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The Vowels of Coaching: U is for Unique

Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.

Margaret Mead

What a powerful contraction! It’s both challenging and empowering. It signals that we must find what makes us different and how we are special and simultaneously find what is already known and relevant to our current situation, role and circumstances.

So what does ‘uniquely you’ mean for you right now? This is especially important and relevant when you consider how you want to be ‘unique’ in a new role.

The contradiction and challenge is that a lot is known about effectiveness and efficiency in many roles and especially in management and leadership. Research, training and mentoring are key ways to gain required and known knowledge and skills about how to best function in such roles. Coaching is a pathway to explore, reflect and identify how you be both as effective as you can be and uniquely yourself in that role.

Unique skills

A useful exercise to determine what your development needs are in relation to the required and known knowledge and skills for good functioning in a role, is to identify your transferable skills i.e. those skills that you use in multiple situations, and assess the match between what you know you have and what is needed.

Sometimes this is a matter of translation – you need to relate the words and phrases used to describe required skills, capabilities, competencies or personal attributes for a role to the words and phrases you use to how you describe your own skills, capabilities, competencies and personal attributes.

Your development of these required and known knowledge and skills for good functioning in a role is the focus for your performance development plan in consultation with your direct manager.

Unique career

Taking responsibility for your own development and career, maintaining a broad social network, adopting continuous learning and being open to explore new roles are other ways to express and develop your uniqueness.

People who take the initiative to direct their own careers have a more positive outlook and bring a richer array of skills and attitude to the workplace. Individuals who adopt a more self-directed career attitude often also fare better in climates of uncertainty, and remain more satisfied in their roles. There are clear benefits to knowing and expressing your uniqueness!

Presenting your unique self

Margie Warrell, women’s leadership coach and author of Stop Playing Safe (Wiley) and Find Your Courage (McGraw-Hill) had this to say to women about advocating for themselves and owning their own value and uniqueness:

Women are often reticent at self-promotion, relying on their hard work to win them recognition and advance them forward. But working your tail off, collecting gold stars and waiting for opportunities to be laid at your feet is a recipe for stagnation, frustration and, eventually, resentment. While humility is a virtue, when overdone it can become a vice that can profoundly limit your opportunities to achieve the goals that inspire you.

In today’s competitive workplace, you have to be willing to let the right people know who you are, what you’ve done and what you aspire to do in the future. People aren’t mind readers. Don’t assume they know what you’re good at. Don’t assume people know your ambitions. And never rely on someone else – not even your HR department – to take care of your career path. Self-promotion is not about boasting to feed a needy and insecure ego, it’s about owning your value, and taking full responsibility for managing your career, building your brand, and creating the opportunities that will enable you to add even more value.

Describing your uniqueness

Being clear about what is important to you and how you will demonstrate that in your role is an important foundation for expressing your uniqueness. For example, a dependable or a passionate leader – which best describes you? Why is that choice the right one for you right now?

Here’s a brief exercise for you to get clearer about how you will describe your uniqueness.

Step 1: Brainstorm eight to ten words that best describe your values and characteristics. It may help you begin by first thinking of two or three people you admire and writing down what you admire about them. From that list choose the six to ten words that you think best describe you.

Some options to get you started:

Accomplished Accurate Adventurous Aesthetic Artistic Authoritative Autonomous Challenging Committed Community minded Compassion Competent Competitive Completer Contributor Cooperative Creative Democratic Dependable Excitable Fast Paced Flexible Friendly Fun Helpful Honest Independent Leader Learner Loyal Money orientated Moral Organised Open Passionate Peace Powerful Private Relationships builder Reputable Respectful Responsible Risk taker Routine Security focused Self-expressive Stable Status Successful Team player Trustworthy

Step 2: Select the six most powerful words from the eight to ten you have listed. Next organize the words to create a powerful expression of accomplishment: for example “I am committed, independent, organized and accomplished leader”. This becomes your personal statement. Review and refine it to become a brief statement that best describes and validates your uniqueness as an individual.

Step 3: Use this individualized power statement in your introductions and interactions with others as a means of stating and validating your unique talents.

Coaching the unique self

The coaching relationship provides the space and conditions to explore your uniqueness and how you can best express that in your current work. The very least is good performance and meeting your targets – the best is when you are able to do that in a way that you feel proud of because it expresses you at your best. Working with a coach will provide you with a place and pathway.

If this is something you would like to explore, contact Ann


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