How our identity informs our behaviour.
Published: December 12, 2023

At the core of our individuality and the unique way that we interact with the world around us is what we call our “identity”. When it comes to the way that we behave in any given situation, our identity informs what’s important, acceptable and possible for us and, consequently, what we scan for, the meanings we make and the actions we consider and ultimately take.

Take for example, the question of control. Some of us need certainty around what’s happening to us. Some need to be seen as the one who delivers. While others put the needs of others before their own. This question of control is a recurring theme when we’re working with people who are overwhelmed by their workload.

When it comes to managing workload, one logical option is delegation. Logical it may be, but so many of us just don’t (or won’t) delegate.

If we want to help an individual embrace rather than resist delegation, the challenge is in pinpointing the element of someone’s identity that’s making delegation unimportant, unacceptable and/or impossible for them in any given situation. For us, there are two main routes into that exploration. One is via a psychometric tool (and here we prefer Lumina Spark). If, for example, they value their reputation for reliability (Discipline Drive), it’s understandable that they might feel that handing over responsibility to others is unacceptable. If, on the other hand, they are competitive (Outcome Focused), putting someone else in a position to “take the credit” may be the thing that’s unacceptable. Alternatively, if they are accommodating and/or empathetic (People Focused), saying “no” to a request or overloading others by “dumping” our own work onto them may be the thing that stops them delegating.

There are, however, facets of our identity that remain hidden from even the best psychometric tools. This is why we’re also interested in an individual’s life history. A need for certainty can result from a disrupted childhood, the need to win from growing up with highly competitive siblings and the need to put others first from having to be a carer from an early age.

Helping someone identify the reason why they won’t delegate is, of course, just the start. The next step is to try and change the relationship they have with delegation. Perhaps the recognition that their reputation for reliability is most at risk by trying to do everything themselves, that what counts in their organisation is enabling others to win or that by failing to delegate they are actively undermining the future prospects of their colleagues might do it?

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