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Episode 143 | Thought Leadership & Imposter Syndrome with Carol Cox

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WITH Carol Cox

  • Episode 143 | Thought Leadership & Imposter Syndrome with Carol Cox 00:00


Thought Leadership & Imposter Syndrome with Carol Cox

Hi Group Practice Listeners! In this episode, I’m talking with Carol Cox all about Thought Leadership and overcoming imposter syndrome.

In this episode I cover:

  • what thought leadership is
  • what makes a thought leader
  • thought leadership questions to ask
  • struggling with imposter syndrome

This episode is sponsored by TherapyNotes. TherapyNotes is an EHR software that helps behavioral health professionals manage their practice with confidence and efficiency. I use TherapyNotes in my own group practice and love its amazing support team, billing features, and scheduling capabilities. It serves us well as a large group practice owner.

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Maureen Werrbach

Maureen Werrbach

Hey, everyone, welcome back to another episode! I’m really excited about this week, I have my own speaking coach with me, Carol Cox, she owns Speaking Your Brand, and we’re gonna be talking about thought leadership and imposter syndrome, and all the fun stuff her and I have been working on. So welcome, Carol.

Carol Cox 

Hi, Maureen, I am so glad to be here.

Maureen Werrbach

I’m glad to have you here too. Although I’m nervous since you just said five seconds before we started recording that you’re gonna talk about what we’re working on. So you know how that is.

Carol Cox 

We’re just gonna like throw you in feet first into the vulnerability, you know, hangover period?

Maureen Werrbach

Totally, totally. I might have to take the next couple of days off. And so for those of my listeners who don’t know you, can you talk a little bit about who you are what you do?

Carol Cox 

Sure, so I own a company called Seeking Your Brand.

We provide coaching and training for women entrepreneurs around public speaking and thought leadership.

So most of our clients come to us, they’ve been in business for at least a few years, they enjoy speaking, they want to get better at speaking, they want to get better results of speaking and they want to have a bigger impact. They have like the brand awareness, lead generation side that they use speaking for as a marketing channel. But then they also have this bigger idea that they want to have an impact in their community, with their audiences with their clients. And that’s where their thought leadership message and project comes in. We help them with that through one on one coaching. And we also have a group program.

Maureen Werrbach

So for those that don’t know about thought leadership, can you tell listeners what that means?

Carol Cox 

Yes, and I will say that you do not have to call yourself a thought leader, you don’t have to put it on your LinkedIn profile or on your resume. It’s one of those words that I chose it because our clients use it. And as a good entrepreneur and marketer, I use the words that our clients and prospects use. Because it’s well known, I figured might as well use that versus making up something else.

So how I define a thought leadership, is someone who has an interesting idea, especially one that hasn’t been talked about a lot in their circle of influence.

Let’s say like in your little corner of the internet, in your industry, with the people that you have conversations with, what is something that’s not getting talked about a lot? But that you know, could have a big impact on the people that you’re in contact with? Thought leaders challenge the status quo, they challenge our assumptions about what it is that we’re doing in our industry, or even just in society at large.

And really, I think thought leader– even though the word thought is in there, so ideas definitely are the genesis of it–but thought leaders inspire people to take action. They help people to be self reflective and to learn more about themselves and how they relate to the world. Because that’s really what we want. As human beings we want to understand ourselves better, and how we fit in, in our world. I know Maureen, as a counselor and a therapist, and so many of your listeners are because they’re group practice owners, this is what therapists do. So in a sense as a thought leader like–you’re a therapist already you are well on your way to being able to be a thought leader.

Maureen Werrbach

It’s been an interesting journey with you, since hiring you to kind of work with me on on my speaking. And in in thinking about how this is really beneficial for just my industry of people, group practice owners. What benefits does thought leadership or just the idea of thought leadership have on business owners in general or in for group practice owners?

