The Power of SELF

August 22, 2014

What do you do when you’re not sure? Do you freeze, blurt out something, act more confident or controlling, or pause and say “I’m not sure…?” How we handle such situations are good examples of our use of self, and each of us will chose uniquely.

In professional roles, we face the need to use ourselves constantly, yet we are often not fully ready or prepared for how we can leverage our strengths and manage our blind spots successfully. This is the work for each of us and the importance of how our use of self can impact everything we do in our professional (and personal) lives. In the various roles engaged in strategic HR and Change, our use of self is very important for our effectiveness and client well-being.

We are a bundle of personality factors, characteristics, preferences, values, experiences, aspirations, motivations, and shadow sides that we call SELF. Who you are throughout your life is partly determined and partly learned. Understanding and using self is a life-long journey. Yet, there is much we can do to develop who we are, to become more masterful in the execution of our roles.

Awareness is an important first step because the more we know about ourselves, the greater range of choices we have to use or control aspects of self. We can learn a lot in various personal development programs and by using the numerous personality, style, and preference instruments on the market. However, most comes through experiences, feedback, reflection, and truth-telling to ourselves.

Consciousness is important in our professional work so we can be mindful, thoughtful, and aware of what’s going on inside and around us. Consciousness also allows us to be more intentional in purpose, in each role and situation, and therefore increase our odds of having greater desired impact. Finally, clear intentions and greater self-awareness of who we are gives us choice that we would otherwise not have. Choice among different behaviors, reactions, emotions, and self-management options instead of habitual and repetitive outcomes that are all too familiar.

There is Power in SELF through:

  • Tapping into and using our knowledge and skills wisely and appropriately
  • Leveraging our strengths
  • Managing our weaker sides and shadow aspects (really staying out of our own way!)
  • Working from a platform of greater choice
  • Awareness of self and the social systems around you allows you to see more; be more mindful

There is useful theory and practice that can be accessed to aid in the use of self journey. However, a good place to start is with Joseph Luft and Harry Ingram’s JOHARI WINDOW, which basically says we have parts of ourselves that we know and don’t know, and parts that others know and don’t know. This creates a useful 2X2 matrix.

Our goal is to expand the upper left box and reduce the other 3. This is the self-awareness journey and the journey of becoming more whole, authentic, and transparent about who you are.

Watch:Can you demonstrate your value to the organization?

There are also some core competencies we can develop, depicted in a diagram developed by Matt Auron, David Shechtman, and me (Managing Use of Self). They are SEE, KNOW, and DO. In Seeing, we take in data from the situation we are in, using all our senses, in as unbiased and unfiltered way as possible, in order to better understand what’s going on from the perspectives of all involved and without being dominated by our assumptions or projections. In Knowing, we draw on our knowledge and experiences to draw hunches (or conclusions) to establish our interpretation of the situation, again as bias free and objective as possible. What we believe we know creates the pallet from which we will make choices of what to do. In Doing, we take action based on the options we can see, the skills we have, and the courage we possess.  So, what we are able to “see” and how we make sense of it (“know”) provides the limited or expanded field of action choices we have (“do”).

Wherever you go, there you are. Or perhaps it’s better to say when you show up, who you are is always there! We have responsibility and value to be the best SELF we can be, and that takes some work.

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About The Author

David W. Jamieson, PhD, is Professor & Department Chair, Organization Learning & Development, College of Education, Leadership & Counseling at the University of St. Thomas. He is also President of the Jamieson Consulting Group, Inc. and a Distinguished Visiting Scholar in other OD programs. He has 40 years of experience consulting to organizations on leadership, change, strategy, design and human resource issues. He is a Past National President of the American Society for Training and Development (1984) and Past Chair of the Management Consultation Division and Practice Theme Committee of the Academy of Management. He was the recent recipient of The Lifetime Achievement Award from the Organization Development Network and Chairs the Organization Development Education Association. He received his Ph.D in Management from UCLA, majoring in Organization Design & Development and a BS in Business Administration from Drexel University, with a Behavioral Science minor. He is co-author of The Facilitator's Fieldbook, co-author of Consultation for Organizational Change, and one of the editors of Handbook for Strategic HR: Best Practices in Organizational Development from the OD Network. He can be reached at

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