rebirth of a super hero?

adrian ashton
5 min readNov 19, 2016

3 years ago, I decided to try an experiment. As part of my overall approach to my personal CPD, I asked a selection of contacts what they thought my superpower was. Not because I wanted to be Batman (well, OK, I do — but who doesn’t?), but because I’m genuinely interested in how I’m perceived professionally. And that’s not for the sake of vanity but better understanding my ‘personal brand’, and what makes be special in an already crowded marketplace of advisers, consultants, and trainers.

3 years on, and I thought it was time to repeat the experiment — but this time with a twist. Not only did I ask people what they thought my superpower was (that thing which I can do better than anyone else, or makes me the first person people want to call in certain situations), but also what my ‘kryptonite’ is. What are the things which I’m powerless in the face of or which can seem to paralyse me. Some may see asking such a question as foolishness, but as part of my CPD I need to know what things really are beyond my reach, and what things I should invest in myself around.

So — 3 years on, and are my powers changed(necessitating a new costume perhaps?) or have a remained a constant ‘professional’?

As before, I’ve collated and anonymised people’s responses below, but the headlines seem to be:


- being a ‘babel fish’: able to translate complex ideas and technical jargon into simple to understand terms and concepts

- acting as a ‘human google’: having a breadth and depth of knowledge on a range of subjects (but it seems that none of them ever relate to the topics in pub quizzes)

- clearly living out personal and professional values that people admire

- having high ethical and professional standards, but also being able to be pragmatic

- I also liked the response of one particular person: “you’re bloody awesome”!


- sometimes not making myself vulnerable with others (which could limit opportunities to build trust and deeper relationships)

- occasional risk of over-egging written documents (something I’m going to try and work on by tightening up my written prose in future!)

- nerves (although I tend to manage them well by doing things like dancing on tables when giving key note addresses…)

So — what do the rest of you think: are these a fair summation or are there things that I should be more aware of about myself? After all, it’s only through being honest about who we are (the good and the not-so-good) that we can offer the best service and support, and ultimately do our bit to bringing about a slightly shinier, flufflier world for everyone to enjoy.

All responses -

1) Clued up with the sector, seeks out collaborative approaches — toned down networking approach in informal settings, best to use in warm lead situations — Self-aware, genuine and positive attitude, which comes across.

It’s apparent to me that you have worked incredibly hard to put your worldview/philosophy out into the soc ent world. I have an understanding that you have areas of knowledge and specialism that are in high demand e.g., intellectual property, and that you are incredibly giving to folk who ask (there must be limits of course). You are a straight talker.

2) Help people find answers for themselves, rather than doing it for them. Regularly reflect on your work, and that of others to learn and improve. Not setting yourself as ‘the expert that knows it all’.

Your super power is your ability to take the complex process of setting up a business and to explain and break it down for people in an accessible way. You don’t use jargon, you meet people where they are at and you are incredibly approachable and generous with your time & expertise. People leave meeting you reassured about their next steps.

3) I’d say your super power is a hard one to put into words but a your wide breath of knowledge and ability to communicate it effectively to the audience at any chosen time with effective tools and examples. When I talk with you I see more things clearly and am able to absorb what you are saying without any barriers, understanding comes about naturally. I think this comes from many different skills that you have as an individual to long to list here.

Kryptonite — I struggle to think of something. Perhaps having only seen you do one or two workshops. But I’d say perhaps vulnerability…just a random one as nothing particularly stands out. An ability to trust in those you are communicating with deeper things about you.

I would say as someone who is the font of knowledge and often the one in the know it would be good to know more deeply who you are and be able to connect with that on a more personal than just professional level. But you’re bloody awesome and don’t go changing.

4) Superpower? I don’t think there’s a single factor, more a combination of things. You are someone I feel I can work with — I put this down to the way you combine high ethical and professional standards with a pragmatic view of the work itself. Your own social impact reporting, CPD and overall commitment to the job is impressive and inspires trust. At the same time you recognise we’re not in an ideal world, and can adapt to meet its imperfections and those of clients in order to get the best result.

I’ve also appreciated the fresh thinking and ideas you bring to our work.

Kryptonite? I don’t think so. I can’t think of any situation where you would flounder or panic. If you’re looking for improvement ideas, the only thing I might suggest — and it’s very minor — is written drafting. I have to confess that I’ve found a few of your drafts a bit wordy. I say this knowing I’m influenced by a one-day Plain English course I did several years ago. May be worth looking at if you’ve not already done so? Or google ‘Gunning Fog Index’ if you’re not familiar with it.

As I say this is a very minor point, and overall I’ve greatly appreciated working with you — mainly because we think in the same way and almost always come to the same conclusions independently. Thank you for what has been, and I’m sure will continue to be, an enjoyable experience

5) Knows everything yet keeps it simple. You don’t over complicate things to make yourself look clever but the knowledge and willingness to help is outstanding. Sorry, no negatives.

6) Superpower: super enthusiasm! I have previously called upon you because you are super reliable, jolly, you use your imagination and creativity to come up with ideas to inspire and develop the knowledge of others. You’re also really well informed and I see you as an expert on co-ops.

Kryptonite: Hmm not sure what that is. But I remember you saying you were a little nervous at a high profile event ahead of the sessions and debate. Though you did also stand on a table — to calm your nerves..?!