I learned a lot in graduate school. I remember endless case studies, readings, and practicums. I participated in countless dialogues and discussions. Much of what I learned all those years again shaped who I am and how I practice. But there are two questions that Professor Ed Tomey offered in my first year that have always stuck with me when it comes to leadership practice and team cohesion. I find myself replaying these questions with clients in the room at least once a week:
Question #1 Who am I?
Question #2 Who am I with you?
They answers seem easy and the questions themselves basic.
But when you think about, it gets complex.
Question #1 can easily result in a simple job title or family description. Take me for example. Who am I? Moe Carrick, business owner, consultant, wife, mother. But the next layer gets so much more interesting: first time author contemplating writing book two. Former wilderness guide currently feeling a nature deficit. Busy community contributor with a desire to give back but limited time. Compassionate listener who frequently runs late.
When we think about ourselves beyond our title or role or position, we are invited to reveal the juicy bits that lie beneath the surface and result in us being more fully seen. When we notice those parts of ourselves and bring them forward, we create connection, which fuels leader/follower partnerships, team cohesion, and an openness to possibilities with another at work.
Question #2 can also easily be answered with the constellation or proximity with which we sit at work. For example, I am the boss of Mei and Ian, the partner of my clients, the teammate of a project team. And yet the layer below reveals more nuance.
I am the company owner who works to inspire and connect my employees with work that matters to them and contributions that count. I am also the leader who tries to walk her talk but often missteps and rises. I support my clients in solving their problems at the same time as I learn from them about the nature of organziational change and the complexities of human beings. I am hero and fall guy; mother and sergeant; lead and underling. I am confident and insecure; wise and brand new; listener and driver.
And what makes Question #2 profound is that it also cannot be answered without the input of the “other.” Who I am with you has a great deal to do with you, what you think, how you see me.
The deepening that comes with these two simple questions is profound. With them, we welcome courage and openness, from which connection and trust naturally grow.
Sometimes the lessons that stick with us for 30 years stay alive daily. For leaders and followers, team members and partners, employees and employers, these simple questions are a profound start to all the good stuff.