Beyond the job description – your unique value proposition

As a meetings facilitator and trainer, I am a regular observer of the one-minute introductions that invariably kick off group sessions. And I am always struck by how little people say about themselves that distinguishes them from anyone else.

Very rarely do these introductions venture beyond the basic job description, except for occasional forays into the extra-curricular realms of hobbies and families.

The problem with most job descriptions is that they are generic and impersonal – and could apply to any number of people.

What I would like to know when meeting someone in a work situation for the first time – and I am sure this is also true for new colleagues, new managers and prospective employers – is: What drives you? What sets you apart from the herd? What is the unique contribution you make to your team and, by extension, to your company? What are the problems you alone are equipped to solve?

The promise of my new workshop

My new workshop on ‘presenting your personal brand’ is designed to enable people to present themselves with pride, confidence and impact to a range of key audiences. I start off with a round of introductions, knowing full well what to expect. After each person has presented their generic job description, I challenge them with one of a series of questions. Questions like: What inspires you? What’s special about you? What do you regard as your underlying purpose? What makes you particularly effective? What do other people in your team appreciate about you?

It doesn’t take long for the penny to drop: there is more to everyone than what is covered by their job description. And that extra something can be encapsulated in what I call their ‘unique value proposition’, or UVP. Most people are familiar with the concept of a ‘unique selling proposition’ (USP) – a characteristic of a product or service that distinguishes it from others of a similar nature and gives it a marketing advantage. A UVP is the same concept applied to a person.

UVP versus job description

Your UVP differs from your job description in the following ways:

  • It explains the needs you are uniquely equipped to meet and the problems you alone can solve;
  • It describes the specific skills and experience that enable you to do this;
  • It defines the stakeholders you work for and the impact you aim to achieve for them;
  • It is visionary and inspiring to yourself and others.

Another distinguishing characteristic of a UVP is that it should transcend self-interest and work towards a larger goal. In my workshop I tell two stories that capture this aspect of a UVP.

Helping put a man on the moon

The first concerns a visit by President John F Kennedy to the space centre that would later bear his name to generate enthusiasm and raise funds for his mission to go to the moon. Legend has it that during this visit he bumped into a janitor who was hard at work mopping the floor. When asked by Kennedy about his job, the man replied without hesitation: ‘Mr President, I am helping put a man on the moon’.

A similar story is told about Sir Christopher Wren’s incognito stroll among the men at work on the building of St Paul’s Cathedral. When asked what they were doing, one of the workmen replied: ‘I am cutting a piece of stone’; a second responded: ‘I am earning five shillings, two pence a day’; but the third came back with: ‘I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build a beautiful cathedral’.

With these inspirational examples ringing in their ears, I send participants in my workshop away to craft their UVPs and condense them into in a couple of sentences. Then I get them to present their statements back to the group, supported by examples or stories that showcase those UVPs in action.

Hard work – but worth it

It is really hard work – and it needs to be; but the results are invariably revelatory as people recognise and appreciate their own special qualities – maybe for the first time – and the team as a whole becomes aware of the wealth of vision, talent and experience within it.

This workshop, suitable for large and small groups, is particularly useful for companies and teams facing change, transition or difficult times, because it helps to motivate staff, build team and corporate pride and loyalty and strengthen messaging to internal and external stakeholders.

To find out more visit this page of the Clearsay website.