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Stop Lying to Yourself about Who You Really Are

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Who are you?

Have you ever really answered this question?  Deeply?  Most people tend to describe what they ‘do’ rather than ‘who they are’.  So it’s no wonder that people lie to themselves about who they really are when they find it difficult to express or even discover this.  Discovering the real you – your Authentic Mode – can be extremely liberating and powerful.  I help leaders around the world do precisely this, and at the same time help them to honestly appreciate two other modes we all have:

‘Who I pretend to be’.., in control, knowing what needs to be done, understanding, compassionate, etc…  Whilst these are all quite positive mindsets or attitudes to have about oneself, if they are underpinned by some sort of pretence then they are flawed.  This is what I call our Survival Mode.  And what triggers this?

‘Who I’m afraid I am’.., not up to the task, not good enough, not loveable, etc…  I call this our Limiting Mode.  Whilst the initial temptation is to try to rid ourselves of the Survival and Limiting modes and only focus on the Authentic Self, this cannot be done.  The key is to embrace all three and make deliberate, conscious choices about who you are really being at any given moment.  Herein lies the challenge; understanding and knowing ourselves deeply enough to do this.

Take the example of a senior executive in a blue chip multi-national I’m currently coaching.  He’s about to move from a big European role to an even bigger role in Asia, and asked me to help prepare him for how to ‘land’ in his new role as best as possible.  How often do I hear this?  My question back to him was.., “Do you really know who is going to land?  Do you know who you are going to introduce to your new team?”  After a pause, he eventually understood my point.  The focus of our next session will again centre on who he is, as well as how he lands in his new role. He’s had a very challenging prior 2-3 years, so it’s very fertile territory for him to gain deeper insights.

How do you find out more about who you really are?

When I start coaching leaders I often get asked to interview their people, team, boss or peers about them; your classic 360.  Whilst this is sometimes useful, it mustn’t be the starting point for an inquiry into “Who are you?”  It’s your journey, no one else’s.  Teams will change and people move in organisations, so the starting point must be with yourself.  Feedback is useful, but must only serve to provide insights and an opening for relationship conversations.  It can’t be the only source of a person’s discovery into who they are.  After all, it’s very difficult to embrace an opinion from another if we fundamentally disagree with it, and even more difficult trying to change yourself, your behaviour or your personality based on feedback that you disagree with.

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