Carol Cox 

Well, I see two main things It’s the first is getting more people to see your content. There is so much content out there. There’s so many podcasts, videos, webinars, IGTV live, tiktok, you know, LinkedIn posts, Instagram posts, like there’s so much content out there. And at a certain point, like it just all becomes noise. And people are hungry for something that yes, there’s a place for training, there’s a place for the here’s how to do XYZ. But then also people are really hungry for something deeper. For that self reflection. I know Maureen, we’ve been talking quite a bit about this, I know you’re looking at me right now–

Maureen Werrbach

–I’m smiling, because I just want all you listeners to know when my content looks different, you can blame Carol on this–

Carol Cox 

–you can totally write to me and tell me everything that you like or don’t like about it. So as entrepreneurs, thought leadership can help you gain more visibility. And also, to develop a deeper connection with your audience. When you have a deeper connection with your audience, whether it’s clients or prospects or people who follow you on social media, they’re going to stick around longer. And they’re going to get to keep wanting to listen to your podcast or consume your content. So that’s number one.

The second thing on thought leadership, though, really goes back to ourselves.

As people, I find it so much more meaningful, and fulfilling to have a bigger mission that I’m doing with my business. Because our mission is to empower women to tell their stories, especially to tell the harsh stories that aren’t getting told to so that they get more visibility. And so for me, like I wake up every day, knowing that that’s my mission. Which the dollars in the bank account are important, but that’s not what drives me every single day to keep doing what I’m doing.

Maureen Werrbach

And so for those that are just either have thought about thought leadership, or are just hearing the concept right now, my assumption is that I’m not the only one that experiences this, which is imposter syndrome.

Like, obviously, the idea of becoming a thought leader and having something really impactful to say and telling a deeper story, issues around imposter syndrome are likely to come up. What are your thoughts on that? And what how do you help people through that?

Carol Cox 

So I’m going to answer this kind of a little bit flippantly, but also seriously, in one sentence, or in one word: it’s patriarchy. That is what really causes so many of us women–and if you’re a Black woman or woman of color, you have white supremacy on top of patriarchy. And the messaging that we get from when we’re very young all the way through–some of its very conscious some of his very subconscious messaging–is that women shouldn’t speak up, we should keep our opinions to ourselves, we should be nice, we should please other people, we should smile, we should go with the flow.

And what happens when women don’t do that? They get smacked down. Well, I mean, sometimes physically, but verbally, they get smacked down. We see this on the internet all the time, we see this with our women and politics and leadership. And so we absorb those messages as women and then we think to ourselves, well, who am I to say these things? And what are the repercussions going to be? If I do say these things?

Maureen Werrbach

Yeah, that’s really a powerful statement. So when you’re working with women who are trying to hone in on becoming vulnerable, and stepping into the thought leadership realm, what’s some feedback that you give, or some words of wisdom or support that you find to be really helpful when thinking about this?

Carol Cox 

Oh, yeah, so every woman is a little bit different, because we all have our own limiting beliefs and things that we carry through with us. So obviously, a lot of it is just talking with them about whatever concerns they have coming up. And then I encourage them to kind of baby step through it. Like you don’t have to go from zero to 100. Except for you, Maureen, like I’m just gonna, I’m just throwing you into content. You don’t have to go that like that far that fast if you don’t want to.

Just try putting out a piece of content on your social media on your podcast, that maybe a little bit more revealing, where you’re having a stronger opinion about something and see what kind of reactions that you get. I hazard to say that you will probably be pleasantly surprised that people are going to engage with that kind of content, even more so than the regular content.

Maureen Werrbach

Yeah. And what’s interesting is, and such a small level, I see it, obviously, what you and I are working on is just in kind of its beginning steps. But with my social media, we have a social media team. And they were saying how my most engaged posts are the ones that are of me, where it’s a picture of me where I’m talking about something I’m doing in the day. More so than the content where I’m giving the how-to’s, which I always feel like is the reason why people listen to me and come to me.

So I’m seeing it at such a small level with my, my social media team being like they want more of you. I’m thinking that’s not helpful to them growing their business. And so and I’m getting even more of that feedback from you just in terms of like the actual content that I’m creating.

Carol Cox 

I’m thinking even so we have, we run our program called a Thought Leader Academy. And it’s a group program with one on one coaching and one of the women in it, when we started in November, she’s working on her thought leadership message in her signature talk. And she decided to share with the group of women on one of our calls about a very personal story that had happened to her within her family. She shared that in this and she wants to include this in her talk, because she believes it’s going to be helpful to other women who hear it.

When she opened up that way, and there’s a saying that vulnerability is contagious. And it is true, because then, so many of the other women in the group, all of a sudden, they started posting, oh, my gosh, thank you for opening up. Now I’m digging deeper. And I see some of these things that I can talk about related to my topic that I was too scared to before, but you kind of set the you’ve paved the path for me, so we can just take one person to do that.

