Seth and Bryan Elliott

A few years ago I was seriously in the doldrums and was introduced to the work of Seth Godin (pictured above left). A New York-based marketing guru, Godin writes one of the most read business blogs in the world and he’s been a huge influence on me, largely because of the empowering nature of his ideas (be remarkable, build your tribe, use the power of networks to further your cause… among many).

I wrote to him sometime during my professional ‘re-birth’ to point out the difference he’d made to me, and he emailed back within the hour to say how thrilled he was to hear it. He’s a terrific writer and speaker and a highly sought-after guest on business chat shows.

One such show is depicted above, a concept called Behind the Brand hosted by Bryan Elliott. This is an excerpt from an interview Elliott did with Seth in February and it’s remarkable in many ways. For a start, it’s normally the guest we listen to but on this occasion it’s the interviewer who shares a personal and powerful story. I think there are some important lessons here for business leaders, managers and professionals.

First, Elliott admits that he’s not that comfortable sharing this story and that discomfort is a common characteristic of those who hold positions of authority. There’s a fear of being seen as weak and vulnerable, having revealed something which could result in criticism or ridicule. That’s one of the reasons people worry about speaking in public; they’re terrified of making a mistake or being found wanting in some way.

I find it interesting that Elliott is far from polished in his delivery. But that very imperfection, combined with the raw authenticity and pathos of his story helps him come across as authentic, trustworthy and human. It’s what Dr Brene Brown describes as ‘whole-hearted’; it helps us see beneath that cold exterior of polished perfection.

Openness and vulnerability is really appreciated by others, and it’s often reciprocated; that’s when true connection occurs.

A few years ago, I came across a senior civil servant who was struggling to connect with his team. In searching for his ‘why’ he decided one of his core values was fairness and that, in turn, came from his own struggles with dyslexia. He’d never told any of his colleagues about this but some time after our workshop he ‘revealed all’ to his team and the impact on his relationships with colleagues was transformational.

Midway through the interview Elliott also reveals a conversation he’d had with Seth a few years earlier which had a profound effect on him. I’m sure Godin knows his insights are valued but it’s rare for the inspirer to actually hear direct from the ‘inspiree’ in the manner of this interview.

It’s wonderful when it happens and perhaps we should all do more to feed back our ‘after’ story to those who’ve helped us.

Finally, doesn’t this interview demonstrate once again the incredible power of a good, human story? There are oodles of them in your organisation, and they’re a valuable and frequently untapped resource.

Once again, here’s the clip.