The pursuit and application of new knowledge about the power of human identity has inspired me for most of my adult life. It has defined my purpose: I am driven to help people to see. To see the power of some actions and the futility of others. To see their potential as prescribed by their identity. To see the importance of living their difference.
With this purpose in mind, I pioneered the field of identity-based management, a comprehensive discipline for tapping into the value-creating core of companies as the basis for long-term reward and recognition. In 2009, I was honored to receive a Malcolm Baldrige Quality Improvement Award for developing and quantifying identity-based management.
Over the course of my career, I’ve helped hundreds of organizations find their purpose and distinguish themselves in their industries. As a personal coach to executives, as well as a consultant to their organizations, I’ve assisted many leaders in discovering the keys to helping their companies not just survive, but flourish. My clients have included AARP, Alcoa, Dow Chemical, Fidelity Investments, Lockheed Martin, Maytag, National Geographic, Norsk Hydro, SKF, and State Farm Insurance.
I’ve published two groundbreaking books on identity. The first book, Identity Is Destiny: Leadership and the Roots of Value Creation, is aimed at senior executives who want to harness the uniqueness and potential of their institutions. My second book, The Identity Code: The 8 Essential Questions for Finding your Purpose and Place in the World is for individuals seeking to create more fulfilling, more meaningful lives. I’ve also authored numerous articles on identity and its impact on brand, leadership, and culture.
In many ways, I am a born teacher. I have relished my role as a guest speaker at the Yale School of Management, The Wharton School of Business, Chicago’s Booth School of Business, Pepperdine University, and UCLA’s Anderson School. I’ve also shared my experience and insights in broadcast interviews nationwide.
I received a BA in English from Carnegie-Mellon University and an MS in Communications and Industrial Management from Boston University. Additionally, I attended LifeLaunch, the initial coaching program of the Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara, and hold an Associate Coach Certification (ACC) with the International Coach Federation.
You may be wondering how I came to know what I do about identity. Where, you might ask, does my knowledge come from? What are my credentials?
My story revolves around all things visual: sight, vision, eyes, perception, seeing, discernment. Call it what you will, this is my world. When I was four years old, I underwent eye surgery to correct a muscle problem; I was born cross-eyed. Medically speaking, the operation was a success, but during that operation the course of my life was altered forever.
The first moment I am able to recall is being on the operating table, looking around at the doctors, nurses and assistants who were moving about, preparing for the procedure. The operating room was coming alive with activity. I, however, had no conception of what was going on, no earthly idea why I was there.
Lying on my back, a cold, tingly fear crept up along both sides of my body and settled firmly in my heart. I figured something must be wrong with me; after all, my parents had put me in this place of sick people. And if something was wrong with me, then I needed to be “fixed.” I needed an operation. As I saw it, my eyes were the problem. I say that because that is what my mother and father had told me; that was the reason they had brought me here: I was cross-eyed and that apparently wasn’t OK. So, I concluded, it was my eyes that had gotten me into trouble. Suddenly, I saw my life in stark, black and white terms: fix my vision, fix myself.
To this day, I can recall being tethered to the operating table, canvas straps pulled snug across my chest and pelvis. I watched in terror as the gas mask was brought to my face. My control over myself had been torn from me. In that instant, a question formed in my mind: What is so wrong with me that I must be changed from who I am? All I could figure was that my eyes were hopelessly flawed and, therefore, so was I. I sensed imminent death. Unable to breathe, part of me slipped away down a black hole — my “tunnel” to freedom and survival. As I disappeared, however, I pledged to myself that I would return. I would be back.
Since that day, I have been at work, more unconsciously than not, to restore my integrity as a complete person. A supposedly routine medical procedure had forced me to confront the question, Who am I? far sooner than I was prepared to. Reconnecting with my identity and helping others do the same has been the governing force in my life ever since.
My identity journey has been a long, sometimes trying, often joyous, always adventuresome trek. It has been worth the trip, for I know who I am; I know my purpose: I am driven by the need to help people to see. To see the power of some actions and the futility of others. To see their potential as prescribed by their identity. To see the importance of living their difference.