Maureen Werrbach

Yeah. And I can imagine that there’s some listeners who are saying, well, you know, we’re kind of the exception as mental health professionals. You know, there’s this older school of thought in our industry, that we’re these blank slates, you know, that we don’t bring ourselves into the therapy room or out into the world, because then, you know, we’re supposed to be about the clients. And that’s slowly changing. So we’re seeing more and more therapists who are, you know, for example, eating disorder specialists, who are you talking about their own journeys as part of their messaging and as a way to relate to clients. What are your thoughts for therapists who might be still in this blank slate, kind of frame of thinking, when it comes to their messaging?

Carol Cox 

That’s a great question, Maureen. And I and I do think it depends on the audience. So if I went to a therapist, I’m not necessarily want my therapist to be using our hour together to talk about his or her issues. So sure, like a passing sentence here or there to show that the person can relate to you as the client can definitely be beneficial. But obviously, we don’t want to like dump things on other people. So but there’s different audiences that people have, as a group practice owner, your audience is also your employees, your team members. So how can you be more vulnerable with them? How can you share a little bit more about what’s going on with you so that they start opening up?

You have your other audience, which could be people that if you do, say want to do more public speaking, related to a particular topic, that’s a passion of yours, it’s an interest of yours, then you can open up related to that. I remember Maureen, one of the things I gave you for homework was to read Laurie Gottlieb’s book. She’s a therapist, very well known therapist, and she very much puts herself in the middle of that book, along with the the clients that she talks about. And I said, I remarked to you on one of our coaching calls that, like, I’m ready to sign up with her to be for her to be my therapist, because I understand that she’s human, and she gets it like she gets the struggles that we have.

Maureen Werrbach

Yeah. That’s funny, because I’m sure almost all the listeners have read that book and are like, yes, we totally, totally get that. So I’m kind of flipping it back to you. What do you do to help people kind of figure out their messaging, because I feel like that was a really hard thing for me. When I first started working with you, I did not know where this was going to go. So it was, it’s been a really fun and interesting and scary journey to take with you. But for those that are listening, who are just thinking, I don’t even know, like how to think about being a thought leader, I don’t even know what step to take or what thought I have that, you know, that I should be focusing on? Can you tell people a little bit about how you help them with that?

Carol Cox 

Sure, I have some questions that I can give the listeners just so they can start thinking about this for themselves. But in the coaching process is really a matter of deep listening. So I listened very deeply. And I listened to things that come up repeatedly, as we’re having conversations. So I may ask a question in a number of different ways over the first couple of our sessions. And then I’m staying attuned to, oh, this keeps coming up. Or I can see someone’s energy change, again, about one thing versus another.

So when I someone answers a question, and they’re kind of flat, and they’re just kind of answering it, but then they answered a different question, and all of a sudden, they perk up and they’re gesturing more, I’m like, ah, here’s something that we can dig into deeper. So that is one thing, just what I do as a coach.

But here are some questions that listeners can think about, as far as identifying what their thought leadership message could be:

What is important to you that you’re noticing is missing in that’s being talked about in your industry, your community, your area of expertise? What is missing? What’s not getting talked about that you see? And also what takes you off or gets you riled up on your soapbox, right? Like if you could like put the soapbox out, like what are the rants and raves that you just naturally go to if you’re talking to friends or you’re listening into a podcast, you’re like, oh, like, if only like, I really want to, you know, get people to understand this! What makes you think this isn’t right? There must be a better way. Like, there must be a better way to do this. Let’s investigate what that is. What are people not seeing or understanding that you do see?

And then kind of along with all of those questions is what do you want to be known for? What’s the lens through which you see the world? And I know Maureen in our work, like we keep coming back that you are a therapist, you have this expertise in this experience. So that is so much the lens through which you see the world. And that’s helping us to develop your through line in your message based on that.

Maureen Werrbach

I love that. You had mentioned you have you have something coming up, right? Yes. Is this something that would be beneficial for listeners?

