Identity Beacon

Illuminating Possibilities

Identity Beacon - Illuminating Possibilities

What’s on your business card?

How do you present yourself to the world? Do you — can you — present your true self or do you present the traditional, expected “data?” — What you do, who you work for?

Here’s another approach for fashioning a personal business card that asserts your more powerful, more meaningful parts. Stay with me …

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to make a presentation to the Association of Career Professionals(ACP) here in Connecticut — a diverse group of career coaches and consultants, outplacement executives, and individuals in various states of transition. The session was entitled: My Brand, My Career: Building the Relationship of a Lifetime

While shaping one’s personal brand was the ostensible focus of the meeting, my intention was to take the crowd to a deeper place — a place that, once reached, would become the foundation of their personal brand, but also provide them a fresh perspective on how to build a life and legacy they’d be proud of. In short, their brand would become their authentic, distinctive, and sustainable center of gravity.

To get to this “deeper place,” we tackled a variety of questions ranging from who am I? and what makes me special? to where am I going?, who can I trust?, and what is my message? All of these questions, and others, were aimed at cracking the code on one’s essential identity as the starting point for shaping a truly meaningful brand.

Once you crack your code, you’re ready to get real. Put your personal brand statement on a business card — if you don’t have one, or only have a company card, have some made — you’re inviting people to get to know you faster and better. You’re inviting notable discussions, which could lead to a new job, or even a new career. (And, it’s a great conversation starter at cocktail parties!) You’re promoting what you’re really “good at” and what makes you unique. That’s what your brand needs to do.

What are you waiting for?

For the sake of humanity, join the Ubuntu party!

Politics has gotten in the way of our humanity and it’s time to change that. To borrow a phrase from the 1976 movie, Network, I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!

So, here’s my proposal: Let’s launch a new party — a decidedly unpolitical party — dedicated to celebrating the stuff that makes us who we are at our core, and that we can all get behind. Further, I propose we name that party the Ubuntu Party.

Ubuntu is a term meaning “humanity,” whose origins trace back to Southern Africa. According to Wikipedia, Ubuntu is often translated as “humanity towards others,” but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.”

One of the key markers of Ubuntuism is what is termed “extroverted communities” — the idea that there is sincere warmth with which people treat both strangers as well as members of an existing community. (Translated for today’s rabid climate, this refers to the people who don’t agree with me and the people who do).

There is an Ubuntu deficit in America today and we’re all suffering for it. There’s just too little appreciation of the fact that we are one, human community, our differences notwithstanding. This is not a political statement. I do not care which side of the political spectrum you lean into or who you voted for. I do care about how we treat one another, how we speak to and listen to one another, how we build communities that will be productive and self-sustaining.

According to a recent CBS News poll, 7 in 10 people — regardless of party affiliation — say the country is losing its identity. The article opens with these words: “We can’t even agree what it means to be an American.” That may be the case. But can’t we at least agree what it means to be human? I’d like to think so.

We’d do well to bring a little more Ubuntuism into our lives.

 

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.

It’s a VUCA world – or is it?

The term, VUCA has slipped stealthily into our lexicon over the past few years. It started out as military lingo, was then adopted by organizations to frame leadership development efforts, and now has become part of all of our lives. What does VUCA mean? Volatility. Uncertainty. Complexity. Ambiguity. Does that sound like a recipe for a headache? Well, it is.

In an article in The New York Times recently, Michael Beschloss talked about Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Gaza, Syria, Iraq and Ferguson, Missouri in one eye-opening sentence. Doing so, dramatizes the fact that VUCA is with us, in spades.

The question is, how do we navigate life in a VUCA world? Which brings me to “COSS.”Let me explain.

The way I see it, the antidote to volatility is steadiness. The remedy for uncertainty is order. The treatment for complexity is simplicity. The cure for ambiguity is clarity. Allowing for a bit of editorial license in how these words are arranged, we have COSS.

If VUCA causes headaches, then COSS is the aspirin you need to counteract its effects. Good news! This particular brand of aspirin can be found already inside us, in the fabric of our identities that make us the unique individuals, leaders, and organizations we are.  Clarity, order, simplicity and steadiness are the natural result of aligning how you live with who you are.

I’m not saying it’s easy getting to that “aspirin.” But it’s worth it. You’ll sleep better. I promise.

 

The Un-Common Core – What educators are forgetting and our kids aren’t getting

The public school system in America is undergoing an overhaul. That overhaul is called Common Core — the new curriculum structure based on “consistent academic guidelines created to help all students succeed.” Those words aren’t mine; they greet you when you go to the Common Core official website.

On the surface, it sounds reasonable to standardize, right? Consistent metrics for all. Level playing field. Better outcomes for our children, our communities and our nation.

But, I am concerned that Common Core will turn kids into robo-students, whose only aim is to meet imposed measures. Lost in the academic shuffle will be the opportunity to tap into that special ‘genius’ that resides within all individuals — and which cannot be discerned or measured through any set of standards.

Human beings — that includes kids — aren’t all the same. They aren’t “common.” They are unique beings with distinctive characteristics that define who they are and what their potential is. Children have identities, which need to be cultivated just like their ability to solve trigonometry problems, interpret literature and conduct successful science experiments.

At the center of every child is an uncommon core. If educators would ever wake up to this fact and offer personal discovery experiences, as well as academics — experiences that fostered self-awareness and, in turn, smarter decision-making — we’d be able to “measure” outcomes in terms of healthier, more well-adjusted adults, not just better test scores.

Rouhani’s identity imperative

“We must also pay attention to the issue of identity as a key driver of tension in, and beyond, the Middle East. At their core, the vicious battles in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are over the nature of those countries’ identities and their consequent roles in our region and the world.

 “The centrality of identity extends to the case of our peaceful nuclear energy program.” To us, mastering the atomic fuel cycle and generating nuclear power is as much about diversifying our energy resources as it is about who Iranians are as a nation, our demand for dignity and respect and our consequent place in the world. Without comprehending the role of identity, many issues we all face will remain unresolved.”

I read these remarks by President Rouhani of Iran and was blown away. Finally, a world figure who seemingly “gets” the power and influence of identity; who understands the need to address the question of identity head-on, and not just refer to it as some existential notion lacking in practical implications.

Will we tackle the identity question, directly? I don’t know. I’m not sure we know how to go about it. But there are ways to do it. I know that. If you know my work, so do you.

 

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.