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iTune – Identity

“So, Bernard. It’s been good to chat. Give my regards to Susan in the office. Must catch up again soon.” Brendan put down the phone to end the call from his boss and turned to his colleague Sarah. His face said it all. Sarah giggled. “Did he call you Bernard again?” she asked. “Let me guess, was it Susan or Simone, he called me this time?” Fortunately, Sarah could always bring back the smile on his face after a chat with his boss. If it was a scene from the comedy ‘The Office’, it would be funny. But it was real life and Brendan didn’t find it funny. “How hard is it to remember my name? He even asked me how my wife was doing and you’d think he would remember that we separated 3 weeks ago after he signed off my compassionate leave form last week,” said Bernard as he turned back to his computer screen. “You just feel like a nobody working here, when your bosses can’t even get your name right.”

Bernard’s experience is not uncommon, particularly when working for a larger organisation. I was having a walk with someone the other day and we were discussing the difference between their previous job with a large organisation and a smaller one and the sense that bosses higher up just didn’t really care about those lower down.

Patrick Lencioni, in his book ‘The truth about employee engagement’, outlines 3 key things that disengage staff in work and creates job misery. He said it is Anonymity, Irrelevance and Immeasurement. Anonymity is that they are unknown by their bosses. Irrelevance is that they don’t know the impact their role has on others. Immeasurement is that they don’t know how to measure when they have been successful. Therefore, the opposite of these is what will engage your team.

  • Identity – known and appreciated for who you are by your bosses

  • Influence – you know the impact your job has on people. It has purpose.

  • Impact – you know how to measure when you have been successful

This week, it is the turn of looking at the importance of ‘Identity’ to engage people.

Being known

The first stage of this is getting to know your team and letting them know that you know them. Noticing them and saying hello. It is then about finding out a little bit about them and taking time to follow it up. This can be as simple as asking them on Monday how they got on in their football match on Saturday. That way, they know they are not just a number. They have some value to you.

Known for who you are

For those of us old enough to know Sesame Street. There is a somewhat overlooked character Mr Snuffleupagus. He may have a long trunk like nose which is why he often gets mistaken for something else. He wants to be known for who he really is. Like all good Sesame Street scenes he bursts into song, declaring that he is ‘not an elephant’. What helps him is that his friend ‘Big Bird’ does know him as ‘Snuff’ and knows that he is a Snuffleupagus.

Being known and understood is not just reserved for Snuffleupaguses. To engage employees, we have to let them know that we know them. We know their name, what they stand for, what they are passionate about, who their family is, what their interests are. People want to be valued as a person and not as just a number. Of course, to get to know people, it takes a time investment. Spending time outside of meetings asking them about themselves and listening and remembering.

Known for what you can bring

Mark Twain is famed to have said, "The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why." Knowing your purpose is key for having confidence in yourself and what you bring to the world. When those that lead you recognise the purpose that you can bring to situations, when they recognise your talents and the contribution that you can make, it fuels that sense of identity and value.

This comes in 3 steps:

  1. Know the person and what their strengths are

  2. Recognise that and call it out in them

  3. Find deliberate opportunities for those strengths to be exercised

What can you do?

As you read this blog, what resonated with you? Can you remember times when people recognised you and made you feel important? Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you did, they will forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” This can work both ways. Making people feel valued lasts. So does making people feel worthless. So, having a focus on recognising the identity of people will be a key memory for them and last a lifetime.

Try some of these to help you develop this positively:

  • List your team. How many do you know their family situation, family names or pets?

  • List your team. What do you know about each person? What are they interested in or passionate about? What are their important values?

  • List the team. What strengths does each one have?

Give some of these a try. It could start to transform your relationship with them and their sense of value and engagement.

Would you like to tune in your staff and get greater engagement? We can help you in a range of ways. Maybe, you would like us to help you assess with fresh eyes what you have but what is missing? Maybe you would like some coaching to help examine this yourself? Maybe you would like training for your staff to help them find better engagement?

Everyday Leader is here to empower, inspire and equip you to do that If we can help you find a way forward, through coaching, training or consultancy. Do let us know if we can be of help to you by contacting us at


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