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?

The problem with “identity” (Fixing it is up to you)

Do you know what the word of the year was in 2015? It was ”identity” according to Dictionary.com.

Why has identity become a hot topic today? Why was “identity” the word of the year in 2015? Chalk it up to the new individualism — a world where we’ve become keenly aware of, and more vocal about what defines us, thanks to the opportunity social media has unleashed to publicly assert yourself. (Ironically, despite its many blessings, social media has contributed to the problem by enabling people to create “identities” which may have nothing to do with who they really are.)

Why does personal identity matter? Because it fuels not simply a sense of who you believe you are, but as a result, the choices you make such as where to work, whom to call a friend (or enemy), and indeed which political candidate gets your vote.

Taken together, our identity-centric lives are coalescing into potent, new communities demarcated by beliefs, both spoken and unspoken, that increasingly influence how well society functions — or doesn’t — economically, socially and politically.

So, what’s the problem?

For all the attention this “identity trend” is receiving, it reinforces an impression that actually diminishes rather than expands upon what it means to be fully human. Indeed, the notion of “identity politics” undermines the deeper meaning of human identity.

The actual ‘problem with identity’ may be a matter of meaning. As the word of the year in 2015,identity’ suggests the timeless fact that we all long to belong. We yearn to tie ourselves to a group, a tribe, a community we can call our own. But that isn’t the deepest meaning of the word.

What I’ve learned over three decades is that your essential identity – your distinctive, value-creating characteristics – springs naturally from the core of your being – a place that is blind to classifications, transcending gender, ethnicity, religion, and every other label we adopt as a way to locate ourselves in the world. You are simply you: unique and powerful in your own right.

With this in mind, identity’s 2015 “word win” may reflect the sobering fact that it was the most used, least understood term out there.

When your definition of identity is based upon a descriptive label rather than the special contribution you’re capable of making as an individual, you short-change yourself, those you care most about, and society as a whole. Why? Because, to paraphrase a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, you leave your music inside.

How you can help fix the identity problem

It’s pretty simple. To borrow another quote from Holmes, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

Don’t let the pull of labels or social media distract you from tapping into and applying your innate identity to your life. Everyone will benefit including your co-workers, your friends, your children, your spouse or partner and, most of all, you.

At bottom, having a clear sense of identity is the key to shaping a life marked by authenticity and integrity –- knowing what to do, what not to do, and why.

Here’s one more quote to take away. It’s from British artist, illustrator and teacher, Evelyn Mary Dunbar: “We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.”

I hope you agree.

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

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.

 

 

Leaders wanted – Chameleons need not apply

Sometimes, it’s easier to not be who you are in this world. Your boss wants you to be whatever you need to be to get the job done on time and on budget. Your friends want you to be what they need you to be to fit in. Your kids want you to be the best mom or dad on earth, available when and as they need you. (They also want you to be unavailable, when they want nothing to do with you.)

So where is the “you” in your life? The authentic, self-aware person you are, or at least would like to be?

The good news: More and more companies are inviting the ‘true you’ to show up at work, in hopes of motivating you to give your all and, in turn, perhaps developing into a leader others will want to follow. Here’s an article on a new leadership model the shows I’m not making this up.

The bad news: After spending so much energy making other people happy, it can be challenging to muster the self-awareness needed to find, be, and show yourself. Getting there isn’t a function of taking an inventory of your experience, skills, or talents. It starts by answering three questions:

What do I love? What brings me joy? What brings me alive?

Embedded in your responses are clues to your potential for creating distinctive value in the world, which has everything to do with you as a leader, whether you aspire to lead a company, a family, a church, or simply yourself.

The idea of just being you in a world that tugs at you to be what it wants, can feel uncomfortable…what if people don’t like who I am? But the truth is, people are most drawn to, and most admire and respect, those who have the courage to be themselves.

So, get on with it: Answer the questions above and let me – and the world – know who you really are.

Living leadership (Lessons from the dying)

The idea that life, let alone leadership, can be informed by those who are dying, seems counter-intuitive at first. Of course, it isn’t. People who face death, especially, those who’ve lived long lives, can see things more clearly than those of us who are still running with the herd, whose perspectives may be clouded by the dust storms we encounter as we move furiously forward, every day.

The spark that led me to write my Living Leadership newsletter – the article, Top 5 Regrets of the Dying – also led me to ask myself what regret(s), if any, I would have at 90 (!!), if I chose not to do something in the here and now.

So, in the spirit of commitment (mine) and community (ours), let me share with you one thing I would regret not having done, were I to find myself, 30 years from now, reviewing my life.

i would regret not having worked more with children; not having brought my love, understanding, skills and experience with identity discovery and development into places where children (read teens and college kids) reign … youth organizations, schools, perhaps, even families.

If I can help kids learn a bit more about who they are at, say 15 or 19, then I’ve upped the odds that they’ll make better choices going forward. For me, that’s worth fighting for. Whether, years from now, I’ve touched 100 children, 100,000, or more is less important than the fact that I’ve tried. No regrets.

Is there a “regret” you just won’t tolerate when you’re looking back over your life, decades from now? Feel free to share. You’re probably not alone.

 

 

Breaking Your Identity Code

The idea of ‘retirement’ continues to lose currency with so many men and women who have better things to do than spend their days on the golf course or traveling (not there’s anything wrong with these activities).

What people do seem to want is a degree of freedom that just wasn’t possible while working full-time, or in jobs that were less than gratifying.

‘Free to be me’ — finally! — is often the unspoken mantra of people contemplating or entering retirement. The idea that, now, you can be whatever you’ve always wanted to be, or do whatever you’ve always wanted to do, occupies your thoughts and dreams.

But where does true freedom come from? Is it breaking free of external constraints, or is it breaking free from constraints we’ve unconsciously put on ourselves?

If you’re ready to ‘break free,’ start by breaking your own identity code. Please download this free resource.

What do you believe?

12. I can’t get the number out of my head. It must be the season…the 12 days of Christmas, the 12 months of the year, even being on the cusp of 2012.

We’re not just in the season of 12s; we’re also in the season of believing. In family, in friendship, in giving, in — yes, for some — even Santa Claus. So, I have chosen to offer up a little “belief” quiz.

Here you go: Continue reading