Two Questions for Self-Reflection

Who Am I?

Who Am I with You?

These two questions are at the top of my “what-I-remember-about-graduate-school” lists. Professor Ed Tomey told us in 1989 in my Master’s program that these two questions were the backbone to our field, organizational behavior (the study of people in groups.) They seem so simple; in fact, I can easily read them again today and say to myself, “Duh, of course those are the basics of people working together and leading,” but when it comes down to it, these two short questions are neither simple nor easy.

Understanding who I am, at age 53, is no easier for me now than it was when I was an eager graduate student determined to change the world. Sure, I can attest to knowing my own flaws, my superpowers and my heart’s desire, but I still frequently step in familiar dog doo as I navigate the many personal and professional realms in which I live and work. Despite extensive self-reflection, study, coaching, and peer feedback, I am as likely to misstep in my interactions with others today via familiar behavioral guffaws or attitudinal biases as I was way back then. I have grown in my human evolution, but my rough edges and great gifts remain firmly fixed as they always have been, albeit perhaps with more well worn edges and familiar nuance.

As a consultant to leaders, teams, and businesses, I am struck by how often the interventions I lead and the questions I ask of leaders and teams in organizations come back to these two seemingly innocuous questions asked of me by Professor Tomey. They are seminal. When we answer them, we find out what solutions are available to us. We increase our partnerships and our impact. We make decisions. We show compassion. We feel empathy. We lead. We follow. We create. We innovate. We love. We discover.

Some of my most primal answers to these two questions lie somewhere in between the pragmatic dogma of business ownership and citizenship and the spiritual basis of motivation and passion. For example, when considering the questions “Who am I?” as the Founder and Principal of our firm, I come upon my own ambition, curiosity, helpfulness, and optimism. I can see, in answering this question how, and why, my professional path has unfolded the way it has, and what it means to lead today in this capacity.

And in considering, “Who am I with you?” in regards to my business partner or my staff, I come upon my gifts of optimism, the danger of my high energy, and the vulnerability inherent in depending on others. I am invited with this second question to really consider each of them, and their dreams, their wounds, and their connection to me in ways that make our partnerships more than random, but purposeful and graced.

Do some self-reflection and think about these questions.

Dig beneath the surface on the first one, and look inside at who you really are. What makes up the breadth of your life’s story and your passion? What is the gap between what people see in you from the outside and what you know about yourself in the fiber of your being? Who am I, you might ask yourself, in all of your glory and weakness and flawed perfection and dangerous brilliance? Who am I, you should ask yourself, and why do you exist here on this earth, in this job, on the planet?

And with the second question, “Who am I with you?” consider for a moment, the glorious other, that particular person with whom you are engaged at this moment: colleague, boss, or friend. What is it that they bring to this partnership that changes you, that rocks you, that inspires you, challenges you, and makes you wonder, “What could we do together?” With this powerful question we are invited to look deep into the eyes of “the other” and consider their greatness, their brokenness, their fear and their surety, and invite into our logical mind and wild abandoned soul the possibility of their power to change us, to influence us, to see us, and to help us.

Today I will take a walk in the sun with my dog, Finn, on the holiday that is Labor Day, and I will consider once again these powerful questions for myself as Business Owner, Consultant, Friend, Mother, Wife, and Daughter. I will invite in and listen to the answers, some familiar and some newly wrought, as I seek deeper knowing, about myself and the world. As the wind brushes my skin and the sky reaches far and blue and wide, I imagine I will touch the edge of all that is possible and all that is devastating about this world we live in. I believe the answers to the questions today, as they have so many days of my life, will center me and remind me of all that I am, and of all the ways the infinite people with whom I partner matter. My work, and my life will once again, find it’s purpose and it’s impetus to move and to change.

Who am I?

Who am I with you?

Ask yourself and stand wide-eyed and open to the infinite, glorious answers.

Jim Morris