Identity Beacon

Illuminating Possibilities

Identity Beacon - Illuminating Possibilities

Want to lead? Make work personal

I’m not a fan of politics or politicians. It and they are slaves to party lines and desperate measures designed to ensure election or re-election. Yet here we are, getting into the thick of the presidential race, so it’s tough to avoid the climate of politics that surrounds us, today.

The good news is that the race has led me to wonder about the future of leadership, generally. What it will look like, what it will take to be a truly successful leader. Want to lead? Stay with me, here.

I let my curiosity take over and dove into a variety of resources that have been studying the future of leadership: Hay Group, The Center for Creative Leadership, Google and numerous others.

In short, what I found were a bevy of attributes, which when distilled down, sorted into five major categories: Collaboration, Individuality, Authenticity, Integrity and Communication. Consider these leadership imperatives for the future.

Taken together, they got me to see that the future of leadership is all about the personalization of work as the foundation for change. In short, it’s about humanizing relationships, honoring the individual inside the employee, tapping into the whole person (beginning with you), motivating from the inside, out.

From what I learned, I believe that the personalization of work can become the ‘new efficiency,’ driving productivity and, potentially, greater employee engagement. I like that. It flips the traditional model of assembly line efficiency on its head, by celebrating the “making” of the individual rather than the making of the product.

It’s about time.

What’s funny about change (and what isn’t)

Louis C.K is considered by some to be America’s top comic. So, when he started riffing on our obsession with the minutiae of social media technology, I decided to listen in. It was a rainy afternoon in Denver and I was sitting in my hotel room, looking for a little diversion.

Louis C.K. described how we get our noses out of joint when a text we’re sending doesn’t go through immediately. Or, how in the “old days,” when telephones came with rotary dials, we became impatient if a particular phone number had too many zeros or nines, meaning we’d have to wait as the rotor circled all the way back, before we could dial the next digit. His point wasn’t just that we’re spoiled instant gratification junkies; it’s that we’ve become change junkies: Enough is never enough. Fast needs to be faster. What’s new is not as cool as what’s next.

As I took all of this in, I looked out of my window. What met my gaze were the Rocky Mountains. They presented a stark contrast to what now seemed to be trivial, insignificant bitching about nothing — to our obsession with change.

For all our craving for change, I was struck by the contrary idea that we are our own Rockies — inviolable mountains with cores that defy change.

When it comes to change, here’s my conclusion: In the end, we love most what doesn’t change: nature, the Rockies, the essential character of the people we care about, which hopefully includes ourselves. Yet, change is inevitable. So, what’s the solution?

My advice to you is to embrace the identity paradox: the ability to change from a changeless foundation.

Every individual and organization has at their center an immutable core — an identity — that makes them who they are. If you embrace this core, you can “change” how you express yourself without upsetting the apple cart. You can remain authentic while staying relevant. This is the power of the identity paradox. 

One more thing: The next time a text takes a few extra seconds to go through, don’t sweat it. Just give thanks for the miracle you hold in your hands.

Descartes’ trap – Don’t fall into it!

The U.S. is doing it. Microsoft is doing it. Lots of people – not just nations and companies – are doing it: Falling into Descartes’ trap, and it’s taking a hell of a toll on everyone. If you don’t remember, Rene Descartes famously said, I think, therefore, I am. Five little words that set into motion one of the most prevalent and insidious identity traps ever.

Exactly what is Descartes’ trap? It’s when you unwittingly confuse the timeless nature of who you are with the changing nature of what you are.

The Obama Administration wanted to bomb Syria. Was this a rationale military strategy or a misguided, knee-jerk reaction to the idea that our country is the world’s policeman and must act accordingly? In short, if we’re not the world’s policeman, are we still America? Unwittingly, we confuse who we are with what we are – or believe we are – producing undo risk for all involved.

Microsoft is held prisoner by the unspoken belief that it’s value-creating potential is the result of is size and influence. In short: We are big, we are powerful; therefore, we are. Au contraire! Microsoft’s size and influence (what it is) are the result of how it creates value (who it is).

Individuals are also susceptible to Descartes’ trap. People confuse what they do with who they are, all the time. I am a star athlete; that’s who I am. I’m a young investment banker; that’s who I am. I’m a doctor; that’s who I am. Maybe not.

At some point, the star athlete retires, then “who” is she? Or the banker gets fired — for the second time in three years — and is at a loss for how to understand who he is in the face of recurring rejection. The label is gone, but the person remains. Now what?

Before you make life-shaping decisions about your job, career, love-life, whatever, make sure you distinguish between the temporal nature of what you are and the enduring nature of who you are. And keep in mind that who will always trump what.

Your happiness lies in the balance.

 

 

The crisis crisis

Reading about Rutgers University’s ongoing athletic department scandal, leads me to conclude that we’re into a protracted crisis season, a time when crises are showing up all over the place. The list is long. Here (along with Rutgers) are a few of my recent favorites.

