Our seventh speaker in the Platform Conference recap series is Carrie Wilkerson, better known as the Barefoot Executive. Carrie was the perfect antidote to the post lunch slump. Energetic does not begin to describe her. She spoke to us on Filling Your Stadium: Building More Fans, Friends, & Followers. Who knew the Wonderful Wizard of Oz would figure so prominently into this presentation? Join me after this awesome Lego representation of
Carrie described herself as almost an accidental success story. Leaving the corporate world to be a stay at home mom to two toddlers she had adopted she found that her priorities changed as did her workplace. Since then she’s has built several businesses as well as being a coach to others. Along the way she described overcoming extreme debt, losing 110 pounds and having two more children. Her big leap into ‘brand name’ recognition followed the publication of her book, “The Barefoot Executive’. Much of the advice she gives in the book comes from her own experience, but she had to be talked into writing the book as she initially felt that she was not qualified to write it. She already had a large following but was conflicted in her mind on how best to proceed. She knew that in defining her niche she was inevitably going to lose some of those followers.
Therein lies a key learning. Don’t be afraid to NICHE DOWN. Continued focus on a clearly defined niche will alienate some of your tribe that is looking for broader content. However, it will multiply the followers who are looking for targeted content in the niche. Content without the fluff. These are the followers that really care about the message and are the raving fans we all seek.
Carrie framed her presentation in the context of “The Wizard of Oz” storyline. It was relevant, imaginative, and shows that material that is, if we are honest, age old truism, can be repackaged in a way that amplifies and clarifies.
Why do people follow you? Well, you are authentic. Genuine, caring, and giving. You are OK with your ‘DNA’. This DNA is THE PATH you are going to follow. For Dorothy this meant – keep the shoes on – stay on the path – see the wizard – go home. Somewhat jokingly Carrie equated Michael Hyatt as our wizard. The key for Dorothy, as it was for Carrie and all the attendees at Platform is this. You do not have to know all the answers when you set out on the path. You have to know the people who know the answers, or at the very least the people who know the people who know the answers. Carrie quoted Alison Levine who said, “You don’t have to have absolute clarity to put one foot in front of you.” Dorothy knew where she wanted to go, not how to get there. She got there by meeting others on the path, linking arms with them and boldly pushing forward to the goal.
Who did Dorothy meet next? The Scarecrow. We recall that his defining trait was that he thought he lacked a brain. He followed Dorothy because she ‘knew stuff’ to put it in modern terms. She shared what she knew about her quest and the Scarecrow followed. Your followers will do the same. Not because that don’t have a brain, but because you are (or a perceived as) an expert in your niche. That is a powerful motivator to an audience. Carrie calls it the ‘scarecrow factor‘.
Next on the path was the Tin Woodman. He thought he lacked a heart. This was something that Dorothy clearly had in abundance, and a heart that she was willing to share generously. The Tin Woodman wanted connections and Dorothy gave these to him. It all sounds so simple doesn’t it? Your followers want to know your heart. They want to know and share in your passions. They reward you over time for the care that you show to them. Serve them well.
The path and the growing group next came upon the Cowardly Lion. Courage was the thing he lacked and the thing that he desired. He saw that courage in Dorothy. Think about the people you follow in the online or the offline worlds. Do they lack clarity? Do they hesitate at making the tough decisions? No. They are followed because they are brave. People follow courageous people. Are you being courageous in the path you have set out on with your platform?
What is my takeaway from Carrie’s presentation? Carl Bankston III noted in his book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, that “these three characters embody the classical human virtues of intelligence, caring, and courage, but their self-doubts keep them from being reduced to mere symbols of these qualities.” Dorothy became their de-facto leader and in doing so allowed the intelligence of the scarecrow, the caring of the Tin Woodman, and the courage of the Cowardly Lion to emerge naturally. When they finally got to the Wizard these three needed nothing more than symbols of these qualities that they sought. That is the mark of a great leader. That is the mark of someone who genuinely, and with a caring, nurturing spirit, is given ‘permission’ to lead a growing tribe. The tribe will fill your stadium!
Have you ever thought of analogies that help to describe the process of leadership? Share them in a comment if you have, and come back to the blog for my next recap post on the presentation of John Saddington, founder of 8Bit, developers of Standard Theme (the one I use on my blog).