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Identity: Understanding Who You Are

In my previous post, I introduced the three main elements that underlie our approach at Higher Up Consulting: Identity – Alignment – Purpose. This post will address Identity in greater detail by elaborating on what it means specifically for individuals, why it is important, and what you can do about it. There will be a follow up post that addresses Identity as it relates to teams and organizations.

Identity generally refers to perceptions and beliefs that you and others have about you. Our consulting work often addresses Identity through enhanced self awareness, acknowledges the influence others’ perceptions/beliefs can have on you, and the impact of your actions on others. These topics are addressed in more detail below:

  • Self awareness: Understanding of the needs, strengths, traits, emotions, values and preferences that drive our behavior.

  • Impact of our actions on others: Our personalities and preferences often influence how we interact with others. We often assume others respond to situations the same way we do or have the same relationship/informational needs that we do. This can cause problems in relationships where individuals do not understand differences in needs. Leaders may micromanage individuals who need autonomy or publicly recognize employees who do not like the spotlight.

  • Other’s perceptions/beliefs: The perceptions/beliefs of others about you can influence your behavior; think self-fulfilling prophecies here. It is important to keep this in mind as you try to make changes in your life. Most people will engage you as if you are the same person you have always been. That is why it is important to inform them, and in some cases enlist their support, during your development journey.

Here are three key benefits of understanding your Identity:

  • Leadership: Self aware leaders are better at building commitment and maximizing performance within their teams/organizations. In short, they tend to get better results.

  • Understand strengths/weaknesses: Having a good understanding of your strengths and weaknesses helps to identify training/development needs and support individuals in making better career choices.

  • Motivation: Related to the previous benefit, having strong self awareness will help you better choose motivating activities and/or careers that leverage your strengths and interests. The reverse is also true. Self awareness may help you avoid situations that do not match up with your strengths and interests, thereby reducing stress.

What can you do to improve and leverage Identity?

  • Solicit feedback: The first step to soliciting feedback is being open to both positive and negative feedback. Feedback is easily solicited from individuals and small groups through dialogue. Surveys are useful when confidentiality is a concern or you are seeking feedback from multiple stakeholders and it would be difficult to speak to them directly (e.g., 360 surveys).

  • Assessments: Assessments are available to address many topics such as strengths, personality, interests, preferences, etc. The important thing is to use an assessment that can accurately support your objectives. For example, personality assessments can be used for many things (e.g., leadership development, career planning, etc.) while a career interest assessment would focus on career planning.

  • Reflection: Take time to reflect on past achievements. What was your unique contribution to the success? What aspects of it did you enjoy most or were most meaningful to you? Why?

  • Gap analysis: Explore the difference between your current capabilities and those needed to achieve a current or future goal. This helps you take ownership of training/development on a personal or professional level. Professionally, this can help you enlist support from your leader(s). Leaders are more likely to support development if you are able to communicate your specific training needs and how they may contribute to the team’s success.

  • Enlist Help: There are numerous professionals such as myself, who can help you along the journey to better understanding yourself and applying your best to what you do.

Look forward to our next installment about Identity for teams and organizations.

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