As an author, perhaps it’s appropriate that I like written communication. Texting, more so than phone calls, is comfortable to me. And although my work necessitates me spending several hours a week on the phone or Skype, it’s still email that carries the bulk of my interaction with others.
Perhaps that’s why I have 11 email addresses!
I have 5 different work accounts (collected over the years of changing roles), one that I use as an author & for social media, another for my financials, an additional one for miscellany related to living in the UK, one for sending out newsletters, one for subscribing to mailing lists, and then finally a personal one for family and other uses.
Believe it or not, this setup is not overwhelming to me and messages don’t get overlooked. I function well in being able to compartmentalize various aspects of my life. It helps me to avoid checking work outside of office hours, while still being able to engage in other correspondence and not being tempted to open other items that may pop into a shared inbox.
However, I know this setup is not for everyone, and I know that it occasionally drives my colleagues a bit batty.
Which Allen are they corresponding with? Work Allen? Author Allen? Personal Allen? Who are they hearing back from? Allen the newsletter writer, Allen the UK resident?
While I sometimes request someone use a particular address, I try not to be too insistent: I know that it’s a tangled system and wouldn’t expect anyone on the outside to be able to navigate it easily.
But I do need to ask myself a question: how many Allen’s are there? Taking a view from cyberspace, Allen is not an integrated whole…there are various facets, myriad touchpoints, none of which seem particularly interlinked.
If that’s true for my communication channels, how is it with my character?
Am I one person as an author, a different person at work, yet someone else when sending a newsletter, and then a wholly other person when writing to friends and family?
Contributing as an excellent follower requires that we be who we are, engaging in self-awareness and personal development, making use of our particular talents, gifts, and abilities, offering our unique perspective and experience, establishing individual relationships with our peers and superiors.
If who we are is a messy, fuzzy concept that varies with each environment and situation, then our life of followership is going to get far more tangled than my web of email accounts.
The issue is integrity, being an integrated person who is wholly you in each circumstance. That doesn’t mean that we talk at home exactly like we do at work, that we wear the same clothes to the office as we do on vacation, but it does mean that the things that we care about, our group associations, our principles, our life vision, and our journey of growth should be consistent threads across our various spheres of life.
They may not always surface in the same way, they may not lead to the exact same actions or responses, but they should be identifiable–to us, if to no one else–as part of the definition of who we are, regardless of what public face or communication channel we’re using to engage others with.
My variety of email addresses make sense to me. The approach of managing 11 accounts suits who I am, it reveals my values for attending to the right things at the right times, maintaining boundaries while still being available to others.
What about the systems, patterns, behaviors, communication, interactions, and engagements in your life–is there a consistent ‘you’ that emerges across all of the variety? Is there a portrayal of what’s important to you, who you are, that flows from the single place of your person and character, even if it manifests itself in a variety of ways?
Are you an integrated person, positioned to follow well by employing the excellence of who you are to each group and endeavor that you are attached to?
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