Paul and Trudy work in a medium size company. Paul has recently had to present in meetings with both upper management and with customers. He has been getting more and more stressed out with the higher levels of scrutiny. Before each and every meeting, he tries to figure out how he needs to act. What questions might he be asked? What is the best answer? What do they want to hear?
Trudy, Paul’s long time associate in the office, has noticed his stress and invited him to lunch. After listening to Paul describe his feelings, she understood the root cause of Paul’s stress. So she shared with him her thoughts on authenticity.
Not being authentic is extremely stressful. You feel you have to behave differently depending on the situation. You have to choose between being yourself and being who you think others need you to be. You develop strategies on how to behave in different situations. You don’t act consistent with who you are and what you value. Everything you say or do is part of some thought-out plan.
Whether you are talking to the CEO or your customers, you should be your authentic self. Whether you are closing a big negotiation or interviewing for a big promotion, you should be your authentic self. Whether you are speaking at a conference or a small staff meeting, you should be your authentic self. The same you should show up in all situations.
If you know who you are and are genuinely authentic, where you are and who you are talking to should not change. The core of who you are and what you stand for should come through every time. You may change the style with which you communicate and the clothes you might choose to wear, but these changes should not change the essence of who you are.
Respect and value yourself. Be authentic. Don’t apologize for who you are. You have strengths and weaknesses. We all do. That is what makes us unique.
Authenticity gives you the courage to not get pressured into decisions not in line with your values. Being authentic lets you ignore the judgments of others. Being authentic lets you trust yourself.
Authenticity benefits many different professional relationships.
*** Leader ***
When you consistently behave according to your values, people learn to trust you. You attract people by interacting with them in meaningful ways. You tell them the truth. People may not agree with your choices, but they will know they are based on your values—not office politics or whether or not you like them.
At times, you will make mistakes and misjudge situations and people. When those mistakes come from within your core and are consistent with your values, others will see that. Don’t blame yourself or regret the decision. You made a conscious choice, even when it may have been difficult. You did not succumb to outside pressure or influences. So even when the outcome of your efforts were not as you hoped them to be, accept responsibility but know you did the right thing.
*** Bosses ***
When you share what you believe, with clarity and honesty, your bosses will respect you. Good leaders value independent thinkers. Good leaders do not want contrarians or sycophants. Tell them the truth, not what you think they want to hear.
Do not put your bosses on a pedestal. They are like you, with a different job description. They may be better in some things but they are people to. You are more like them than not like them. You are not less than they are.
*** Coworkers / Teammates ***
When you consistently show up as you, your coworkers and teammates will trust you. When you get assigned to a new team or start a new assignment, you may want to try to figure out how to act to fit in. As mentioned before, this just creates stress in you and distrust in the others. Be yourself.
Take a genuine interest in your colleagues. Ask questions about them. Listen to their answers, without interrupting to add your thoughts on what they are saying. When you value their thoughts and opinions, they will value yours. They know you are sincere and trustworthy. They will know you have no hidden agenda. They will know that you speak your truth and not just going along with the crowd.
You will learn new things. Be open to new experiences and be honest about not knowing everything. You will become a valued member of the team.
*** Customers / Clients ***
When you are authentic with your clients and customers, you become someone they trust. Sometimes, this means saying NO when something is just not in line with your values. This can be extremely difficult. But your customers and clients will recognize this. The right ones will value it for exactly what it’s worth. They cannot deny your authenticity and integrity. They can trust you and your product without any doubt.
Have you ever had that feeling about a person, that something is not quite right? Most of the time, that is your instinct telling you the person is not being genuine and authentic. You distrust them. Well, that works both ways.
The best gift we can give someone is to be authentic. When we let people see behind any masks or the walls of emotional armor we have put up, we connect with them.
That weekend, Paul thought about Trudy’s words. He was trying to fit in. He wasn’t showing up as himself. He made a decision to be himself. He would not try to impress others and fit in.
His work life got a lot easier. He felt less stressed. He enjoyed more honest relationships with his bosses, coworkers and customers.