Who Are You?

Who would have known that three, three-letter words could be so powerful and so life-changing?


10 years ago, I was working as an HR Director in London, commuting daily from my hometown of Peterborough and with plans to keep progressing in my HR career with the dream of being a Global HR Director by the time my sons finished their A levels so that I had more freedom to travel with my role and develop teams all over the world.


I was already coaching some of the senior managers in the business having completed a number of training skills workshops when I began my Executive Coaching qualification, and this was the first time I was asked repeatedly the three little words of ‘who are you?’. This was our introduction to everyone in the room during the first day of our coaching programme.


We asked each other this question, in pairs for 15 minutes, and then we swapped partners and we kept swapping until we’d each spoken to one another and asked these three little words. We weren’t allowed to repeat anything we had already said to someone else, and we were only allowed to ask, ‘who are you?’ no other questions could be asked.


It’s incredible the depths that this question can take us to when we go past the superficial parts of our name, our job title and whether we are married, single, parents or not and it’s the question that changed the course of my career forever. During this first day of my Executive Coaching qualification, I heard myself say ‘I want to start my own coaching consultancy’.


What? Where had this come from? This wasn’t part of the plan. And yet here I am, with my own company. I’ve been my own boss now since January 2014, I have a growing team, a recognised brand, and I work with people I love on a daily basis. Without being asked these three little words would I be where I am today, or would I be a Global HRD travelling the world and working for someone else?


Don’t get me wrong, I loved my HR career. I went into the HR sector because of my passion and drive to change the world of work for the better. I wanted to stop the Monday to Friday dying syndrome that so many of my friends and family were living on a weekly basis and I wanted to create places to work that people love. And I did things differently. 2008 was the last time I completed an annual performance review. I’ve helped employers and clients do things differently ever since. I’ve been burning the handbook since 2010 and my own company has a one-page ‘handbook’ for our people. I’m passionate about collaboration and co-creation and two-way communication and want leaders to be their best selves, this is how we change the world of work for the better.


And yet, despite my love for HR, here I am, as an Executive Coach. I work with People Leaders from around the world helping them to lead from their core and 'who are you?' is one of the first questions that I may ask clients. When we lead from the core, we inspire others to do the same and this is how we change the world of work. When we lead from our core, we are the best leaders that we can be. We don’t need rules and frameworks and tick-boxes and guides, we only need to lead from our core, and the three little words, who are you? can help you get there.


‘Who are you?’ has helped me to define my boundaries, to get clarity on my values, to understand my strengths, to manage my time more effectively, to help me identify the clients I want to work with, to be a better Mum, to be a better partner, to be clear on who I am at the core.


These words have helped me understand what I want, and what matters to me, to my work, and in all areas of my life. The words ‘who are you?’ if you spend enough time with them and allow yourself to go the depths of the answers, answers you may never have known were even there, not only help you find the answers that could change your life but can reveal who you really are at the core.


Kelly Swingler


Kelly is an Executive Coach for CEO's and CPO's who want to change the world of work at kellyswingler.com and Founder of The Chrysalis Crew.


She leads and coaches with an open heart, an open mind and has the courage to challenge the status quo and do things differently so that we can all love our roles, find balance in our lives and so that we can all change the world of work for the better.


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