shorter than me. So what? It’s all about your perception and how you perceive your “unfair” advantage.
I’ve asked a few other people recently, just off the cuff, what they’ve struggled with and now could be their “unfair” advantage. They’ve all been able to tell me what theirs is.
- One friend – “Being Scottish – I’m remembered, I’m different and people like my accent”.
- Another – “My dyslexia’s made me be so much more creative”.
- My husband, Snowy – “My dad dying when I was so young helped me know how to look after myself and appreciate how hard my Mum worked and the value of relationships”.
Think about your “unfair” advantage. What is it that’s shaped you and how do you allow it to positively influence your life? If it doesn’t, how could it? What could you make it mean?
A great way to find out if you don’t instinctively know is to ask 3 different people who know you well. Literally ask them “what do you think is my unfair advantage” and just stop and listen to what they say.
Often they’ll all come up with the same thing, my friends all did. Others often see – and appreciate – things in us, or about us, that we don’t.
When you become clearer about this, recognising if and how you allow it to be your “secret sauce” is a BIG part of communicating who – and how – you are, everywhere, you are.
As we all know, how you put yourself across is a key part in how others connect and respond to you and what you’re noticed/known and remembered for. Instead of hiding your secret sauce, celebrate it, embrace it, own it and work it in a way which works for you. It gives you unshakeable confidence in yourself because only you really know the path you’ve walked and the lessons you’ve learned. Only. You.