Who am I? Simple question but it provokes a vast array of different possible answers, all of which contain the truth.
I’m currently working on a new way to support internal communicators to help you answer the question Who am I? for yourself.
I’ll share full details with you soon, but I can reveal it includes tailored support from me that’s unique and brings together the leading values profiling technology of the Minessence International Cooperative, plus my own experience and insights via All Things IC.
I’m so excited to share it with you! I’m going into learning mode over the next few months and will emerge with full information before the end of the year.
Today I have a guest post for you by Values Expert Jackie Le Fèvre, who is here with a look at the most basic of all questions, but one of the hardest to answer.
Regular readers of my blog will know I’ve featured her before including the thought-provoking article: Are the words on the wall your values?
Jackie @MagmaEffect has been a self-confessed ‘values anorak’ since 2005 and is now the lead Minessence Values Framework practitioner in the UK and chair of the Minessence International Cooperative.
Comms has a special place in Jackie’s heart having been Head of PR for The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust back in the 1990s. Today her company Magma Effect creates insight for meaning and motivation by working with values based approaches.
Jackie says that while she started out life as a zoologist working in a West African jungle with chimpanzees, things are not so different now and as everything is still a question of how the environment and circumstances in which we find ourselves affect our behaviour.
I’ll hand you over…
Who am I?
Let’s break the question down by its constituent words using the Chambers Dictionary of English.
- ‘Who’ means: what person or people
- ‘Am’ means: 1st person singular of the verb to be
- ‘I’ means: normative singular of the first personal pronoun – the word used in mentioning oneself.
So this question is asking about the human ‘being’ I see myself as.
How often do we respond to this question with a string of different identities or titles? I could reply ‘Director of Magma Effect’ or ‘values specialist’, ‘mother’ or ‘daughter’ or ‘sister’, ‘admirer of Rachel Miller’ or ‘advocate of effective communication’ while all of this is true it is far from a complete answer and actually tells you very little about who I am. (Thank you Jackie – Rachel)
Psychology often describes the sense of self as:
“the way a person thinks about and views their traits, beliefs and purpose in the world.”
This is a dynamic sense which is open to reformation through new experiences and the acquisition of additional knowledge. For example once I would have said I was an impatient person. Since having two children and starting my own business I faced a stark choice: learn patience or risk exploding in frustration. I chose the former.
So one way of thinking about myself is as the product of a succession of choices. Choice requires us to select between two or more options by considering their relative worth: in other words, what do we truly value?
Finding our way
Researchers Grunert and Askegaard say that “values are commonly regarded as the point of intersection between the individual and the society because they help to know and understand the interpersonal world and guide the individual’s adaptation to the surrounding condition” ….. a bit wordy perhaps but essentially they are saying that we are all in the process of finding our way.
The world is a large and complex thing to navigate. We need a compass to steer us from here to there.
Our values are that internal framework by which we evaluate a given course of action, response or decision for how much ‘like’ us or ‘not like’ us it feels. If something feels utterly ‘unlike’ us we will walk away even if that is not what everyone else is expecting.
We reject choices that we feel dishonour our sense of self. Irrespective of your view on Brexit, witness the resignation of Justice Minister Dr Phillip Lee in mid-June. He said “If, in the future I am to look my children in the eye and honestly say that I did my best for them I cannot, in all good conscience, support how our country’s exit from the EU looks set to be delivered” and so he left.
Think back. Have you ever walked away because you just couldn’t bring yourself to agree to, to comply with, or defend something that just felt wrong? That was a values conflict.
In their usual state, values sit in our unconscious. They provide us with little nudges and reinforce our gut feelings to keep us moving. Imagine then how much more powerful our values can be when we bring them up into our conscious mind and act on them deliberately.
I was invited to speak at the annual conference of a local authority up here in the North West of England. Now I love speaking largely down to a big ‘transformative communication’ value in my profile. I wanted to say ‘Yes’ but I said ‘No’ – initially. I also have a high priority value of ‘Personal Authority/Integrity’ which basically means I don’t open my mouth unless I both know about and believe what I am about to say.
The organisers wanted me to speak on the topic of “The Modernisation of the Voluntary and Community Sector.” To me that title both implied that ‘modernisation’ was per se a good thing and also that it was necessary. As I disagreed on both counts it would have been disingenuous to have accepted the invitation.
Instead I said to Tim, who had phoned to invite me (and sounded sad that I said No), “can you go back to whoever asked you to phone and ask them what is most important? Is it most important to have that topic (in which case you need to find someone else) or most important to have me?”
So he did. The reply was “get Jackie as she’s quite funny”. I chose to speak about “Modern Challenges facing the Voluntary and Community Sector.” Everyone was happy.
Without a conscious connection with my values, I would have struggled with this. I would either have ended up turning it down and regretted passing up the opportunity to speak or I would have gone along and tried to bend the topic and felt like a bit of a fraud while doing it.
Instead I honoured my values, knew where the tension lay and so was able to resolve it in the end I still got to out to play: win-win-win.
So who am I?
So who am I? I am a person who believes utterly that each and every human being has something remarkable and unique about them. I am a person who lives their life consciously guided by their values: while this does not mean that everything is perfect it does mean I can be kind to myself when I get it wrong and I lose very little time to second guessing my decisions as I know why I make the choices I do.
All internal comms people occupy, in my view, a simultaneously privileged and unenviable position. Charged with being the conduit for meaningful information to build connection between individuals and the employer as an entity, there are many identities to be managed.
I suggest that a deeper awareness of personal values can be instrumental in enabling any of us to be experienced as more authentic and coherent by others.
I’ll go further: I feel for those special folk, who stand at the centre of the organisation and try to bridge that beating heart with the hearts (and minds) of the humans upon whom progress depends, that to know ‘who’ you are in the middle of all that is a major strength.
Clarity about what you stand for and therefore, will not stand for, combined with the vocabulary to explain those positions makes for a comms pro who can be experienced as congruent and honest, therefore trustworthy.
Let’s face it – how far can we get if folk don’t trust us?
Post author: Jackie Le Fevre.
Thank you so much Jackie, I found myself vigorously agreeing with you while reading through this article.
Having clarity on my personal values has enabled me to transform the way my business helps internal communicators succeed over the past 18 months. I link values to personal branding, in my mind they are inseparable as your personal brand – who you are and what you’re know for, plus your reputation and promise as an individual.
Further reading on the All Things IC blog
- Why Missguided launched cultural vibes as values
- Are the words on your walls your values?
- Three things to know from the annual Institute of Internal Communication conference
- How to prepare for World Values Day
- How to put values at the heart of your organisation
- How a company is Star Trekking its values
- Why organisations need to live their values
- Why purpose is the engine of performance.
- A beginner’s guide to personal branding.
Thank you for stopping by,
What to read this Summer:
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First publishe don the All Things IC blog 24 July 2018.