BY KEISHA JOHNSON
Are you a legend in your own eyes? Of course not, you may say. I recall tales of my husband enduring much ribbing from his siblings about this when he was a popular and decorated university athlete. I think the intention was to keep him anchored amidst all the media attention and privileges his athletic prowess attracted and promised.
In a moment of reflection recently I came face-to-face with the same question but from the vantage point of how to avoid being one.
I had enlisted the help of a very accomplished colleague to review a strategic plan for growing our brand. Without even looking at my executive summary, he began probing: “In the scheme of your vision, who are you?
Is that a rhetorical question? I volleyed.
In my mind I thought the answer was explicit. But as his silence lingered, I offered my rehearsed punch line, “I equip and empower others to thrive.” His silence still unabated, I continued, “That’s what I am passionate about and that’s the contribution I believe I was put on earth to make.”
‘That’s your doing,’ he commented.
Now here’s the deal, I admit that I have a mild case of limelight apprehensia (LLA) Yes – I just coined that phrase. My comfort zone is behind the scenes where in the hierarchy of significance, my contribution takes pre-eminence over persona. For me it is never about being visibly ‘large and in-charge’ but rather letting my work recommend me. I’ve upheld that mantra subconsciously since high school until this conversation turned it on its head.
As a starting point in this strategy session, my colleague was not interested to know the services and departments of my company. Of greater relevance was ‘what sets us apart among similar organizations’. In other words, what value and prominence do you represent in the minds of your stakeholders; especially before they engage with you? What is your credibility? In a nutshell, who are you, what’s your image?
That initial question redirected my focus from an elaborate tactical plan back to a strategic elevation for really moving the brand forward.
There could be no further downplaying that as the founder and face of the company I am intricately intertwined with the brand. That as a new outfit, the credibility of the organization comes from my personal track record. That the two at this point are inextricably linked. And that in fact the company represents me instead of me finding my identity within the company.
As we traversed the bridge of ‘discovery into awareness’ I was tempted to argue my usual defense against appearing narcissistic but instead humbled myself to this process of learning.
We proceeded with a look at the vision and dissected who I need to become to fulfill it. To answer that question we looked at some prevailing assumptions and constraints that could impact the realization and success of the business. Then we listed my competencies, scored each from 1-10 with 10 being strongest and refined that list to a top five that we then prioritized for strengthening. Having thus clarified the value I bring to the brand and the priority areas for strengthening, I could then revisit the tactical plan for integrated implementation to systematically advance the vision.
All this from a simple question of who are you?
It is rudimentary that our being is clearly different from our doing. As my grandaunt would quip, ‘school children in England know that’. One defines who you are as opposed to what you do.
Yet for so many of us we default to defining ourselves primarily by our activities and associations – I am a heath practitioner, I am a friend/mother/wife of/ student at/ I am this nationality… etc.
Not that anything is wrong with those descriptions. They provide context about us but as to giving insight into who you are, what makes you unique and defines your real significance, they are inadequate.
In that brief coaching session, my friend helped me to break a mental barrier, embrace a new paradigm and accept responsibility for defining with clarity how to not only strengthen credibility but to efficiently cast a long-term vision for building a legacy by defining my ‘being’.
So who am I? The poetic version: I am a spark igniting others to blaze a trail in their passion. The utilitarian version: I am a dream facilitator. Hello and who are you?