Some business leaders compel you to look. They’re captivating, intriguing, fascinating – and the public can’t get enough. But what if you’re not Steve Jobs or Richard Branson? Sally Hogshead, author of Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation, says that everyone has the ability to become fascinating to others.
It’s not about showmanship or razzle dazzle, she says. “The fascination advantage is different than charisma. Charisma is not necessarily about authenticity; it’s a set of bolted-on tips for attracting people that some people have and others don’t. But everyone has a fascination advantage. It’s not a matter of becoming something you’re not, but becoming more of who you already are.”
That’s increasingly critical in today’s crowded marketplace. “The average attention span is only nine seconds,” she says, “ so how do we communicate in a way that immediately conveys the best and highest value we can deliver? Companies, brands, and leaders no longer have the luxury of taking months or years or decades to build relationships with customers. When we’re able to fascinate people so we become the most important thing in the universe to them for that second, the rewards are huge, and you’ll have the opportunity to persuade and build influence in those moments.”
So how can you tell if you’re fascinating? Don’t start with your strengths, cautions Hogshead. “It used to be enough to know your own strengths,” she says. “But how you see the world doesn’t really matter in a world with a limited attention span. Today, what matters is how the world sees you.”
One good gauge is social media. “If people aren’t talking about you, you’re not relevant,” she says. “Some comments will be positive and some will not be positive, but the point is to get inside of people’s lives, under their skin, and into their conversations.”
She notes that “even people with understated personalities can be far more fascinating over the long term if they can own and leverage their strengths.” The seven “fascination triggers” she’s identified, which individuals use to varying degrees, are power, passion, mystique, prestige, alarm, rebellion, and trust. The goal is to create a match between your inherent nature and where you can excel at work. “The purpose of our research is to help people understand how their personality is most likely to add distinctive value,” she says. “It’s about how we can put ourselves, as often as possible, in situations where what people need is exactly who we are.”
What can you do today to become more fascinating to your colleagues, your employer, and your customers? Hogshead stresses the importance of getting clear on your brand. “It’s better not to introduce yourself to a prospect than to introduce yourself and bore them,” she says. “When you create boring messaging, you really damage your personal brand. When you put yourself in front of anybody, don’t ask for attention until you’re ready to give value.”
Next, be honest about your natural tendencies. “When you pretend to be somebody other than who you are, you attract the wrong kind of clients and opportunities – and it’s exhausting,” says Hogshead. “It’s important to be ‘strategically polarizing’ when you create a message for yourself,” such as admitting you hate spreadsheets – but are a great visionary thinker. “If you’re clear on how people see you and you lean into that, it’ll bring in opportunities that are a perfect fit for you.”
Finally, you may have a “fascination advantage” that sounds a little unsexy (it’s a lot easier to catch someone’s attention if you thrive on “rebellion” rather than “trust”). But with the right strategy, even tried-and-true values like dependability can become fascinating. Hogshead cites a Korean restaurant in Los Angeles that goes all out with its claim to trust and longevity by storing the chopsticks of longstanding customers in a special black lacquer box, vividly emphasizing their special relationship over the years. “That’s taking trust and finding a symbol or a badge for it,” she says. “That’s the goal – to create a shorthand around everything you do, so you don’t have to take 10 minutes to tell your story; you can tell it in nine seconds.”
How do you fascinate the people around you? Do you believe everyone has the ability to be fascinating? What tips do you have to share?
This post originally appeared on the Forbes website on December 5, 2012.
Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.