Mary Gillam


How I Realized My Story Changes Lives

by Mary Gillam

Imagine having spent almost 30 years in the military, achieved the rank of Colonel, been selected to serve as a member of the Senior Executive Service Corps with the Department of Defense at the Pentagon, and yet still being unclear as to what you want to do for the next phase of your life.

For many months, I was plagued with this dilemma.

How could I tell my boss I was extremely unhappy with my current position? The passion, drive, or motivation was no longer there for me.

After spending 30+ years working in technology, I wanted to do something that motivated me to want to get up in the morning—my passion.

Since this job was not where I envisioned myself in ten years, I took a leap of faith and decided to start my own business. My expertise was in telecommunications and information technology. I thought I could easily get several government consulting contracts and soar.

What became quickly very apparent was there are numerous veteran-owned small businesses in my local region with the same level of expertise.

Although my original business plan focused on telecommunications and information technology, I decided to rebrand my business and focus on leadership and management. However, I needed a niche market and a compelling story.

I recall one Quantum Leap session in which Steve asked if anyone had created something that could differentiate you from your peers.

The light bulb went off! I had created a proprietary leadership development model designed to help people discover their leadership gifts and talents. Yet no one really knew anything about it. The marketing campaign for this leadership training product was literally non-existent.

Once I changed its title, my book literally sold itself!

Although I had published the book The CORE Leadership Development Model, it was not generating much interest. The research was sound, and the examples were compelling, but something was missing.

It was not until I joined Quantum Leap that I realized the importance of having the right book title. During the training sessions in Philadelphia, I listened to the guest speakers discuss this topic.

I also listened to numerous interviews regarding book publication in the Quantum Leap Resources Program. In addition, I enrolled in a program to get better guidance on moving the book project forward.

After much planning and research, my quantum leap decision was to republish the book under a different title—Gifted to Lead: 4 Steps to Releasing Your Leadership Potential

This was a huge win for me because the new title was more appealing to readers and caught their eye. The four steps were, in fact, the model described in a more interesting way.

My first book title was not a winner. For example, during book signing events, people would rarely stop by my table and ask me to explain the model.

Yet with the second title, the book literally sold itself. Readers were interested in learning about the four steps that could propel their leadership potential.

Tell Your Story, Earn Your Right to Speak as an Expert

After release of the new book, I received numerous requests for interviews and speaking engagements from across the country. Before Quantum Leap, I had zero interviews. After Quantum Leap, I had 39 interviews to include radio and local television in less than 9 months.

One of the greatest lessons I learned from Quantum Leap was the importance of telling your story and earning the right to speak as an expert to your audience.

When giving my pitch, I began to incorporate the successful elements of storytelling I learned from Geoffrey Berwind and others. Immediately I began noticing a totally different response to my opening pitch. For example, I began to tell my story of having grown up in very humbling conditions, and how that experience impacted my life. My success as a leader today was inspired by a little grandmother who raised me with the value system that said, "You can be whatever you want to be as long as you put God first and treat others as you want to be treated."

This post is adapted from an essay Clint wrote as his entry in our "How I Made My Quantum Leap" contest, in which Quantum Leap members wrote about the difference the program made for them and their careers.