Authenticity: the only way we all stick to the company ethos
Opinion: Career Leaders
Stefanie Daniels examines what true authenticity looks like for media professionals, leaders and organisations.
If I hear the phrase ‘bring your whole self’ to work one more time, I may have to start bringing in my husband’s dirty laundry and dumping it on the office floor, just to make a point!
Countless TED talks, studies, and, of course, Sheryl Sandberg tell us the importance of authenticity as a way of gaining our colleagues’ trust and improving group performance but how realistic would it be for us all to bring our whole selves to work? Warts and all!
For many employees, the reality is challenging! Being a parent, caring for an elderly relative or balancing multiple demanding roles and responsibilities can be difficult.
If you’re doing all three, the situation is next-level difficult.
Getting it right is a delicate balance that will change from person to person, team to team and manager to manager! Knowing this truth will enable us to give each other grace as we continue to master the fine art of cultivating a successful workplace.
My first lesson in taking responsibility was as a mum!
I’ll give you one example of many — the other day, my oldest came downstairs and announced that the slime he was playing with had ruined his T-shirt.
Oh dear. The slime ruined your T-shirt? I reflected back sympathetically. How clever of the slime to create that much mess.
It clearly had nothing to do with my son mindlessly playing with it, smearing it everywhere and hoping it would magically melt away. Nope, it was absolutely the slime’s fault!
Relay that into the working world and a colleague — with a similar mindset to my son — walks in and announces the project didn’t get finished.
Of course. The project didn’t finish itself. It had nothing to do with no one working on it; it was the project’s fault.
When we step into the version of ourselves that takes full responsibility and show up as the team player willing to pull his/her/their weight, we realise what it is to be genuinely authentic.
This is the foundation of authenticity. It starts with you — within. We are no longer children able to blame the slime that miraculously made its way over and through the fabric of our innocent T-shirt. We are adults, hopefully operating as adults.
We then move on to leadership.
The behaviour of leaders often sets the tone for the entire organisation but requires a great deal of self-awareness.
One report by The Harvard Business Review found that there are three types of leaders:
- Oblivious leaders who don’t appear to have a realistic view of themselves and reveal information that appears clueless or fake.
- Bumblers who have a better understanding of themselves but not how they come across to others. They cannot read colleagues’ social cues, body language and facial expressions and sometimes risk their reputation by sharing experiences too freely.
- Reserved leaders who are reluctant to share personal aspects in a professional setting, making them seem distant and somewhat unapproachable, stifling their ability to build lasting workplace relationships.
Self-awareness requires leaders to know where they came from, where they’re going, their true beliefs and soliciting honest feedback.
Know that the aim of being open at work is to foster trust. It’s about enhancing successful collaborations and strong teamwork!
It’s NOT to make friends, although that can happen.
Defining organisational authenticity
Finally, we look at authentic organisation.
Organisations who don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk. They ensure what you hear about them is what you get — consistently!
Pulling this off like a pro is about getting everyone — from top to bottom — singing from the same sheet. It’s the only way to ensure everyone’s sticking to the company ethos — come rain or shine.
Make no mistake, these days are tough ones for business. Throw in the complexities of hybrid working and the cost-of-living crisis, not to mention the impact of worldwide political issues.
As if this weren’t enough of a challenge, there is a whole new set of demands arising from competition in the market and then you go and throw authenticity into the mix.
It’s a lot.
But step out of the noise for a second and you realise that authenticity has the power to change the experience customers have during interactions with our business.
You realise that this is the true essence of what will unite us and help us thrive in a world that can be ugly.
How do you embrace authenticity?
So, in the grand scheme of things, my husband’s washing on the office floor seems completely and utterly trivial when we look at the bigger picture.
Embracing our authentic selves, empowers us at a time when the world makes us feel anything but powerful.
It’s the one thing in our control and it starts with a simple step towards the positive change we want to see in society.
I’ll start us off. By writing this article in the hope it nudges just one of you towards meaningful change.
Stefanie Daniels is the founder of Life Begins at Menopause and and worked in media sales for two decades, including for Wireless Group (News UK), Bauer Media Group, and GCap Media (now Global).
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