Full disclosure: I didn’t watch Oprah’s interview with Lance Armstrong, nor did I seek out articles regarding such. My exposure to the subject was limited to one article I accidentally happened on through my ISP.
This article points out that Armstrong finally comes clean with his oldest son Luke about his indiscretions after he witnessed his son defending him in front of others. In other words, Armstrong made an arguably tough decision after seeing the adverse impact on Luke.
As we’ve learned through Stanford Professor James March’s research on decision making, these types of tough choices are most strongly influenced by either one of two factors: 1) the consequences one is subject to—what I get versus what it costs OR 2) the choice is influenced by an especially important aspect of one’s identity. The former is quite calculated, the latter is quite intuitive.
In Armstrong’s case it appears he finally fessed up to Luke because of the identity he held of himself as Dad. As the article points out, Armstrong became the most emotional when the subject of his son came up….this contrasted against the subject of all the sponsorships (and money) he had lost.
In his role as Dad, Armstrong no doubt had certain expectations of himself—to do right by his kids, to protect them, to teach them properly, etc. For those of us who are parents, our identity of ourselves (as either mom or dad) is one our most powerful. Thus, we shouldn’t find it too surprising that Armstrong told Luke after he saw the damage the situation was having on him.
That’s the power that identity had on Armstrong—as it does for each of us. Our best decisions–especially the tough ones–are by-products of situations when we’ve been willing to be influenced by our identity.
Is it any wonder then that within The Power of Professionalism we put such emphasis on being a professional—the ultimate workplace identity?