• This ONE
  • Posts
  • The roles we play, what do cherries have in common with humans

The roles we play, what do cherries have in common with humans

Boundary, Authority, Role, and Task: the elements of a group

This ONE by Yolanda Yu

This ONE idea and its manifestations in life and career

Happy This ONE Friday!

Some of you have done this exercise with me: a constellation work to map out team relationships. Depending on where we were, I drew them on whiteboard, paper, iPad, or enlisted things on hand, tissue, scrap paper, pens, etc. But today was special: I happened to have cherries in my bag. So I used cherries.

Those who know me won’t be surprised about the approach - if I could ask you to act as a conductor for the frogs’ symphony nearby, or to surf with a folder in an empty meeting room, is there anything we can’t leverage in our coaching session? But I was surprised when the cherries were lined up on the table.

Every cherry is unique and yet they are so… indistinguishable. The only way we could remember who’s who was by their positions and how they relate to others.

True, each of us is unique and different from the others. But we often forget that in the corporate world, we are primarily distinguished not by our personalities, but by the role we play at work.

People no longer see purely the person (“me”) at work. Nor will they see a pure version of “my role” as everyone will show up differently even when given the same role. What they see is “me in my role.”

This ONE Idea

“Me in my role” (shaded area in the picture) is determined and shaped by multiple factors:

  • “Me”: my personality and understanding of the role. How much of “me” I want to bring to the shaded area - this is a million-dollar question and where self-work is often called for.

  • What the organization has in mind for us (“My role” in the picture): purpose, task, and connection with other functions and roles

  • Organization dynamics and culture: if you happen to be at a “war zone”, more likely than not, you will be caught in a cross fire. If your organization is tense about hierarchy and never making mistakes, you might find yourself taking on such worries and gear up your work to defend against mistakes. As much as we think we have bold and independent judgment, we are much more susceptible to environmental or other people’s influence than we care to admit.

  • Informal roles: In organizational theories, systems misses its missing pieces - it nudges people to step in the informal roles it is lacking. (I am speaking as if it has consciousness. But it’s actually the other way - the group unconscious makes things happen). For example, a panic group might start to complain about a tough-love style leader being not loving enough - in fact it’s just a signal that with the looming organization change, the group craves a more “loving” figure for assurance.

  • The overall mission and task the group is set up to accomplish and deliver. Everything needs to be viewed in the context of this, in order to understand why each role is moving in a certain way.

Well, I hope the above overdose of theories helps to quench some thirst about knowledge. But my intention is not for you to become an organizational consultant. Rather, having these concepts in your pocket might help in the following aspects:

  1. Become more connected to the big picture and see how you can bring more of “me” into the picture. This includes your interests that you may not have given yourself permission for (such as the support you need, the basic respect you demand, or the work style you prefer).

  2. Understanding that “me” is not the same as “my role” or “me in my role”. This helps us to detach our ego from the work we do, to become more objective, and take things less personally (if “less seriously” is not the right word!)

  3. Awareness of the tension between “me” and “my role” may help you to make sense of the unpleasant feelings you experience sometimes. What are the factors you can’t influence, and what you can and should influence more with?

Question For You

What can you do to better shape “you in your role”?

If you are curious about constellations (an exercise to map out the interpersonal dynamics in your team or even family) or think it might help, check in with me!

Until next week,

Yolanda Yu
Coach and lifelong learner

Past issues

About this newsletter: You are receiving this email because you have engaged me as a coach or explored my service before. Please excuse me for taking the liberty of sending you the first issues. If you wish to unsubscribe from it, please reply to the email. I will remove you from the mailing list.

Every Friday, I share ONE idea and its manifestations and 1 question for you to ponder. Other ingredients you can expect will be book extracts, quotes, metaphors, tools, resources, and mini-exercises to keep growing your self-awareness.