Four years ago, sitting through Leadership Agenda presentations at the culmination of our L3 leadership workshop in Vail, CO, I watched one participant declare himself Jeff Kincer 2.0. It might have been a forgotten moment if it wasn’t for the fact that over the next four years, Jeff has authentically lived out his transformed personality as Jeff Kincer 2.0.
You see, Jeff Kincer, a senior executive at Henny Penny, had built a reputation of being results-focused, often at the expense of how he treated his colleagues. During the workshop, he learned about a Tool called Personal Assets & Liabilities, which explains how we carry with us both the assets of our accomplishments and the liabilities of the baggage we accumulate. People all around us remember the baggage, and they pin it on our backs. However much you might have acknowledged the error of your ways and tried to change your behavior, the people around you, with elephant-like memory, never forget.
Inspired by this concept, Jeff searched for a way to shed the baggage and take a write-off of his liabilities. So he declared himself Jeff Kincer 2.0. From that day forward, he completely changed the way he treated the people around him. It wasn’t enough to change his behavior, however. He had to repeatedly reassert that he was Jeff Kincer 2.0, so that those around him could slough off their preconceived notions and therefore help him shed the baggage he carried. He had realized the power of declaring version 2.0.
Not all of us can pull off a trick like that. It takes an inner realization and acknowledgment of the effect you have on your surroundings, and an honest commitment to change. But, even when you muster up the courage to change, it is hard for people around you to accept it. That is where the public declaration of 2.0 helps.
This concept can be applied at different levels. Sometimes, you don’t intend to change your personality fundamentally; rather, you want to abandon a mantra of the past years and adopt a new one to rally your organization forward. There is an opportunity to declare yourself as Version 1.1, emphasizing that while your fundamental personality remains the same, your focus has changed. Such overt and public declarations followed by an authentic commitment to the change allows those around you to focus less on the consistency of your behavior in the past, and more on the commitment you have made to the new focus.
Reinventing yourself is not a new concept. The concept of a Second Act became popular about a decade ago, when I wrote the Food For Thought, “Is it Time to Prepare the Envelopes?” In that article, I talked about a CEO declaring himself as the “new guy” before reinventing himself as a leader. No matter what your transformation looks like, what is most important here is the declaration that you are the new guy. It is that declaration that enables all around you to allow you to shed your baggage, therefore giving you room to change.
This medicine is not suitable for all. It takes a certain kind of personality to be able to declare yourself as the new guy. And even fewer amongst us can authentically carry out the second act for any sustained period of time. But, as Jeff 2.0 found out, if you can pull it off, it can be quite effective.