Here at the-Coaching Blog-run by Gerard O’Donovan, our aim is to constantly bring value to those seeking to improve their lives. Therefore we have a policy of publishing articles and materials by guest authors whom we value and appreciate. Today’s guest author is Robert Holmes(Australia).

Just how important is it to find your unique style? In the world of peacocks and tuna fish, it’s life and death. The male has to stand out against the crowd! In the highly competitive environment of coaching, it is important for us to find our unique intelligence, the differences that make what we are offering special. Let’s explore the process of finding your unique style.

A core principle of marketing — spending good money promoting your services — is finding the unique selling point. Public relations experts assist corporations to define their vision statements and public profile, very carefully polishing branding so that their offering is special and different. With a bit of work, we can do the same for ourselves.

We are not differentiated from our service in the mind of our customers — in fact, our service is judged by our profile. A 2002 study of corporate reputation found that “50% of a corporate reputation is determined by the CEO’s reputation”. Person and company merge: the leader’s profile becomes the company’s public impression. (1) Author Jay Oatway calls that being a brandividual. (2)

Our CV or resume is not the only document people look at to decide whether we are worth the going rate for our service. Increasingly people review Facebook profiles, LinkedIn profiles, Google+ accounts and websites which all give insight into the person and company they are dealing with. Do these all carry a common theme and message for a brand “you”?

Finding your brand

Thought leader Matt Church runs workshops on finding people’s unique intelligence, helping individuals tap into their passion and focus. (3) His framework used loosely below, is very helpful for starting the journey on finding our style. Let’s run through it together with an example — a friend of mine called Margaret. She is an executive consultant and director who has recently entered the life coaching field. If you have the time, grab a blank sheet of paper and a pencil — or your tablet computer and try this exercise…

  1. The climate

List the various adjectives that describe you. These will be climatic words, global and general to describe the feeling of who you are.

Margaret thinks about recent conversations with her spouse, her business partner and a close friend. They describe her as:

  1. Driven and ambitious,
  2. Observant of people’s body language,
  3. Empathetic, able to build rapport quickly,
  4. A strategic thinker who is not intimidated by board level or political discussions and
  5. A risk taker. Marg is an adrenalin junkie!

2. Negative traits

Next, draw up a table with three columns. On the far left write down your top five negative traits. In the center convert into the opposite version. On the far right turn your negatives into a redeemed or “spin” version. How would a political analyst describe that trait in the news? Here is Margaret’s table:

Margaret was told in a recent performance review that she was critical, cold and too harsh with her direct reports. Many style experts will tell you to work on turning those into positives, to pitch the opposite. But I think it is better to be true to yourself and amend the bad trait. Put a spin on it the way a political analyst would. Margaret’s tacit criticism is actually useful insight when delivered well. Her coldness is often seen as aloof but the result is that she is not emotional when it comes to tough decisions. That makes her a great analyst. OK, she’s a bit harsh, but on better days that leads to a very honest and direct communication style.

3. Describe your personal brand

Drawing from the general adjectives in step 1, and the right-hand column of redeemed or “spin” traits in step 2, choose just 3 that describe your personal brand. It might seem a bit limiting to rely on just three, but you describe more than 200 species of fruit-bearing tree as “apple” trees. That’s just one word. Margaret has a number life aspects to consider:

  1. As a wife and mother, Margaret is clear, present and practical.
  2. As a friend, Margaret is loyal, careful and observant.
  3. As a life coach Margaret is present, observant and insightful.

She needs to pick her best three.

4. Use your brand

Now that you have three words to describe your personal style, take action. If you don’t already have one, get a social media profile (use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ or whatever you like).

  1. Use these words to describe who you are in your profile.
  2. Request testimonials, endorsements and quotes that highlight these features about you.
  3. Identify how these words can be used to offer your intellectual property — your offering to market.

5. Communication touch points

Now we need to expand our description by talking a bit about what it’s like working with you. How are you different from others? How do these unique styles display or express themselves through your dress, office, services and colour choices? What is your signature style? Are you creative or careful? What’s your personality like? Are you arty or straight-laced? Controlled or daring? Think of Edward DeBono’s six hats, or Steve Job’s in his black skivvy and Derren Brown’s crazy taxidermy. Margaret hates the way some people turn up to work in t-shirts and she can’t stand seeing women follow the stereotype short skirt and makeup. She is a blouse and pants girl.

Margaret’s profile now reads, “Highly observant, deeply insightful and powerfully present. Margaret’s life coaching style is described as empathetic, yet direct, being able to rapidly bring change and breakthrough.” Her picture looks like a cross between Margaret Thatcher and Oprah Winfrey: serious, powerful and feminine.

Discover your personal style, then make use of it to define your brand. You are unique, stand out and it’s worth being more like you.


1) David Armstrong, “How to build a great reputation,” Company Director, Australian Institute of Company Directors. Volume 29, Issue 8, 2013. Pg 50

2) Jay Oatway, “Mastering Story, Community and Influence,” Wiley, 2012, Chapter 2. The idea was originally touted in his blog posting.

3) Matt Church, Scott Stein & Michael Henderson, “Thought Leaders,” Harper Collins, 2011, pp44–53.


Robert Holmes B.Comm., P.G.Dip.Acc., C.B.Fac., M.Div., Th.D.


Robert is the CEO of Frazer Holmes Coaching, one of Australia’s largest coaching companies. Robert has written over 240 hours of ACTP coursework and is the author of six books on leadership, coaching, community and theology.

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