The Catholic Church and its propensity for hiding sex crimes under its robes

BP and its failure to deal with the Deep Horizon explosion before the fact (and after it, for a time)

Penn State and its protection of its football program over the protection of young children

The BBC for the sexual misconduct of 81 staff — half of which still work for the broadcaster (so much for the “integrity of the source”)

The US for the Great Recession, which put us all at grave risk, leading to the destruction of wealth as well as human dignity, due to the loss of millions of jobs

You can tell a crisis from a run-of-the-mill problem, or even scandal, because, figuratively speaking, a crisis cuts into the flesh and bone of a company or person. Invariably, it makes us look into the abyss – into ourselves – to see whether we still are who we thought we were.

From where I sit, the greatest danger lurking inside a crisis is not recognizing it for what it is, which leads to a kind of crisis inside the crisis, or simply, the crisis crisis.

The crisis crisis happens when you claw your way through it by hook or by crook. You survive it, but you don’t change. And then, what? You’re doomed to repeat it. A crisis ignored, skirted, or denied is cancerous. It may recede for a time but it will be back, stronger, and more virulent than ever. That is the inevitable result of a crisis crisis.

Don’t let this happen to you. What I mean by “this” isn’t necessarily having a crisis. Sometimes, it’s inevitable, especially for people. What I am referring to is not allowing a crisis crisis to occur, whether it is in relation to your company or yourself. If a crisis hits, see it for the seminal event it is. Make the most of it, even as you work to overcome it. See it as an opportunity to learn, to change, to grow. 

 

 

New year, new you?

Ever wonder why the new year inspires so many resolutions? And why so many don’t stick? On the surface, it’s pretty funny. For instance, you see dozens of new faces at the gym starting in January, most of whom have left by the end of February. Where did they go? I’m betting home.

We love change. We hate change. We want more. We fear more. We aspire. We demure.

The new year is a call for hope. For possibility. For “maybe this time.” It’s a worthy pursuit. But, here’s the rub: Most people are trying, unconsciously, to change who they are. Bad idea. You can’t. So when you try, it often leads to let down.

Better plan: Before you exercise your outside, exercise your inside. Examine why it’s been so hard to get moving in the first place. Start with  these 3 “exercises:”

  1. Write down 2 things about yourself you love and do NOT want to change, ever!
  2. Tell someone (starting with you) how you will feel about yourself when you reach your physical target (lose 10 pounds, run 3 miles, do 25 push-ups, etc.).
  3. Let yourself off the hook. It’s OK to not want to go at the gym, sometimes. Acknowledge that feeling – most people have them – ask yourself why, then go anyway. (I’ve talked to people who’ve told me that reason they stopped going is because they didn’t like to feel bad about themselves – not because they were lazy. So, admit what you really feel and move on!)

I know you have the courage to do these things. And when you do, I know you’ll be one of the folks whose face I wind up recognizing in June, long after the “hopefuls” have lost their juice.

One more thing: Write me and tell me how it goes!

 

 

New Executive Title: CGO – Find or train one today!

This has been bugging me for a while, so I’m going to dig it up and put it out there. Opinions welcome.

Ever since “the vision thing” collided with “execution is everything,” people have failed to resolve the ‘what is more important’ tug-of-war between these two powerful forces. Here, I offer a way to resolve the debate to everyone’s potential satisfaction (or consternation). Forget business for a moment; let’s garden. Continue reading

Identity is all around us

hello,

i’m larry ackerman and my life and work revolve around identity – specifically, personal and organizational identity. i am the author of two books. the first, published in 2000 by berrett-koehler, is Identity Is Destiny: Leadership and the Roots of Value Creation. the second book was published in january by random house. the title is The Identity Code: The 8 Esssential Questions for Finding Your Purpose and Place in the World.

both books, each in its own way, explains how identity is the most powerful human force on earth. it shows up in the news every day, in small and large ways. yet we fail to “see” it. more than that, we fail to see it in ourselves. yet it is there, waiting to be tapped, waiting for us to embrace it and live through it.

what do i mean by ‘identity?” i mean the unique characteristics, which in combination with one another,reveal your potential for creating value in the world – for making a contribution that springs naturally from who you are.

over the course of the past 25 years, i have come to understand that there are natural laws – the laws of identity – that govern the lives and fortunes of individuals and organizations equally. when we live in concert with these laws, we are in a position to live with authenticity and integrity. we are in a position to achieve a level of genuine happiness that eludes most people. by “happiness” i mean that we are at peace with ourselves, among others in the world.

when we try and navigate life out of sight of our identities, we are destined to make poor decisions, well meaning, but misguided judgements, affecting everything from the careers we choose to our relationships, to the quality of our parenting.

identity really is destiny. it foreshadows potential. it is the one thing we have that makes us unique as human beings. and it is born into each of us. it is up to us to realize this fact, to discover and articulate who we are and to live a life that celebrates the power and grace identity provides.

in my book, The Identity Code, i tell stories about how identity has affected people’s lives. i invite you to tell me your story. i want to know what troubles you, what dreams you have that elude you, what problems you are facing that might be alleviated, if only you knew, in concrete terms, who are – and as important, who you are not.

if you want to know more, check out my website at theidentitycode.com.read snippets of stories, read about identity. then, let me know what’s on your mind.

thank you.

larry