How to find your niche (I’m telling you, experience it)

Have you ever told someone what to do, only to go back later and find they did it wrong/ didn’t hear you right/ can’t remember what you said?

Well that’s hardly surprising!

We know that when you ‘tell’ people something they only retain 10% of the information. Whereas when people ‘experience’ something for themselves they retain 65% of the information (after a period of time).

So we need to stop telling?

No, a directive approach, such as telling, is useful in a crisis. But is counterproductive when it’s simply ‘your approach’ all the time. Where sustainability of quality, learning and improvement is the priority a non-directive coaching approach has been shown to work best. Indeed, the CIPD estimate that good quality coaching can improve performance by an amazing 80%.

Undoubtedly one of the early great coaches was John Whitmore, who defined coaching as a mechanism for “unlocking an (individual/ team/ organisation’s) potential to maximise performance.” Practically this is because coaching is goal orientated.

An interesting fact is that researchers have found that people who consider themselves realists almost always reach their goals, while people who consider themselves optimists reach their goals less often (although achieve far more).

The argument then is that realists need to challenge themselves to step outside their comfort zone and set more stretching goals. However, it doesn’t hold true that optimists should set more realistic goals, as they benefit from the aspirational heights that galvanise them.

In a coaching setting (which is concerned with the individual, their context, and the relationship these have to the task or goal) a key priority is asking the right question, in the right way, at the right time. This has implications for what is called the push/pull dynamic.

What does that mean?

Well, do you think it is going to be more effective to push someone up a hill? Or is it going to be more effective to pull them down the hill, letting gravity do most of the work? (ie, tell them or let them experience it for themselves).

When you start up in business the first thing you are ‘told’ is to find your niche. For if not how can you ensure effective targeted marketing.

I don’t know if you have ever tried typing ‘finding your niche’ into Google? I have. I received 5.6 million responses all telling me the same thing. Although posing some useful questions along the way:
• What areas/ sectors do you have experience in?
• What are your talents?
• What do you enjoy doing?
• What have you enjoyed doing over your lifetime that have since been forgotten?
• What do people need?
• What are they willing to pay for?


Yet, the notion of finding our niche appears to stand in contract to the great polymaths of history who drew on a wide range of expertise, knowledge and interest. To quote Leon Battista Alberti, the great 15th century humanist, artist, writer, philosopher and architect (amongst many other things) “a man can do all things if he will”.

Nevertheless, polymaths brought their vast array of interests and knowledge to bear on solving specific problems in much the same way we are likely to bring teams together to support problem solving today.

It is the interconnectedness of diverse knowledge bases and team working that is the core conundrum in the world we live in today. How do we best share and communicate our vast and ever increasing stores of knowledge? How do we create cohesive and effective teams? There are a myriad of leadership and team development theories, programmes and tools on offer, lots of which are good and useful.

I’m particularly drawn to Simon Sinek’s notion of the golden circle,
“People don’t buy what you do. People buy why you do it.”

So, in true coaching fashion, we need to find better questions to support ourselves, our teams, our businesses to find their why (see my A to Z ebooklet of Powerful Business Questions).

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If we return to our issue of finding your niche a key question to clarify your ‘why’ would be;
• ‘what is motivating you to do this?’ You may find you are motivated by challenge, or recognition, or appreciation, or the pursuit of excellence (for more information on these various aspects see my article Whose Personality Is It Anyway).

This will then offer the basis from which to question;
• ‘why this business?’,
• ‘why this activity?’

So rather than tell people to find their niche, your niche is something you uncover as you experience your journey, interests and passions.

It is not our job to narrow our areas of interest and knowledge, talents and passions. Our job is to channel them to support our needs and the needs of our client’s. This is what turns you into a great specialist.

As Bev James, author of DO IT! OR DITCH IT says,
“A generalist seeks clients, but a client seeks a specialist.”


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