In my last blog post, I wrote about the six core competencies preferred of a Chief Experience Officer (CXO). They are: approachability, positivity, authenticity, vulnerability, humility, and generosity. I suggested these six behavioral skills, technical skills, attributes, or attitudes will assist CXOs in carrying out the principal duties required of the role.
I asked the readers to participate in a brief online poll to identify which of the six competencies they had to work the hardest at on order to demonstrate consistently. The results of the survey showed that the most common competency identified was authenticity (40%). Now, as promised, I want to provide development resources to help us grow in that area.
First, let’s start with a reminder of what authenticity is. To be authentic means to be exposed, void of pretense, and genuine. When you are authentic you are true to you own personality, spirit, and character. Naturally, the opposite of all those things would be inauthentic. Authenticity can be a little hard to define, but I am confident you know it when you see it. We gravitate towards authentic people because we can trust and understand them. Thus, our defense mechanism is lowered and comfort level increases around authentic people. Second, I want to acknowledge survey respondents for their self-awareness. We cannot make strides towards being more authentic if we are not self-aware. By simply selecting authenticity from the list shows those respondents have self-awareness in acknowledging their room for improvement – that is a good foundation to start.
To be authentic, one must know thyself. We, as thinking and reasoning humans, must take time to understand our drivers, natural tendencies, preferences, values, beliefs, and biases. Without knowing our authentic self, we cannot hold our selves accountable to being that person. The challenge comes from trying to be your authentic self despite external influences and judgement.
To examine this, further, I solicited the help of Jim Love. Jim is a public speaker focusing on authentic leadership. Here is a summary of a short interview I had with Jim.
Q. Why is it so hard for people to be authentic?
A. Especially today, there are so many forces that don’t support authenticity. People tend to rely on the opinions of others for their own self-worth. In a world where folks are defined by their next Instagram like and which version of the iPhone they own, it’s difficult to demonstrate who you truly are. “Heart-to-heart” conversations take a backseat to reading Twitter updates on your phone. It’s very easy to get caught up in the world and not focus on your authentic self.
Q. What would you recommend to someone to grow their authenticity?
A. The most important recommendation I have for someone to grow in their authenticity is to decide right now that they accept themselves and love themselves. That might sound weird (and perhaps boastful), but the minute you decide to love yourself and your style is the same minute you become a more effective, authentic leader. Decide that you are awesome just the way you are. With that acceptance in mind, you can begin seeking opportunities to develop your strengths. Become better at what you’re already good at doing. You will feel more confident, vibrant and, in turn, your authenticity will shine through. Hold that mindset and let it dictate your thoughts and actions.
To build on Jim’s recommendation, here is a list of additional things we can do to grow our authenticity. I present them to you in the form of a list; anyone who knows me can attest that lists are authentically me. Good luck as you become more authentically you.
- Lead with your values. Reflect on and identify what your top 3-5 core values are (find examples at Values.com). Having a defined, finite list will help you with accountability. Allow those values to guide your decision making, interpersonal behaviors, goal setting, and moral dilemmas.
- Appreciate the insignificance of collecting stuff. Whether the stuff is cars, clothes, awards, or promotions, in the end it is all insignificant when not aligned to our authentic self. Do you use the stuff to help you accomplish a goal or fulfill a purpose? Or do you use the stuff to impress others?
- Build relationships. Connecting with people is deeply at the core of authenticity. You will show your authenticity, and people will know your authenticity, by the quality of the relationship. You will get to know people beyond just casual small talk and engage in genuine discussion that sparks and emotional connection.
- Examine your motivation. Are you driven by image and what others think of you? Do you have a bigger house than you can afford to impress others? Do you promote your accomplishments on social media to make your colleagues jealous? Positive intent yields positive thoughts, which yield positive actions.
- Be mindful of whose language you are using? Some of the most inauthentic people I know often use others’ lingo. In the workplace, I call it “consultant speak.” These are one-liners, jargon, catch-phrases, and clichés such as “stay in your swim lane.” Which, as is often used in the workplace, has nothing to do with swimming. And the most common catch-phrases tend to change as someone introduces a new one into a culture (oftentimes consultants), and then others adopt it and still more go with the crowd.
- Say what you mean, in a polite way. It is okay to have an opinion or preference and share it. Some people shy away from authenticity for fear of being too bold, brash, or direct. So long as it is done in a polite and courteous way you can and should share your genuine feelings. As Stephen Covey said, “If two people have the same opinion, one is unnecessary.”
- Freely show emotion. Some people are cautious to show their emotions for how it will appear to others. It humanizes you when others know that you care and have feelings. Express your passion, show your love, and openly accept a hug when someone offers one to you.
- Let your work speak for itself. Be mindful of the conversations you are having and how often you recite your resume to others. If you are intelligent, experienced, and qualified others will know it. You may have “been there done that,” but without the requisite humility and self-assurance it just sounds like you are trying to promote yourself.
- Forgive yourself and admit your shortcomings. No one is perfect and we should stop trying to be. Apologize when you make a mistake, it will build your credibility rather than break it down. Are you your most harsh critic? Forgive yourself and take tender loving care of your own health and well-being
- Connect with something bigger than yourself. The fuel that can keep you forging ahead and maintaining your authenticity, even at the toughest of times, could just be your belief that you are a part of something bigger. This could be a cause that is important to you, a community of friends and family, or religion/spirituality. In all cases, you take the attention away from yourself and focus on serving others and a greater purpose.