Carol Cox 

Yes, absolutely. So this is we ran this event in October of 2020. It’s called Brave, Bold Beyond, it’s our live virtual summit, it happens live only this next one is on April 1, and it is 10 minute Ted style talks. So we have 12 diverse women speakers who they apply to speak our speaker selection committee went through, they selected them based on their topic and, and kind of fitting our themes and who we thought would be really great speakers. They’re working now with our speaking coaches to develop their 10 minute Ted style talks. So that’s very powerful. It’s very emotional.

Women who attended last time, were literally glued to their screens for the entire day crying, laughing like in the chat, it was, it blew me away, people said it was the best virtual event they’ve ever attended. And so we are brave enough to put it on again. Hopefully, we’ll reach that that bar, it is 100%, free to attend. This is our thought leadership project, a way to give back to our community and to showcase these diverse women speakers. So all the details are at speaking your brand dot com slash summit. So you can register for free and come and attend live on April 1.

Maureen Werrbach

I can imagine that that’s a great like first step for people who are trying to figure out what it means for them to be a thought leader to kind of see this experience in some of these other people that are that are taking that journey.

Carol Cox 

Absolutely. We have two panel discussions. One is on crafting and a seller speech. The other one is on building your thought leadership platform. So it’s going to be just a chock full of a mix of information. But also really, entertainment is not quite the right word. But it’s very motivational and inspirational content that’s going to make you think differently, and also going to make you applaud the bravery of our women speakers and the stories that they’re going to be sharing.

Maureen Werrbach

I was gonna say, as you were talking right before we mentioned the summit, kind of how you help people, I was thinking about my own experience in working with you. And you are very much like a therapist. Because you were saying how you are like kind of looking at what are the themes, the things that get brought up over and over again, maybe in different ways, maybe in really subtle ways.

And in thinking about just what my kind of topic is–which my audience doesn’t yet know about–it like was way deep in the back of my brain and not something that I had, you know, kind of in the forefront. So it was a really interesting experience with you listening and like pulling out all these details from just me talking to make that through line which I’m really excited to be able to share soon by you though.

Carol Cox 

I can’t wait as well Maureen. Yeah, it was it’s been it really has been a joy to work with you and to see you being so open to the coaching process.

Maureen Werrbach

Dude, I’m probably your worst client when and when it comes to lack of vulnerability, and really wanting to dig my heels in on the but “Everyone needs the to do’s, everyone wants to know how to start their group practice how to scale their group practice, nobody cares about my story! They want to know exactly how to get where I am!” And you’ve kind of pushed on that notion over and over again. So it’s been a really fun experience.

Well, I want to say fun, but also scared I was I was gonna be like, no, it’s not that fun. But it is fun. I love coming to them. But it’s also like for someone who is not Brene Brown, who strives to be like Brene, but just is so far from her when it comes to vulnerability, it’s been like an eye opening process to really step into the vulnerability.

Carol Cox 

It’s definitely a journey and an evolution and some people are just naturally predisposed to just being more open and being more vulnerable with what they share. I’m much more like you Maureen, where it’s been an evolution and a journey for me as well over the past few years. And so like I said, I’m just glad that you’re doing that because for your audience, whether it’s the members of your group, your clients, the podcast listeners, they want both! Of course we want kind of like the practical how-to’s like Maureen, how have you been so successful in building these businesses? But then getting to know you better is also such a challenge. Because then people start seeing themselves in your story. And then they can understand Oh, look at what I can achieve, too.

Maureen Werrbach

Yeah, yeah. So I really am happy that you were able to jump in with me today. If people want to work with you, how can they work with you? Where can they find you?

Carol Cox 

Yes. So the I have a couple of ways. And well, the first thing is to listen to my podcast called Speaking Your Brand. So you’re in your podcast app right now. Just go ahead and search for Speaking Your Brand. Lots of fantastic episodes regarding public speaking and thought leadership. And then the other thing is, I do have a web page set up at speaking your brand dot com slash Maureen. So really easy on that, you can download our thought leadership workbook. That has some question prompts similar to what I gave here on the podcast. Question prompts that you can go through as well as our voice thought leadership framework. So you can download that and it will have the link to the summit and to our Thought Leader Academy, which is opening again in April.

Maureen Werrbach

Well, thank you so much for for coming on. And I look forward to seeing you, I think later on this week.

Carol Cox 

Indeed, Maureen, thank you. Yeah.

Thanks For Listening

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Meet your host


Maureen Werrbach is a psychotherapist, group practice owner and group practice coach. Learn more about her coaching services here:


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