Article: Identity-based approach to people development: A Leader's Roadmap

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Identity-based approach to people development: A Leader's Roadmap

Find out how individual identity and social identity theories in psychology can help articulate different workplace personas, enhance learning, and improve performance.
Identity-based approach to people development: A Leader's Roadmap

Leaders and managers are pivotal in creating a positive and productive work environment, driving change, and shaping the company culture. Today, more than ever, it has become crucial for leaders and managers to adapt to the new norms, stay ahead of the curve, and be the driving force behind organisational success. Retraining leaders to become more self-aware and conscious of their peers has taken renewed urgency as we step into a new work paradigm that forces companies to become learning organisations.

Watch the complete conversation below:

In an exclusive webinar with Brainayan and People Matters, leading learning leaders came together to decode how individual identity and social identity theories in psychology build different workplace personas, enhance learning, and improve performance. The conversation featured Nitin More, Founder at Brainayan, Surya Prakash Mohapatra, Global Head, Talent Transformation & L&D, Wipro, and Sachin Gaur, Global Head, Learning & Development, Dr Reddy's Laboratories.

The pace of change 

In a quickly changing business environment, there is no way to know with certainty what the future holds. Nitin explains that in such a state of uncertainty, self-categorisation helps improve safety and confidence, which makes organisations more resilient. Building learning organisations that are nimble and quick-footed is the biggest challenge facing leaders and managers today. 

Sachin further elucidates that time availability is shrinking with decreasing attention spans and evolving business cycles. The cognitive load from continually context switching is more evident than ever at the managerial level. Furthermore, there needs to be more discussion about the expectations from people in the new workplace and the consequences of failure.

Identity-based approach to people management and development

Leaders can effectively alter their communication, delegation, recognition, and coaching by focusing on people's identities, dreams, aspirations, insecurities, fears, and behaviours to ensure maximum impact. But first, “leaders must learn about their identity, discover leadership style and find out how they work with others,” Nitin said. Furthermore, it is vital to recognise that just like individual identities, teams and organisations also have distinct identities that feed off each other.

“Leadership development models tend to be horizontal and usually begin by identifying a skills gap and providing relevant training programs. An identity-based approach makes this process vertical and begins by increasing self-awareness and understanding the unique personalities of different people,” noted Surya.

But how does it work in the real world? For instance, say a manager struggles to delegate tasks to team members. Through an identity-based approach, the manager can identify which team members demand autonomy and which ones value discipline or supervision. This knowledge can help them customise the delegation of tasks for better management and efficiency. Interestingly, this approach isn't entirely new and has been around for about four decades. Leaders have been implementing it, consciously or unconsciously, through formal or informal processes for several years.

WhoPoShoRo Model of People Management

Brainayan’s WhoPoShoRo Model of People Management accounts for people's identities, how they interact and how leaders can understand them better. Knowing the core identity traits of people, learning about their values, and acknowledging their different backgrounds can help leaders build professional relationships, communicate effectively, and solve conflicts. Through this model, leaders can access and activate the different actionable insights about their team members and apply them during day-to-day tasks, such as delegation, one-on-one, training, feedback, and coaching. The four pillars of the model are based on the four different sources of identities:

  1. Whole (Who): This refers to the identity of the entire organisation, both in the business ecosystem and within the company. This aspect helps leaders understand the factors creating this identity and explore how it contributes to individual identity.
  2. Poll (Po): This helps the leader understand their role in the team, increase self-awareness and identify their ability to do things differently. By learning about their leadership role, scope, and function, leaders can find better ways to manage team members.
  3. Shoal (Sho): This is the team-based identity that helps leaders understand the importance of their team and how it is viewed in the organisation. This pillar allows leaders to recognise the team's strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.
  4. Role (Ro): The final pillar of the model is the role-based identity of the individual, which encompasses their position, goals, duties, and KPIs. Understanding this aspect can be crucial for leaders to apply the right tools for better people management.

Through the WhoPoShoRo Model of People Management, leaders become aware of these different sources of identity, learn how to pay attention to them consciously, and discover how to apply this knowledge while managing team members. Brainayan has also created an accompanying application, 'MApp' or Manager Awesomeness App, which includes tools to help managers lead people effectively. You can explore the MApp here.

Measuring the impact and effectiveness

“Tracking effectiveness and measuring results in an identity-based approach requires analysing certain behaviours and observing how they influence specific outcomes,” Nitin explains.

Measuring these success metrics and correlating them to accurate indicators can be challenging as there is no way to track every action a leader takes when managing people. But indicators like the NPS score, attrition, and engagement score can be correlated to the outcome of distinct behaviours. There is also a need to make tracking more creative to help leaders ascertain whether certain interventions are generating the desired results.

“When it comes to people management, there is usually little need to wait for data collection and analysis to end,” Surya noted. If people are unhappy, the leader probably knows this already. Similarly, if the attrition is high, people in the company will realise it as they will see their colleagues exiting regularly. Using metrics to define outcomes is essential, but we must also strive to build a company culture that thrives irrespective of differences and a workplace where everyone takes pride in their different identities, backgrounds, and cultures.

At the heart of what drives any organisation is genuine human connection, and to create this, it is essential to understand who you are, who your team members are, and who you are collectively. Through an identity-based approach to people management, our communication, interactions, and processes come from the point of view of our shared human values, subverting the power or position-based dynamic we have grown accustomed to. When we acknowledge our differences and question fundamental beliefs about people, we develop trust, build psychological safety, and create a supportive environment in our teams and organisations.

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Topics: Learning & Development, Talent Management

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