Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Working Life: Getting Real to Get Ahead...
The Radio Show Recap...

In this segment of “The Working Life,” Mary discussed the importance of being authentic in the workplace. Can you get ahead by getting real?

Authenticity is one of the cornerstones of success in business. Not very many businesses or professionals succeed based on lies and deceit. The most powerful thing you can do to get ahead is simple: be real. Being authentic means being honest. That entails an emotional equation of confidence + self-awareness + transparency + consistency. In other words, it’s about establishing and showing an honest alignment between your personality, your words and your actions.

Now, we all know plenty of examples of the slick and sinister who manage to be very successful. But when you look closely, they are usually only capable of having successful careers as long as they are able to muster power and financial success together. Look at Michael Eisner. His despotic manners and abysmal treatment of others was tolerated (and even rewarded) while Disney was doing well financially. But when the ink threatened to flow red, his behavior was no longer acceptable, and he was gone. For long-term success, you need to decide how you want to do business and how you want to conduct yourself. How one chooses to engage in the world and with others is a choice we all have, and the choice to be honest and authentic is the smart one for success.

Finding your way in corporate life
Companies and organizations sometimes have a way of tamping down a person’s authenticity so that they will do things that company’s way. The simple solution then is to find a company that suits your personality. Companies and organizations, and even departments within those organizations, have cultures, personalities and ethics just like people do. If you don’t share the company’s values and business ethos, it’s not a good fit. Don’t force a square peg into a round hole. Find a company or a department that compliments you.

Sometimes, being authentic can rub people the wrong way. Being honest and real can often lead to feedback like, “Bob has potential, but doesn’t always fit in” or “Gina has some rough edges.” It is important to strike a balance so that you’re not tagged as “emotional” or with a “strong personality.” The first thing to remember is that being authentic is never an excuse to be rude or unprofessional. It is also not an excuse to forgo professional development. This is about acquiring the skills and behaviors needed to be successful in the workplace and weave them into your personality. For example, I tend to be a little irreverent and a bit informal. That is who I am. But there are ways to be both irreverent and respectful at the same time, just as there are ways to display perfect manners and still create an atmosphere of informality. You can still be yourself and be honest, while at the same time being respectful and treating people well.

What does “real” look like? And how do I get there?
Becoming more aware of your self, how you operate in the world and how you impact people is the key to using your authentic self in business. A good way to learn about yourself is to take a personality test like the Meyers-Briggs. That test and others like it are an excellent tool for self-awareness, as long as you get the proper training around the assessment. Make sure a professional is able to go over the results with you so you can understand and use the information properly.

Studying traits of successful but authentic business people is also a good way to understand what being real looks like. For example, here are three very different authentic leaders: Richard Branson, Warren Buffett and Donald Trump. They each approach life and work very differently, yet you can tell that they are all passionate about what they do. They are consistent in their words, deeds and ambitions. They are not apologetic about who they are and they integrate their personal qualities into their work life, personal life and leadership.

One of the most important traits leaders need is the ability to inspire people to follow them. This is where having strong emotional intelligence and being seen as authentic can really separate the little leaders from the big leaders. Leading people is about inspiring and motivating them. People respond to honesty, authenticity and genuineness. People respond to people who feel “real” to them. Nobody likes a phony and people get nervous and mistrustful when they can’t “read” a person.

In order to get there, there are five things you can do:
  • Be honest and consistent
  • Express yourself well
  • Align your intentions, your words, and your actions
  • Engage other people and treat them well
  • Don’t be afraid of being judged

You can get to the top without authenticity, but smart money says to get ahead—you need to get real.

To Listen to an archive of this show:

No comments: