Using an outsider’s perspective to build successful thought leadership.
An interview with Monique Maley about her childhood feelings of being “an outsider,” and how she turned that feeling into an advantage in her thought leadership.
How do you go from “outsider” to “pro”? Through recognizing your unique perspective – and sharing it, with great thought leadership.
Many thought leaders initially feel like “outsiders” in their industry. They have niche interests, new and potentially counterintuitive perspectives, and they think so far ahead of the game that it might seem outrageous to those more comfortable working “inside the box.”
Monique Maley is the Founder and President of Articulate Persuasion, working at the intersection of leadership and language. She is equipped with the belief that engaged, articulate, and persuasive leaders and teams can scale faster, build dynamic cultures, and impact those around them for the better. Monique is also the author of Turbulence, where she shares her insights about the way explosive challenges affect an organization. In it, she provides tools and strategies to overcome turbulence and build stronger organizational cultures.
Monique grew up feeling like an outsider due to her bi-cultural background. Her life changed when she realized that she could be more authentic in work and with conversations, and that her background gave her a unique and insightful perspective. Being an outsider has given her a strong advantage when it comes to consulting and advising, and Monique uses that advantage to help her clients and encourage those with similar situations. She tells us how an “outsider’s” perspective allows you to see things more clearly, and be more direct, while overcoming internal politics that might try to hold you back just for being different.
As “outsiders,” thought leaders must develop tools that put the spotlight on their perspective and hold the attention of their audience. Monique has a rich background in acting and theatre. She shares methods to help those without such a background become comfortable in the spotlight, and shares the real reasons that you need to be authentic in order to build trust.
Three Key Takeaways:
- Thought leaders should embrace their unique backgrounds and be authentic. Those strengths bring a unique outlook to your content.
- Thought Leadership that comes from outside an organization can provide a different and important point of view to those whose information has been isolated.
- Thought leaders need to be able to present themselves in a manner that keeps an audience engaged. Don’t copy someone else’s performance; stay true to yourself, or you risk losing the trust of the audience.
If you need a strategy to bring your thought leadership to market, Thought Leadership Leverage can assist you! Contact us for more information. In addition, we can help you implement marketing, research, and sales. Let us help you so you can devote yourself to what you do best.
Peter Winick And welcome, welcome, welcome, this is Peter Winick, I’m the founder and CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage, and you’re joining us on the podcast today, which is Leveraging Thought Leadership. My guest today is Monique Maley, who’s the president and founder of Articulate Persuasion. I was reading through her bio earlier, a piece that stuck with me because it’s interesting to me, is she describes herself as bilingual and bicultural, which is interesting. She’s an experienced director, consultant, coach and speaker. She’s worked for more than 15 years in theater and film in the US and in London. And here we are. So welcome aboard, my bicultural friend.
Monique Maley Oh, well, thank you very much. Yes, I am bicultural. I think that I’ve always called myself that. But now it’s something that people ask about because before it was slightly dismissed, so it’s nice. Yes, I grew up in a very unusual household with a father who was born and raised in Texas, but was not like any other Texan I’ve ever met, but a mother who was born in Spain and raised in Mexico, and then I was raised in New Mexico and in Houston. So then even in Mexico, I was surrounded by Spaniards. So I say that I am half-Spanish refugee in Mexico, half-non Texan of Irish descent. So.
Peter Winick So, never, never fitting in anywhere and therefore needing to acclimate, understand, read the tea leaves and all those sort of other.
Monique Maley Actually, it’s exactly what it is. I mean, I’ll be really honest. I don’t ever remember a time where I didn’t feel I fit in. But I think at a really young age, I became very aware of like, who am I with and how do I bring that part of myself to this conversation? So not dismissing ever any part of who I was, trying to hide it, trying to dismiss it or trying to be less the way I am, right? But bringing whatever qualities or style or conversation right is really going to resonate with the people that I’m with. So, I never made myself another. And so that helped other people not see me as another now. It helped that I I didn’t look like this, you know, blend of things, but that’s a whole other conversation for different type of pressure.
Peter Winick I want to stay on that “fit in” piece, though, because I can tell you that from my experience, I don’t know if people are always use those words, but it’s probably thematically where it would fall. Lots of my clients and friends and colleagues that are thought leaders didn’t fit in. Right. So, they might have had an esteemed career at a big consultancy or Fortune 50. But they always feel like, Oh, you know, even though, you know, from the outside, it looks like I’m killing it here. I’m getting the promotions, getting the raises more responsibility. This isn’t what I want or I’m an academic as a thought leader, but I’m an oddball. I’m an academic because I actually care about things that are real versus the theoretical abstract. Or, you know, I’m a business person, but I care more about leadership and people. So, I think there’s this – maybe it’s not – the sense of other sense of not fitting in. That is a commonality across thought leaders. And then here and then it’s like, well, the only answer is to do your own thing.
Monique Maley I think actually, you know, it’s so funny because I really dig into this in the book and one chapter around that word “fits,” and it’s such a weird word. I mean, what is “fit,” really? I think we are all – if we are comfortable with who we are authentically. And I write a whole chapter on that authenticity, and I know you’ve had people on who talk about it because when thought leadership, it is the foundation of all successful thought leadership. But if you really know who you are and you’re comfortable in that skin, they’re always going to be times where you, you feel like you’re more with your people than you’re not acting like. You’re leveraging your skillset in a way that really resonates for you or you don’t. And so I think it’s less about not fitting in because I think nobody fits in. I think everybody fakes the fit, right. I think we say this is where this is, where I bring my highest value. This is the work that I do really well. But that also serves me, and I was really lucky, first of all, that I started in a career professionally in theater as an actor, really young. That really it was a career that suited me. The life style suited me, and I didn’t realize until I started working with larger organizations what that was, because for me, I realized if I start a new gig, six months in, I’m bored, like once I’ve set up my systems and while my connections that I’ve got. And it’s sort of now just ticking along the minute starts to tick along. I’m bored and I want to be out of there. And that’s what actors do, right? You go, you do a play, you rehearse. It opens. It’s open for three months, six months and then you move on to the next thing and it’s new people and new scripts and a new director. The same is with work for me. What I love about the work that I do now is that every day is different. Every client is different, even though the challenges they’re having are much the same. The way to approach it, the way to work with them, is always different. And so once I figured out that’s where my you know what they call “zone of genius” or highest value or whatever you want to call that, then I felt like I was comfortable in my own skin because I was kind of turning myself into a pretzel, trying to make my value work somewhere else.
Peter Winick As the outsider in that scenario. And I think we’re all outsiders as consultants and advisors and such. You are also not subject. What’s that?
Monique Maley Some people call us vendors like this because we’re vendors. That’s my favorite.
Peter Winick Is there is there a less warm term than vendor like, really?
Monique Maley It’s the most insulting term I’ve ever heard. But you know, there are people that know the
Peter Winick Most of the – the three, the three most offensive letters are RFP, but that’s a whole nother –
Monique Maley That’s true!
Peter Winick – question that we won’t get into. But I think I think the positive side of being a “vendor,” on the low end of the totem pole is you’re not subject to the politics, right? So you come in and sort of it’s almost an anthropological. You come in and they’re hiring you to solve this problem. And you look around and you go, Well, this is pretty obvious. You know, the guerrillas are throwing feces at each other. Why is nobody talking about this? You say,.
Monique Maley Why isn’t it?
Peter Winick And they’re like, “Wow, brilliant insight”. And you’re like, “Not so much. It was – it was fairly obvious,” but the fact that you can call, you know, you can call it right and you can see it and you can be. You don’t need to be insensitive, but a little bit more direct and blunt because you’re not worried about, you know, next June, you’re going to get a two percent raise or four percent rate. You’re on to the next thing by next.
Monique Maley Absolutely. And going back to the authenticity piece, like I am very honest and direct. That’s what makes me good at my job now. I am not aggressive. I am not offensive, but I am not a bullshitter. That was my hardest thing when I moved from theater to film. You know, a bit of the schmoozing thing like I was just that was just never me. Now, granted, there are enough business people there who appreciated my directness, but it was OK. But I think that absolutely that’s why being a coach and a consultant is so much more suited to who I am and being able to bring myself the conversation.
Peter Winick Because you’re a part, but you’re not really a part.
Monique Maley I don’t want to waste people’s time. I don’t want to sit there and watch people butt heads when I go, “Hey, guys, right? These monkeys are throwing the feces. I think that’s probably part of the problem.” But yeah, when you’re in large organizations, if you don’t have great leadership that allows for those voices at all levels to contribute, then yeah, then you’re going to be all like, you’re not in the right place and you’re going to have to figure out other aware to be OK with that or a way to get out.
Peter Winick Yep. So I want to go to a little bit of a different direction for a moment or two, Monique. So you know, your background, theater, film, etc. Interesting in that. Watch it when it when I started to think about sort of my work and authors and thought leaders and such that I work with, you know, if you sort of heatmap what they’ve done in previous worlds, there’s some obvious things consultants, academics, whatever. And then then once you get to know a lot of folks, there’s a lot of folks that did improv, a lot of folks that did magic or still do or comedy or, you know, they’re in a rock band on the side or there are frustrated musician from back in the day or whatever. And those performance chops, those performance skills, whether it’s, you know, controlling, you know, executive presence or the way to master the art of influence play really well in this space. And I also think it’s another. Stage, if you will, another absolutely. So could you could play with that for a little bit.
Monique Maley There are so many things I use my actors toolkit every day, but I think most directly to what you’re talking about. I think performers are comfortable with visibility, right? And you cannot be a thought leader if you are not comfortable being visible, if you are not comfortable with having some of the spotlight on you. You can just keep trying at it. But it’s never going to generate the ROI for you that you would want and thought leadership. If you are not sure.
Peter Winick If you’re enjoying this episode of Leveraging Thought Leadership, please make sure to subscribe. If you’d like to help spread the word about our podcast, please leave us a review and share it with your friends. We’re available on Apple Podcasts and on all major listening apps, as well as at ThoughtLeadershipLeverage.com forward slash podcasts.
Peter Winick I agree with that. So I can think of so I’ll go back almost 20 years. So when Malcolm Gladwell’s tipping point came out, I, like millions of others, said, Wow, this is awesome. What an amazing book. I mean, to think differently. Had you seen this before ET? And then I was invited to see him speak somewhere here in New York, and I saw him speak and I was so bummed out and disappointed. He was god awful. And I was thinking about it on the drive home, going, Oh my God, this guy wrote this book that just all I could talk about for weeks was this book, and I bought copies to give to friends or whatever. And then he went to bring it to life, and it was like reading the manual for a VCR. And I said, “Well, of course, he would be that like, let’s think about where his life was before, introvert writer. He probably spent his days living in fluorescent, you know, small cube, somewhere pounding out thoughts. And now all of a sudden, the droplet, the spotlight thrust on him. And we’re expecting something else.” And then I was –
Monique Maley If you go see him now, he’s completely different.
Peter Winick It’s amazing. Well, that’s what I’m going to say is I saw him six months later and I was like, Holy crap. He got a lot of work done. He’s kind of elfin. He’s comfortable in space. He was he was totally a different game. So I guess my point was many, many thought leaders are really good at the thought part, but the stage presence that I don’t want, you know, I’m more of an introvert for everyone to label on it. I don’t like the attention I always find being in the point of doing my thing. There are a I was referring to those that have both. But what do you recommend to the let’s call them the shy thought leader that needs to put themselves out?
Monique Maley Well, and I would add a third – almost a third category to that. Because it’s not. I mean, yes, they’re the ones who really are very comfortable working in a room by themselves. I am not sitting in front of a computer all day. I am not right. That is just not who I am. I was not like that at two, so I’m not going to be like that now. But the third category is the ones who have sort of been told over the years to not boast. Not this note that puts controls on it, right? The tooting your own horn, you know? Oh my gosh, I can’t. It’s just it’s not about me. And that whole thing, and I’m not going to lie. That’s always sometimes there are people out there who it’s all about them. And I just I have very little patience because I don’t feel like they’re there to serve their audience, whatever that audience may be.
Peter Winick But there’s a line between the healthy ego and absolutely ridiculous narcissist.
Monique Maley Absolutely. And I think we need to what I when I’m working with someone, I have to figure out, OK, what are their motivators and what are their demotivated? What are the obstacles that they’re putting in their own way to get there? Yeah. But I definitely think that the performance thing that being comfortable in the limelight is on the for those people who are not comfortable in the limelight. There’s that one. How do we get there so you can be standing on the spotlight by yourself and be OK with that? But on the other hand, if it’s not your wheelhouse, this performance part, how can you leverage whatever it is that you have and show up in a way that’s really authentic for you? And so years ago, there were so I started this business around 11, 12, almost 12 years ago, and in those days, everybody was writing articles and books about how to present my Steve Jobs. And I said, do not represent like Steve Jobs. That works for him, because if any of if I were to stand there in a black turtleneck and sneakers and never make eye contact and beat up high on a stage, I would not get the same engagement persuasion that he did, which he built over time. Because if you watch early presentations, he was not there either, right? He found a way to make it work for him, his style, his leadership style. And that’s where we have to go. The minute we start trying to be like anybody else, we are going to fail at this part of the equation. Thought leadership at its core has to be about being able to be trusted and if you’re not authentic.
Peter Winick No, I agree. I mean, I remember a long time ago when I was an AOL, Time Warner, Time Warner bought AOL, whatever
Peter Winick Time Warner, b AOL.
Monique Maley We’re going to date ourselves with that one
Monique Maley That is so interesting because inauthenticity, right, when somebody is looking at you, when you are visible and someone sees you, why they get that, that little mojo about why you’re not authentic, it could be because you’re in a suit and you never wear suits and you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin. It could also be that what you’re saying you don’t believe. And but the audience doesn’t know why you’re an authentic. All they know is that you are inauthentic, so it really doesn’t matter that it’s just your shoes are too tight, right? It’s going to have the same effect than if you didn’t believe what you’re trying to the information.
Peter Winick And right now in the, I don’t know, COVID post-COVID, wherever that wherever we are 18 months into this thing, I think there has been what I would call forced authenticity. So, when everybody I mean, I’ve been using Zoom for a long time, but when everybody sort of first came on zoom in masks, there’s almost a little too much authenticity, like maybe clean your laundry out. Maybe like we didn’t know what make your bed or make your bed would be nice, right? But people, you know and people that know now people have had the time to say, Well, what am I? What am I projecting here? If it’s not, you know, it used to be a big deal for a professional man to have a shoe shop. Right? Well, nobody even knows if you’re wearing pants anymore. You know when you’re sitting
Monique Maley Well, but I think that it has to do. I mean, it’s marketing. People understand brand identity. And if you’re going to be a thought leader, you have a brand identity. And so everywhere you show up, every way you show up, whether it’s what your background is when you’re on Zoom or how you dress, when you walk in the room or how you engage with people, you know, I always it’s a real telltale sign for me when I used to do a lot of back in the olden days when there used to be live speaking and I would go to a lot of conferences and give keynote actually
Peter Winick And by the way, the guy always comes back to the client at the end and said, Oh, that one speaker that you had, what a jerk! What, you know, condescending, blah blah blah blah blah.
Monique Maley You work in the film business. And one of the first things I mean, I think it’s important there’s so many horrible jobs on the set. So, I think it’s important to be good friends with the whole crew.
Peter Winick But sure.
Monique Maley You want to be great friends with sound and lighting because you can give the performance of your life. And if there’s bad sound and there’s bad lighting, you end up looking bad. So it is that whole, you have to be there for who, whoever you are, you need to be that all the time. And there are even people whose authentic selves are kind of, you know, I mean, can I say asshole here? Right? They’re, asshole guys.
Peter Winick I was going to ask, what if been your authentic self, you’re a jerk?
Monique Maley Well, I mean, there are people. Nobody is ever going to want to sit down and have a warm, fuzzy conversation with Elon Musk. Let’s be honest. Well, it wasn’t that grand. That’s not who he is. It’s not the jam. So you know, you got to own who you are. You know, obviously never treat people poorly. That’s a whole other conversation for another day. But if you want people to trust you, they have to feel like they know who you are.
Peter Winick Yeah. We have to let them in.
Monique Maley That is, yeah. And also, when we’re in that state, I mean, just even physically in that state, we’re going to share our best advice, our best knowledge because we are comfortable with ourselves. And that’s when we can bring the most value to whoever we’re talking about.
Peter Winick Yeah. No. And I think that’s a great point. So, this has been fun, Monique. Thank you for sharing your time and your story. Feces, throwing gorillas. And yes, some graphics would be great for this one.
Monique Maley We’re going to lose people in the first 30 seconds, but there you go.
Peter Winick Yeah Exactly But thank you for sharing your story with us.
Monique Maley Thanks, Peter. Appreciate it.
Peter Winick To learn more about Thought Leadership Leverage, please visit our web site at ThoughtLeadershipLeverage.com to reach me directly. Feel free to email me at Peter at ThoughtLeadershipLeverage.com and please subscribe to Leveraging Thought Leadership on iTunes or your favorite podcast app to get your weekly episode automatically.