Wait till they hear you roar

Jul 07, 2023


Whilst we might reflect on apocryphal stories of shoe salespeople discovering untapped markets, the reality is that to win in the second half of 2023 we need to nurture what in LEAN terms is called our ‘unfair advantage’.

Let’s be clear, an unfair advantage is not an unethical approach to the market, nor is it something that seeks to manipulate customers. It is an approach or culture that we have within our business that creates for us a winning element that is difficult for our competitors to copy.

Patrick Lencioni in his business fable ‘Getting Naked’ writes about the unfair advantage that ‘Lighthouse consulting’ have that enabled them to win in a tough marketplace. It is this that I am referring to when I use the term ‘unfair advantage’.

How to discover your ‘unfair advantage’.

Your unfair advantage is often hidden from yourself and known only to your clients. This is because unless you are intentional about this element of your business, you just know that your clients keep buying from you.

I was recently in conversation with a client, who told me that the reason we keep working together is because I help them think clearly and achieve double digit growth, but also because of the way I go about this work. The ‘way I go about this work’ could be called my unfair advantage, which is an intentional focus on the wellbeing of my clients and their business from a human perspective. In other words, I care deeply about them, their team, and their life outside of the workplace. Working with my coach has helped me discover that this is something that is part of my human design, not something that I have learnt. But I can focus this part of my design to best effect.

To discover your unfair advantage, you need a combination of feedback from your clients, and someone from outside that relationship to help you pinpoint the ‘way you go about this work’. Edgar Schein refers to this as a ‘thoughtful process’.

How to hone your ‘unfair advantage’

If your unfair advantage is an embedded strength or gate, then how can you hone this for the benefit of yourself, your business, and your people?

Firstly, you need to raise awareness your unfair advantage to your own consciousness, and you can achieve this by taking the above approach. But once you are aware, you may want to think about the path to mastering your unfair advantage.

For example: If my unfair advantage is empathy, which helps me deeply understand the values and needs of my clients, it may also lead to a bias for rescuing people. This bias can lead to you taking on problems from your clients, or your people and denying them the opportunity to learn through experimentation.  

To hone empathy, you may wish to practice noticing when you feel the need to rescue, choosing to think of an alternative response, practicing that response, and the reflecting on that choice. But also noticing when you can use empathy to deeply understand the needs of your client for their benefit, practice calibrating this noticing with your client, and reflecting on how you approached this calibration and the implication for your client and your work together.


We can discover our unfair advantage by speaking with our clients and others within a thoughtful process. Once we understand our advantage, we can hone this through mastering our ‘art’ to create value for our client, their goal achievement, and our businesses.

The 'unfair advantage' playbook is an individual challenge and has many layers, but the thoughtful process referenced above can be extended into a powerful coaching relationship that unlocks even more of your creative value.