If an owl just whizzed into your house with a letter from Hogwarts that confirmed your magical powers, what would you use them for? What changes would you wave your wand and make? What are the things about your field, sector, or industry that you’re ready to disrupt, and imagine something new alongside your community?
We all have visions for a more just future we want to see, but as we bump up against the guardrails and barriers baked into our systems – designed to maintain the status quo – we become unsure. We have imposter thoughts, start leaning into the self-fulfilling loop of perfectionism and procrastination … essentially, we forget our magic and potential to shape change.
We don’t actually need a letter, delivered by owl, from Hogwarts. We’ve always been magical! We already have the lived experience, passion, and credibility to spark a ripple effect. Sometimes, we need a little bit of strategy support in getting that magic out into the world. And other times, we’ve simply forgotten or straight up don’t believe that we have that level of change-making capacity. That’s not our fault.
Self-limiting beliefs vs. systematically limited beliefs
I hear a LOT about self-limiting beliefs, but I’d like to reframe and reintroduce them as systematically limited beliefs, because they’re not actually ours. My Self (with a capital S) doesn’t claim them. Instead, they’re a normal and natural protective response to the systems that we live in, which have sexism, racism, and other intersecting -isms baked into them.
Recently, as I launched the Kindling Collective, a six month intensive for social impact entrepreneurs wanting to show up and lead as trusted voices on LinkedIn to spark change and raise revenue, I had a chance to observe these beliefs.
Your notes from your applications, conversations I had with y’all in the DM’s, and now, the deep and tender work I have the privilege of doing with my clients inside the program, have re-confirmed my why and the deeper problem I solve – folks who are working closest to the problems they solve have the right solutions based on their lived leadership and experience, they’re just not always in traditional seats of power, which come along with the influence needed to make those changes at scale.
In this episode, I want to talk about the four most common barriers I hear and work with. Sometimes there is a true strategy issue behind that barrier that can be remedied. And sometimes, it’s our old friend, our inner chaperone, trying to keep us safe. I’m also offering up suggestions that have been helpful for me personally and my clients, for the next time these thoughts and energies comes up – whether it’s a strategy thing or a belief thing.
Highlights from the podcast episode:
Four barriers to thought leadership on LinkedIn
Consider if any of these, or a combination, are showing up for you. And, I want you to release any guilt or shame if so because again, they’re not actually yours. They’ve been instilled over years, decades, and maybe generations of being told or shown we don’t belong in positions of power and influence. Whether – and these are all real examples from women I’ve worked with – you’ve been assigned the coffee picker-upper or air traffic controller for a board mtg when you’re an executive leading a part of the agenda. Or you’ve been told you don’t have a leadership presence, yet given no opportunity to share that leadership in a visible way. Or completely ignored or assumed to be an assistant of the white, male colleague sitting next to you.
I mean, of course, that will prompt a protective response, or spark an inner chaperone that’s simply trying to keep us safe from future bias, marginalization, and shittiness.
So again, it’s not our fault if openly, visibly, and boldly sharing our opinions and expertise is anxiety-provoking. But, And, I personally believe that if we choose to have a social impact consultancy or business, that it’s our responsibility to practice getting 1% braver with each action so we can attract a community that can make our mission happen with and alongside us.
“I don’t have anything to say. What do I even talk about?”
From a strategy perspective, if you’re working towards positioning yourself as a go-to voice or approachable authority, it’s possible that you’re not quite centered on what exactly you want to be known for, or maybe your niche isn’t clearly defined or evolving. That’s one thing.
If you don’t quite have clarity in who you serve, it makes it really hard to know what to say, how to say it, or even where to start.
From that point of view, working on getting clarity on your foundational brand message will solve this issue. What I mean by that is coming up with a clear, yet specific vision for the world you’re trying to create, putting words to your mission and positioning, and settling into your niche of who you serve – who you stand for – perhaps by taking a deeper look at your own mosaic of lived expertise. After all, we are the most well-equipped to serve the person we have been or still are.
You’re also crafting your powerful origin story that positions you as a guide, that makes the right people see themselves reflected back in your story and lean in to say “OMG where have you been all my life.”
And, at this point, you start to fall in love with the work you do again. Your mind becomes like a faucet of ideas, stories, wisdom, and ultimately content. You never run out of things to say because you’re in a deep relationship with your “why”.
This is something I realized after working with enough people because it happens almost every time. You remember how powerful your work is, and how needed. And that helps you continue to show up and overcome the systematically limited belief around having nothing to say, because you remember first of all that you have plenty to say, and secondly, that the people you serve need to hear it.
And, because you are a guide for the people you serve and you know exactly who they are, you’re intimately aware of what they’re dealing with, what they’re Googling at night, what they’re talking to their colleagues about in their masterminds and executive forums … so talk about that! If you are sharing your insights on the things your clients are already thinking about and wrestling with– you will be seen as the go-to, trusted voice that you are.
