Authenticity

Posted by kdow on Jan 30, 2018 1:34:43 PM

Photo by Ian Schneider on  Unsplash

In recent months I’ve spent a bunch of time pondering the recent hipster-in-business phrase-du-jour, “be your authentic self.” As an individual contributor I never considered this. As a people manager, it’s now plaguing me in what little sleep I can get.


The reason it plagues me is that it’s incredibly difficult to “find” your “authentic self” if you’re looking for it. I have two instances of incredibly poignant feedback that shaped my view recently:

  1. Seeing a video of myself giving & receiving feedback.

A few months ago I had some sessions with some coaches helping develop my skill set as a people manager. The sessions were great, but the biggest hit was when I was asked to provide feedback on a difficult situation (based on a real situation). This is significant because I’m allergic to being on film. I’m an introvert by nature.

The video recorded me giving feedback to someone acting as a direct report in a real situation, using a framework given during the course. Then, part deux was me receiving feedback — again in a real scenario. This was eye opening as I acted naturally, albeit with a slightly new framework to build on. I didn’t like how I acted.

2. Receiving direct feedback.

Someone I report into & get regular coaching from went through an exercise of asking me some up-front questions about things I should work on. One trait I cited as something I felt I lacked was clear & concise verbal communications. The feedback was that this wasn’t a good self assessment. I have good verbal communications. But perhaps I’ve spent a bunch of unnecessary calories comparing my style to someone else. Obama, probably!


“To thyself be true.” — Shakespear’s Hamlet

This is a quote being touted of late. Ignoring the fact that Polonius was depicted as a blowhard, not someone to be inspirational in one’s career pursuits, this is a good way to think about things. Be yourself, in other words.

If you ascend the ranks or hit career milestones, know that you belong there. Far too many people go into interview situations trying to ape someone else instead of simply drawing inspiration from those they admire. Remember if you’re in an interview, you’re there because you deserve it and the interviewing panel wanted to talk to you, not some Obama-ified version of you.

It’s good advice all around. No one is perfect. And with the passage of time you get to accept this. Everyone has flaws, and good people do their best to fix those flaws. Nothing is more valuable to a company, manager, employee, partner, customer or prospect than you being you.