Keeping It Real

“Airports have seen more authentic kisses than wedding halls. The walls of hospitals have heard more prayers than the walls of churches.’

  • Author unknown

Given that we spend up to 70% of our waking time engaged in work-related activities – week after week and year after year – it makes sense that we strive to seek out environments that allow us to show up and put our best foot forward. By that I mean really show up … as ’us’ and in our true colours.

Ask anyone about their experience of a great workplace they will invariably describe an environment where leaders and colleagues had a knack for ‘keeping it real’. They describe real conversations and real connection; about being trusted to deliver in a way that allowed them to apply the very best of their knowledge and skills.

If you ask managers and leaders about what great work environments look like, they will talk about times where they and their teams really showed up; worked strongly together and where each individual gave it their all.

This doesn’t for one minute imply that everything was always rosy or that they had the perfect systems and processes; most ideal customers or clients. Invariably many of these things were not obvious or in place. What it does imply though is that people were allowed to be themselves, apply new approaches, solutions and strategies; fail if necessary and get up dust themselves off and go again; contribute from their place of strength; work collaboratively and enjoy success. It allowed them to quite simply be themselves.

We have all been caught in cycles where we are simply going through the motions. Occasions such as where we attend training simply because we should; attend sales meetings or networking events where conversations are held but no connection is formed; undertaken performance reviews that never address future career growth or opportunities and really are nothing more than a tick and flick exercise to satisfy a compliance measure. In many of these scenarios we show up in body but not spirit.

So what is it about some workplaces that allow or in fact demand the ‘real you’ to show up, engage and operate? In a word it is Freedom: Freedom to think; freedom to do and freedom to speak.

Whilst it is important to note that with freedom comes responsibility, it is also worth noting that 99% of people when they see it in genuine action would rather rise to the standard than fall underneath it.

For many employees though, finding themselves in environments where this trust is genuinely given is new territory. This is largely due to the way our workplaces have evolved. Whilst pursuing greater productivity, efficiency and compliance we have faced the movement of standardization. We have sought to remove any variations in processes and behaviours and in doing so have lost the value that individual contribution can bring.

As a result, many people now don a work persona and a life persona and never the twain shall meet. Asking people to suddenly show up as themselves requires vulnerability, trust and courage. It also requires respect, encouragement and patience.

To build authenticity in the workplace we need to build awareness of the value it brings and capability for individuals to own it. Below are 7 tips that you may wish to consider in creating authentic environments:

  • Align Values: To embrace individual contribution and styles we need to be anchored in our values. Failing to ‘get the fit right’ is costly on all levels and for all involved.
  • Be the role model: Live it, walk it, breathe it – seek feedback; tell the truth; share knowledge and skills. In doing so, you will provide the platform and expectation for others to follow.
  • Protect the space: Guard honesty and transparency with your life – encourage freedom to think, do and speak
  • Embrace difference: Difference in styles, outlooks, and skills and create opportunities to showcase their need and value.
  • Throw away the cookie cutter: In the words of Tony Robbins ‘If you continue to do what you have always done, you will continue to get what you have always had’. For growth, innovation and competitive advantage to occur we need to continually seek out new ways of doing things whilst remaining relevant to our cause.
  • Don’t indulge or promote the game players: When we continue to give airtime to the, the ‘game-players’ and ‘self-players’ we chip away at the good work done by the greater team and devalue authenticity.
  • Get ready to learn: According to the saying it is pretty hard to ‘teach an old dog new tricks’ but what happens when the old tricks no longer apply? Learning how to manage and lead in a period of rapid change and innovation requires new thinking, conversations and approaches.

Each of us deserves to work in environments where individual style, strengths and skills are valued, sort after and encouraged. Where when ‘the rubber hits the road’, the environment demands that we step up and play our roles authentically and values and rewards us for doing so.

Margot Andersen

Margot Andersen is a global careers and talent mobility expert. As the owner and founder of talentinsight Australia and Insync Network Group, she is passionate about seeing individuals confidently owning their careers; and organisations building and leveraging the capability of their people as they move in and around the business and globe.

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