We Can All Be Thought Leaders

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This is a modified version of an article I wrote for a recent FCR internal newsletter. Having just been honored as a2015 Thought Leader by ICMI, I thought it fitting to share my thoughts on what true thought leadership is all about. Click here to read FCR’s press release about my recent honor. I’m super lucky to be able to work for a company that allows me to talk and write about a topic I’m truly passionate about. Click here to read the original article on the FCR blog from December 21, 2015.

The term “Thought Leader” is rapidly growing in popularity. Just about anyone can create a blog, get a Twitter handle, pick a topic of interest, and start sharing their thoughts with the world. Get enough people to read and share your articles and sooner or later, someone will slap the thought leader label on you.

That’s not the sort of thought leadership I’m here to discuss. Allow me to take a few moments to define thought leadership and then share a couple stories to illustrate the sort we can all participate in.

What Is Thought Leadership?

I like this definition of thought leadership from @TheQuoteWell:

“Thought leadership is innovative thinking within a specific area of knowledge which helps shape the evolution of that field.”

It is about thinking and learning about a given subject and then sharing and collaborating with others to move the collective knowledge of that subject forward.

Sharpen The Saw

The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey has left a lasting impact on my life since reading it a few years ago. Habit seven is “Sharpen The Saw” and is all about staying sharp mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Focusing specifically on our minds, Covey says that many of us after completing our formal education, “let our minds atrophy.” He goes on to say that “There’s no better way to inform and expand your mind on a regular basis than to get into the habit of reading good literature.”

From NBA To MBA

I once heard an interview with NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. He successfully segued an amazing NBA career into incredible success as a businessman. The interviewer asked how he got to this point. He shared a story about a time after his NBA career was over when he was reading the sports page in the newspaper. A friend and mentor of his took the paper away and handed him a Wall Street Journal and said, “You’re done with sports now. You need to read what business people read.”

How We Fill Our Minds

This got me thinking about what I was filling my mind with on a regular basis. At the time, the answer included reruns of Friends or The Office and, on my hour of driving each day, sports talk radio. While those things are all well and good, they didn’t do much in the way of keeping my mind sharp and pushing me to grow in my job and my personal life.

Practical Ways To Sharpen Your Saw

Once I determined that I wanted to fill my mind with more than just Michael Scott quotes and talk of who would win the next Super Bowl, I set out to find alternatives. Here are five things that helped me immensely:

  • Podcasts – There are so many Podcasts out there. Many of my favorites focus on business or customer service like Crack The Customer Code or the HBR Ideacast. The TED Radio Hour focuses on a broad range of topics, often compelling me to research them more in depth.
  • TED Talks – Try substituting 30 minutes of TV with a TED Talk. There are thousands of topics to choose from.
  • Blogs – I subscribe to a variety of blogs. They are a great way to get free advice from experts. Furthermore, you can comment on their posts or ask questions and you’re almost certain to get a response.
  • Audio Books – Before you think you have to spend money on expensive audio books, check out your local library. In the last year I’ve listened to biographies on Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs, and Mark Twain. I’ve also listened to a number of business books, books on parenting and relationships, and classic literature like Homer’s Iliad.
  • Read a Book – I’m lucky to read a book a month but I always have a queue of books I’m working my way through. Again, it’s good to sprinkle in books that will help you with your career, but it’s also wise to read on a variety of other topics. At FCR we have lending libraries in each of our contact centers filled with terrific books on a variety of topics.

Back To Thought Leadership

My aim here is to shift us from thinking we all need to be bloggers or book authors in order to be considered thought leaders. What if we built a culture of thought leadership at our companies? When I began filling my mind with customer service and business advice, I had no choice but to improve the level of service I delivered to customers and colleagues. The best thing about a culture of thought leadership is that we become a group of people committed to continuously learning, sharing ideas, and pushing each other to be better.

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Jeremy Watkin is the Head of Quality at FCR, the most respected outsource provider. He has more than 15 years of experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on the Customer Service Life. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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