Stop making labels

Published: Tuesday, August 9, 2016

How we create labels every day:

  • That marketer will never understand software development
  • That developer doesn’t do strategy
  • He doesn’t talk in meetings.  It is just his introvert nature.
  • Her skills assessment shows she has a temper.

I was very convicted when I was listening to this podcast yesterday.  I realize that I label people all the time, not intentionally, but I do it just the same.   The key that I got out of the message was that every time we place a label on someone, we restrict their ability to contribute and maximize their potential.  My exercise today is to figure out what labels I am applying.  Consciously I am going to write these down and see where I could change my communication style to open up and contribute to potential maximization.

Where labels come from

I also took the opportunity to figure out the labels others have given me.  This inventory is helping me to see where I am stifling opportunity because of the label. Here are some of the places I reflected on:

  • My family and children give me labels
    • One of those is a hard worker.  I need to be careful that label is not the primary way I am viewed.  I have used this label as a crutch in the past.
    • Sacrificial - Again while this can be good for most of the time, I shouldn’t use it as a badge of honor
  • My coworkers have provided me labels, some good, some not so good.
    • Competency minded - Several times I have had colleagues evaluate my interactions and this was a recurring theme.  I will need to be aware that competency is only one trait
    • Single Point of Failure - This is such an unnerving label.  I constantly strive to share because of this.
  • Labels I give myself
    • Unorganized - I am always trying to increase my productivity and make sure that I have all the answers beforehand.  Sometimes I spend too much energy
    • Servant Leadership - I need to make sure that I don’t mask unhealthy behaviors such as pride behind this.

How labels restrict opportunity

  • Labels provide specificity that may be unwarranted.  If someone labels you as a marketer for instance, they may only consult you when it is a marketing question.  However, your experiential skills may provide unique insights.
  • Labels are defined by the person labeling you.  People utilize labels as just a quick way to categorize according to their needs.  Again, be aware that you can label yourself and just fall into the categories.
  • Labels create bias.  For instance, we see this in politics.  Most people are not just Democrat or Republican, however, they restrict their thinking by making compromises they fundamentally don’t believe in just because of choosing a “label” party platform.

What labels do you use or see.

Additional Resources

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