It seemed like a simple enough of an exercise. I stood up. “Who are you!” shouted the group, in a seemingly respectful manner.
“I am a leadership development coach,” I proudly replied.
“No,” responded a gentleman from the front row, “We didn’t ask what you do, we asked who are you!”
“I’m Greg,” I said, a bit confused now.
“No, that’s your name. Who are you?” said the woman with bright red hair from the back.
“Um, I’m a 56-year old man,” I responded in an almost question-like manner, looking for some kind of indication of what they were after.
“Another woman from the back jumped in. “We didn’t ask about demographics, we asked who are you!”
The group seemed to be getting agitated with me now.
“Ah, let’s see, I’m someone who hates this exercise right now,” I joked, totally lost.
An older man stood up and approached me in front of the group. He smiled and softly said, “Yes, I can see you are uncomfortable, but who are you?”
“I’m frustrated, that’s who I am. Who are you?” I shot back.
“No, this is about you,” said a bald man in the second row. “Who are you?”
I could see that they weren’t going to let up on me. I needed to come up with a different response.
“I’m vulnerable, I’m confused. I need some guidance here,” I pleaded.
“So then who are you?” said another woman from the front row.
Okay, I thought to myself, I can figure this out. “Who do you want me to be?”
“Who are you!” shouted the group, clearly getting impatient.
I shook my head in desperation. “I am a loving, honest, and caring person…that’s who I am!”
Suddenly the room broke out in cheers and applause. Screams of “Yes!” and “Now you got it!” echoed throughout the 40+ participants. I looked up in surprise, like I had just discovered I held the winning lotto ticket.
I smiled and headed back to my seat, high-fiving everyone on my way. I glanced at the man sitting next to me and said, “Wow, that was a lot harder than I imagined.”He gave me another high-five, “Yes, but you did it! Nice job.”
So, who are you?
We think we know ourselves but do we really? Whenever I’ve done the above exercise with a group, the responses, much like in the story above, always start out with titles, roles, responsibilities, and any other external nomenclature that people can come up with to define themselves. Why is that? In my opinion it’s because many of us haven’t taken the time, nor allowed the time, to do more in-depth analysis of defining who we are, let alone being able to put that into words.
But does it really matter?
Yes, it really matters because when we allow our titles, roles, and responsibilities to define who we are, we lose ourselves in the process. Can’t you see it? I don’t know about you but I’m much more than my name-Greg Giesen, or my profession-leadership development and coaching, or my marital status-divorced. Those words may tell a little about me but they don’t define who I am.
So who am I, you ask?
I am a passionate and caring man committed to living, loving, laughing, and learning…and helping others do the same!
Yep, that’s who I am.
So who are you?