“I feel invisible and forgotten about on LinkedIn. I’m discouraged because when I show up there, there’s crickets.”
LinkedIn is interesting. There are over 830 million active users but only something like 3% of them post content regularly. What that points to, is we’ve got a lot of LinkedIn lurkers. I realize this every single time I post a really enticing resource that folks have got to enter their email address to download. Dozens of people end up downloading it who I would otherwise have no idea were engaging in my stuff. Try that – and let that be proof you’re being seen, heard, and valued more than you think on LinkedIn.
Plus, there are a variety of reasons why someone might not engage with your post. Especially if it’s spicy. But the flavor of thought leadership is spicy! If everybody agrees with what you’re saying, then you probably aren’t saying anything that will lead to systemic change, or even an individual person’s thoughts or behaviors.
Anyone can do a 101, how-to post – and there’s actually nothing wrong with that by the way, but to be heard, remembered, and trusted by the people you truly want to support, that you’re light on fire passionate about helping, share your opinion. What’s the root cause of the issue you work on? What’s a possibly ahead of your time or controversial take, related to your work? What are you afraid is “dicey/spicy/or too much?”
That will help you in creating trust with the right people, and commanding high-value, high-transformation prices too. Because it means people aren’t price shopping you as one of the three bids they need to get for their internal process. They’re coming to you because they know you’re the one who is equipped to uniquely support their situation.
You might still be thinking, OK that’s great. But why do I still have crickets on my spicy content?
Here’s one possibility: let’s say you’re an executive coach who supports nonprofit E/D’s with shifting the culture of their dysfunctional boards. I actually have three different clients who do this in a variety of ways, and they’re all amazing so if that’s something you’re looking for you gotta let me know. Just a quick plug for my people.
But anyway, it could be easy for them to feel discouraged about a lack of engagement from their exact target audience but you have to remember – if that Executive Director they’re looking to work with does like or comment on their spicy post, they know their board members are going to see that and it’s going to be a whole thing. Another example: let’s say you’re a therapist that supports high-powered executives, or a fertility coach for female corporate attorneys. Your target audience knows if they engage with your content with a like or comment, their boss and team are going to see it, and again, it could become a whole thing. LinkedIn is just different from Instagram and other platforms in that way – you’re tapping into folks’ professionals’ networks and therefore their working world.
It can be a double-edged sword because it’s where you can attract that clientele but engaging there can be different from other platforms.
Even if your issue is tamer than the things I just mentioned, my advice is the same: don’t worry so much about getting LinkedIn famous. That’s not even necessarily going to help you if your goal is to position yourself as a niched expert with a higher ticket price point to match. You’re not trying to serve hundreds of people a month, you’re probably trying to get something like between 2 and 5 contracts, VIP Days, or coaching clients a month. So, you don’t need hundreds of likes on every post. That would honestly be overwhelming trying to build relationships with them all.
Try not to compare and despair with other people or influencers that you see getting tons of engagement. You may have a different model of business than them, and you don’t necessarily need tens of thousands of views, you want a handful of qualified, like-minded values-aligned people hiring you or becoming board members or major donors or inviting you to speak on their podcast.
And that relationship building can very well be in the DM’s, privately, behind the scenes where their boss or board can’t see what they’re doing. That’s where I’m mostly hanging out, so I can actually build connective tissue and the beginnings of a generative relationship with the people who eventually end up deeper in my world. It does indeed, go down in the DM’s.
“Are my opinions even worth sharing?”
Folks are struggling to have a confident enough voice, feeling like they’re not an expert in anything so they can’t position themselves as one on LinkedIn.
This is something that has really struck me personally recently as I’ve been dripping the curriculum out inside the Kindling Collective program. I keep hearing myself say things and then almost discounting them as things everybody knows. For example, in the second module, we cover the strategic importance of leading with your vision and how to actually do that. I’ll talk about it, and then say, Oh but you probably already know that. I just kept saying it, without thinking about it.
But the reality is: people come to you because they DON’T know what you know. We almost take our knowledge for granted. We have blinders on to our own deep expertise because we hang out with business besties and colleagues in similar areas of knowledge. We consume content, and attend conferences about our thing, and listen to podcasts about it to further feed our expertise because we’re just so about it. You know?
So ironically, it may feel like you don’t know enough about what you do to call yourself an expert – either because you’re blinded to it from doing it every single day or you’re maybe you’re always hanging out and learning from people with more experience in it. That’s a possibility too.
But, it’s not like there’s a binary of EXPERTS and NON-EXPERTS. It’s a spectrum. There are always people who are a few steps ahead of us on the path, that we get to look up to and learn from. And there are always people a few steps behind us on the path that we can also collaborate with and who maybe we can mentor. And there’s a bunch of people, like an infinite number of people almost, who know there’s a path somewhere that they want to be on, and they can’t even find it. Those are the people we can support, if we share our opinions on LinkedIn, because that shines a light on an entryway to that path for them.
