You are the Most Valuable Instrument of Change
Hello friends and greetings from Tehran,
From this post, we are starting a series around the concept of self as an instrument of change. In the following three to four articles, I will focus on the meaning of self as an instrument of change, the definition of self from a sociological point of view, and how to develop self as an instrument of change.
Think about this question:
How does your social role, position, self-definition, your history, personal strengths and weaknesses, and you as a self impact the change process?
Whether you are a leader or change-maker or someone who wants to improve somethings in their environment.
In this Post:
What is Self as Instrument of Change?
Why is Self as Instrument Important?
What is Self as Instrument of Change?
I'm working with a business owner that is in the process of changing the direction of his business. He is in his 60s and experienced some heart disease issues. He is in an urge to do the required changes and lift the pressure from himself. The feeling of urgency puts him in a situation where he makes quick decisions, involves many people for work, and changes organizational structure quickly. The result is that people working with him are confused and can't focus. He asked me to coach his managers, but I realized he needed as much coaching as his team after a quick interview with the team. When we talked about the situation and requirements, we identified that he needed more focus and control. The change he wanted to see was derived from his emotions. In this journey, he had to take advantage of all his strengths. Metaphorically he had to become the fountain for the entire of his business. He was the most important instrument of change he had.
Self as an instrument is a core competency and a known term for organizational development practitioners. Beyond the OD profession, there are several situations we have to work along with people for a shared goal or change something, and we have ourselves as the instrument of change.
We have our assumptions, values, world view, mindset, and history. The way we perceive life and situations shapes how we interact with others. The way we interact defines the result we get in a system and change process.
As Mee Yan Cheung define:
"To be 'aware of' and 'use' our own emotional, perceptual and cognitive processes to create the impact that is needed in the system and bring our whole selves to the work we do."
Mee Yan Cheung-Judge, (2001, 2012, 2018)1
It is about bringing our whole self to the work we do. Jamieson, Auron, and Schechtman define the concept in more detail:
"Use of self is the conscious use of one's whole being in the intentional execution of one's roles for effectiveness in whatever the current situation is presenting. The purpose is to be able to execute a role effectively, for others and the system they're in, without personal interference (e.g., bias, blindness, avoidance, and agendas) … to have clear intentions and choice."
Jamieson, Auron and Shechtman (2010)2
In the above definition, there are words we have to pay attention to:
Intentions and choices
To understand the definition of self as an instrument of change, we need to consider the concept of one's role (as mentioned in the above description) in a context or social structure. Self as an instrument of change is meaningful when we take a role (or multiple roles) to operate.
In the business owner's case, we discussed his role and intention as the owner. We tried to check how he interpreted situations. We review his role as a CEO and the expectations he and others have from the position. It was an act of looking again at the current condition because understanding the expectations from one's role is one of the most critical aspects of performance.
There are always expectations from the role to be fully operational to get the desired result. For example, being a father, mother, manager, technical leader, doctor, nurse, and even an artist are the roles and positions defined in society. There are expectations from each role, and to fully perform the role, we have to bring our whole self to the position we are holding.
The social structure itself is the result of the relationships between role holders. Imagine a family as a social structure. The family is the result of relationships between family members who have different roles. Relationships in such a social structure create social patterns. The behaviors, understanding of events, and interpreting things varies from one family to another. Every individual in the family has their own worldview. While they interpret moments and events from their own worldview, at the same time, their understanding is influenced by the role they have and behavior patterns in the family.
The point is that when we talk about self as an instrument of change, we have to consider the role we have. Our perceptions and choices in a context are affected by the role we have. At the same time, with our perceptions, we are redefining the meaning of the role. For example, in an organization, two different CEOs can achieve different results because of their personality and how they impact the organization's social structure. The meaning of being a CEO has two different definitions in terms of each of them.
Thompson and Mattare (2004) define self as an instrument as follow:
"The simplest way we know to talk about Use of Self is to link the concepts of self-awareness, perceptions, choices and actions as the fundamental building blocks of our capacities to be effective agents of the change. Hopefully to make a better world and to develop our own potential for doing so to the fullest in the processes."
Seashore, Shawver, Thompson and Mattare (2004)
I conclude all these definitions into these topics:
As change-maker, we need to understand ourselves. It's not a one-time event; it's a lifelong journey. It's necessary to have a better understanding of self and its components. We need to see ourselves from different aspects.
We actively need to understand roles and positions in a social structure; we need to understand the role we perform and the expectations. Part of our identity is defined by the role we have and the society we are in.
To make positive changes, we need to understand social structures and behavior patterns among people.
Why is Use of Self Important?
Self as an instrument is essential because of our role as a helper, consultant, or practitioner. We bring our worldview, values, assumptions, and mindset to the change process.
The change process is the involvement of different people working on a shared goal. The helper's (practitioner, facilitator) worldview and assumptions are the sources of questions they raise and the source of reflections and conversations they bring to the group.
It's important to consider that the way we see ourselves has a profound effect on working with groups. It means we need a life-long learning journey in working with groups as a practitioner.
Just like a professional drama actor:
They can develop a third eye after years of practicing. They can see themselves from a third-person point of view. It helps them understand and become aware of their figures, dialogues, and movements on the stage. It's their journey to become the best of themselves. They own themselves while they have roles on the scene.
devoting time and energy to learning about who we are, and how issues of family history, gender, race, and sexuality affect self-perception. It means also identifying and exploring the values by which we live our lives, as well as developing our intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual capacities. Owning instrumentality can also be understood in terms of Cooperrider's (2000) concept of identifying the "positive core" within and using it to achieve one's dreams. "Putting first things first".
Mee Yan Cheung-Judge, (2001, 2012, 2018)
In the next articles, we will discuss:
Understanding self: self as object and self as process and the emerging self
Self-identity and self-concept in the context of society
Developing self as an instrument of change
Listen to this piece from Kayhan Kalhor & Broklyn Rider: Beloved, don't Let Me Be Discouraged