Yesterday I wrote about what I see as the distinctions between how we relate to, and identify with, our change, based on the interplay between our external and internal connections to that change. Today, I present you with an example that demonstrates this interplay, and how a disconnect between how we relate and how we identify can occur.
Congratulations on your promotion!
Meet Ruth, who was recently promoted to department manager. Before her promotion, Ruth was one of 50 people within her department.
She worked hard to learn all aspects of her job, and frequently filled-in for others when they left on vacation, medical leave, and such, and was considered by both her peers and her boss to be the ‘go-to’ person when any questions or challenges came up.
Ruth was proud of this informal title and her reputation as a knowledgeable problem-solver, and was excited to put her experiences to work in a managerial capacity, as well as to incorporate some ideas that she had for the department.
After some time, however, Ruth felt as though she was failing miserably in her new role. Her relationship with her peers was strained, as they became increasingly frustrated by what they believed was ineffective leadership. Despite her interest in implementing some changes, Ruth found those interests took a back seat to urgent issues that seemed to occur daily and require her immediate attention.
Ruth didn’t feel she fit in with the other departmental managers, and it seemed they still treated her as a subordinate despite her having the same level of title. Worst of all, Ruth felt she had no one to talk to about her struggles for fear that her staff or her peers or boss would consider her weak and incapable.
What went wrong?
There are several issues at play here, which I will break-down in terms of how Ruth relates and identifies to her change in role/title:
Perception is reality.
Ruth identifies strongly with her previous role, especially her informal reputation as a go-to person within the department. This has created a perception that people rely on her to know how to resolve challenges and answer difficult questions, which has resulted in her creating a perceived image of herself as problem-solver who usually has all of the answers.
Whether intentional or not, our beliefs about reputation and image can have a strong pull on our behaviors, as we typically want to protect them (at least when they are good).
Living in the past.
Ruth relates to her change as something good and what she wants, both because her experiences suggest that moving up the ladder is desirable and expected, and because she is interested in the prestige and increase in pay that comes along with her promotion.
But title alone doesn’t make the leader, and Ruth’s identity remains with her former position and role as ‘go-to’ person within the department.
Ruth hasn’t made the shift in how she identifies with her new role, and so she continues thinking of herself as the Ruth from the past. Because of this, she hasn’t lead as much as she has continued to strengthen her outdated reputation as problem-solver and go-to person. She hasn’t fully stepped into her role as leader, because she doesn’t yet believe she is one.
There is no in-between.
Ruth’s relationships with her employees were strained because they considered her their boss, yet she continued to identify herself as their peer, at least as far as her behaviors were concerned.
Ruth’s new colleagues considered her a subordinate because she continued to behave as one. A gap exists between Ruth’s external and internal connection to her change. Her external connection is strained because she hasn’t adjusted internally. She doesn’t yet identify with her change, even though she relates to it.
The great wall of beliefs.
Ruth feels isolated because she doesn’t believe she can talk to her subordinates, colleagues or boss about her struggles.
She holds the internal belief, driven by perceptions based on her relationship to her external environment that she would be considered weak to share her difficulties with others, rather than to resolve her challenges on her own.
Because of these perceptions and beliefs, Ruth shows up as someone who knows what she’s doing even though she’s at a loss of how to adjust her current situation. As a result, she feels she is failing, which increases her stress and anxiety levels, and inhibits her ability to think clearly to identify a path forward.
Conscious vs. unconscious feedback loops.
Ruth's is but one example of the interplay between our external connection through relating, and our internal connection through identifying to our change, and how experiences create perceptions and beliefs that then drive behavior.
This is a continuous feedback loop that is, for the most part, unconscious. We see, we perceive, we believe, we act, without putting a whole lot of thought as to why. But what if we became more aware of this relationship between how we relate and how we identify with our change?
In the coming posts we’ll explore certain characteristics I have noticed that exemplify the differences between relating to and identifying with our change, how we have more choice in the matter than we might think, and how we can bring greater balance between the two.
Tomorrow we'll explore a different kind of interplay, this time led by a belief about change, and how it can effect our behavior.
Is Ruth's situation familiar? Share your experiences!
In the mean time, have you ever observed or experienced a disconnect like Ruth's? How did it show up? If it was resolved, how? Share your thoughts and let's start the conversation!
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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