You are perfectly equipped to serve those folks because you are a relatable expert in comparison, even if you don’t always feel like it because you don’t have a PhD or maybe you’re in your first year or two of consulting. Someone who’s at the 501 level might not even be able to help them in the same way. I remember when I worked in the mental health and addiction space, we had speakers come to share their recovery story with our patients. And someone coming in with 50 years of recovery was cool. But someone coming in with like 1 year of recovery was more helpful for our patients because they were actually relatable. They had recently gone through the same types of experiences, and could speak their language and share their story so that it landed in an even more approachable and actionable way.
What I often see when people feel this barrier of not having confidence in their own opinions, they’ll end up posting on their business profile or company LinkedIn, but not sharing their own POV as a personal brand.
And that’s fine. If you lead a bigger company with a team, and you want to start sharing your team members’ thought leadership and opinions, I think that’s awesome. But you’re the founder or the leader of the team, I think you better be sharing your own, too. And if you’re more of an independent consultant or solopreneur and you’re trying to decide where to put your energy: between building your personal brand and your company profile page, my answer is always to focus on your personal brand as a thought leader in your niche. You don’t have a marketing team backing you up, and it can be a lot to manage both. At the end of the day, people want to know the face behind the company. That’s what builds trust, community, and resonance.
“LinkedIn is activating or overwhelming because of the highly professional, white, male, stale vibes. But I know I need to be there.”
Maybe your LinkedIn is tied up with your previous, corporate life before you became a consultant, coach, or service provider and it’s a life you kind of want to leave behind. Or maybe you’re trying to find your voice in a space that feels polarized … like you’re not enough for the more radical space and too much for the “let’s ignore all the issues” crowd. That’s a common thing for folks who are trying to imagine a more just future in their space, whether it’s in DEI, or healthcare, climate justice or something else. Or maybe you just don’t have a process to turn your “that was so cool” moments into consistent content. That can all make this work of thought leadership feel super overwhelming.
But at the same time, people are realizing their people are on LinkedIn. Not just clientele but decision-makers, potential referral partners, podcast hosts and conference conveners, ERG leaders, I mean the list goes on. The people they want to get in front of.
So, here’s what I think about LinkedIn. LinkedIn is an amplifier. It’s like a megaphone. It’s not just another place you have to be on, it’s a place where you get to share and repurpose what you’re already doing. You can leverage your current speaking engagements, testimonials, sweet notes from your clients, awards, videos, podcast interviews. I mean literally anything you are doing can be repurposed for LinkedIn to be seen by an audience who can help you make shift happen.
But yes, I know it can feel like pulling teeth to take what you’re already proud and excited about and just packaging it up in a way you can share it with the people who should know about it, on LinkedIn.
This is again, both a strategy thing and systematically limited belief that play and intersect with each other. Many of us are running from our desks to the grocery store to pick up a kid or parent, it can be tough to capture our opinions and insights in a way that builds authority. Especially because it’s LinkedIn. Right? It’s one thing to throw up a story on Instagram but I know we feel that with LinkedIn you really have to sound articulate, smart, and polish it up. To some extent, that’s true but consider: how can you lean into play here, instead of perfectionism? How can you do less, and rest and daydream to create the white space in your brain to have an original thought? And what new ways of thinking will come to you as a download from the universe during those times? Those are the things that will move the needle.
If you’re listening to this, you probably know I’m all about being Lazy on LinkedIn, meaning positioning yourself as a top-of-mind, trusted voice in one – consistent – hour per week. So the strategy piece has been taken care of. I have figured out a way to fit this thought leadership work into busy AF schedules and I’m happy to teach it to you.
But our systematically limited beliefs can still make us feel we don’t belong on LinkedIn in the first place. And how we do one thing is how we do everything. I keep getting slapped in the face by that lesson so let me repeat it one more time. How we do one thing is how we do everything. So if you avoid or hide from spaces that feel like a stretch – whether that’s virtually on a social media network like LinkedIn or in-person for something like a speaking engagement on stage or a conversation you know that’s going to be a conflict – I mean, nothing changes.
It’s our fractal responsibility to change our relationship with these spaces and decide we are enough to be there and that ripples out in ways we can’t even imagine right now.
That’s where our magic happens. I’ll see you next time.
Stand out as a go-to, trusted voice on LinkedIn.
I created a free masterclass for people who are serious about turning their LinkedIn into a hub of opportunities (in one intentional hour per week.)
I’m demystifying thought leadership on LinkedIn by sharing actual to-do lists and the same insights I’ve taught to over fifty social impact entrepreneurs so they too can be ‘Lazy on LinkedIn.’ If you’re interested in working with me to build up your thought leadership brand as an approachable authority, apply for your spot in our free masterclass!
Connect with me:
LinkedIn: Tania Bhattacharyya