Earlier this week, I listened to a CBC Radio show discussing ‘the share economy’. According to Wikipedia, the ‘share economy’ (also known as sharing, collaborative economy) is “an economic system built around the sharing of human and physical assets” which uses information technology to share the goods and services. I was always aware of such companies, as I use them daily, but what truly struck me was how many ideas and companies there are which are based on the premise of sharing. From Facebook and Twitter to Airbnb and Uber (and many more), these companies are successful because both the developers and users of the service want to share. They see a need that can be fulfilled by sharing, and as a consequence, these companies offer services or products that benefit others by sharing.
Isn’t this one of the first things we learn growing up? Robert Fulgham wrote “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten”, and the first one on the list is ‘share everything’ . Another well-used phrase is “Sharing is Caring”. Thanks to social media and the share economy, sharing has evolved from just a way for the expert and the layman to share what they think, feel and believe in, to also being a source of innovation, income and learning.
What is it about sharing that is so intrinsic to us as human beings? Whether it’s dividing something with others, or sharing a ‘secret’ (we all remember from kindergarten how big a thing that was), or sharing ideas, knowledge, opinions, photos, or dreams. Why is it that we are compelled to share things we are passionate about? The fact that a lot of sharing now takes place online does not reduce the human instinct and desire to do so.
From expertise to storytelling
Sharing is not only about dividing physical things with others; it’s also what we choose to share of ourselves with the world. I watched Benjamin Zander’s masterclass “Lessons for Music, Lessons for Life”, where he worked with musicians to improve their playing. One comment that came up several times was ‘it’s not about you, it’s about the audience and the story you want to share’. To the musicians this wasn’t as obvious as one might expect, and it was amazing to see the transformation of these very talented musicians, whose performance improved dramatically and their excitement to share visibly increased, once they realized that it ‘wasn’t about them’.
Clearly, the musicians were very talented in their field. Functionally and technically they were experts. For me, the comment ‘it’s not about you’ was the catalyst for the musicians to go beyond their expertise and to focus instead on the art of storytelling that would open a dialogue and learning experience between the musician and the audience.
This as an extremely valid point and equally useful outside the world of music. It’s not about your expertise, but the story you tell and therefore how you ‘show up’ in the world. How might you choose to ‘show up’ –mentally, physically and emotionally that tells the story you want to share? What is it you want to share with your ‘audience’ (be it your partner, your boss, your consumer or client, a stranger). How will sharing a part of yourself impact your audience? Choosing the story you tell is what makes your expertise unique.
Having worked in the corporate marketing world and in executive coaching, I see parallels in those fields as well. In marketing, how do you get a consumer to buy your product/service instead of your competitor’s, even if it’s a commodity? It’s the story you share that makes the difference, even if the product is very similar in functionality (expertise) to others on the market. It’s the story you tell about the product/service that goes beyond the functionality (expertise) of the product and makes it unique and compelling for the ‘audience’.
The share economy companies that I mentioned earlier, are not necessarily offering something radically different from others, but it’s how they ‘show up’ that makes them unique and draws in an ‘audience’– revolutionizing what sharing is about.
When it comes to executive coaching, sharing is an intrinsic part of the process, from both the coach and client’s perspectives. As a coach, what can I share that will best help my client? How will listening and relating to my client’s thoughts, emotions and experiences benefit their agenda and objectives? It’s not about me or my coaching skills, but how I choose to ‘show up’ in a way that resonates and helps my clients. From a client perspective, they share elements of their life, goals, ideas, worries and thoughts all of which are important to them. They choose how they ‘show up’ for the coaching session. Many clients use coaching as a means to transform their own behaviours so as to benefit their business and strengthen themselves as leaders. Just like the musicians, they need to go from being functional experts to being story tellers.
So I’ll leave you with few questions to ponder:
- What do I want to share with the world?
- What is my unique story?
- If it’s not about me, who is it about? Just like the musician - how might I transform my expertise into a unique story that resonates with my audience?
- How do I want to 'show up' – mentally, physically, emotionally?
- How might sharing something different or new benefit my ‘audience’?
- What can I share that I haven’t before?