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How To Find Your Unique Leadership Talents

This Women's History Month, I am committed to sharing stories of women leaders who don't “fit the mold” in their industries, but because they were willing to break a barrier, they're leaving a lasting legacy. Missed the first post? Read it here: 10 Questions to Build Your Leadership Legacy.



woman Ellen Rohr
Ellen Rohr

Ellen Rohr doesn’t fit the mold. She wanted to be actress, but she married a plumber.

She had no experience in the blue collar world and her husband's plumbing business was struggling. His business partner tragically died due to stress-related health problems that were related to the business.

This forced her to quit her job and join him in the business. They were bleeding money and overwhelmed with debt - this forced her to reach out for help.

As she reached out to people “smarter than her,” she realized that their plumbing business had a profit margin problem - they weren't charging their worth. Her mentors taught her how to read financial statements and better understand pricing models, which became transformational in producing a profitable plumbing business.

While Ellen was able to turn around the business, her and her husband realized they were great spouses, but horrible business partners. So they sold their plumbing business to their employees. With a future to create, she decided to begin her own consulting firm so she could share her knowledge to help other small businesses turn around their businesses. She began sharing her knowledge through writing, speaking, and training others, which landed her placements in many popular media publications.

Sharing her knowledge gained her attention and she was offered the role of President of Benjamin Franklin plumbing. Ellen admits that she may have been the right person for the job, but she felt deep imposter syndrome. She wasn’t a plumber, she didn’t get educated in the trades. Every day she thought she would be found out.

But she went back to her old strategy of educating herself and asking questions; going on ride alongs and understanding the business. "My willingness to engage other people, not my trades skillset, is what made it happen.” Her ”education first” strategy helped grow Benjamin Franklin plumbing grow $40 million and 47 franchises in two years.

Then she was brought on at Zoom Drain in 2016 to with a plan to expand the Philadelphia-based company into a franchising powerhouse. Now the president of Zoom Drain, she led her franchises to month over month growth. The company has added 60 franchisees since 2021.

🔥 It wasn’t Ellen’s skillset in the trades that made her successful, it was leading in her genius zone of writing, connecting, learning and teaching that made her successful. Ellen's advice to other women looking into the male-dominated field, don’t what the WHAT we do scare you, come for the WHY – it’s so much more exciting.


Quote: Owning your talents helps you more clearly see the talents in others without the confidence killing effects of compare and despair.
Own our talents.

PUT THIS IDEA INTO ACTION

Like Ellen, you may find yourself feeling like a fish out of water in a new role, a new industry, or as an “only” in a male-dominated field. How can you use what Ellen models to help you leave your unique leadership legacy?

Ellen reminds us that it was her unique skills of writing, speaking, and training others on basic business skills, not her plumbing expertise, that are helping her break barriers as a woman in the trades and build a successful leadership legacy.

So, how can you figure out what that unique leadership skill is that only YOU can offer your team and your organization? Ask yourself these questions to find clues:

  1. What work makes me feel most like me?

  2. What projects felt exciting and energizing—like the work was effortless?

  3. What could I geek out about all day long?

  4. What types of projects did I long for or continually search and ask for?

  5. What do people say I have a gift for, or what help or advice do they come to me seeking?

  6. Ask others: What do I do better than anyone else you know? (Others can sometimes see this more clearly than you because your talents often feel effortless.)

Try This Next: Name your top three talent themes. In your next 1-1, share your findings with your leader. Tell them what you love to do and how that can make broader impact for the organization. If possible, make a clear ask to be put on a project that uses your best talents.


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Kelli Thompson is a women's leadership & executive coach, speaker and author who helps women advance to the rooms where decisions are made. She offers 1-1 coaching, keynote speaking, and is the founder of the Clarity & Confidence Women's Leadership program (online group training for corporate women leaders). She is the author of Closing The Confidence Gap: Boost Your Peace, Your Potential & Your Paycheck.

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