The issue of authenticity has been increasingly pulling on our attention the past 2-3 years. We see how authentic an employee is willing and able to be at work as a pretty important variable in the work experience equation, with implications for both employee and employer.
We continue to write and speak more about authenticity, and we occasionally get a note or a message from someone telling us that “you can’t teach authenticity” or that as soon as you are trying to be authentic, you are, in fact, no longer being authentic.
Since clarity is one of our very best friends, let’s have a bit of that.
Authenticity has, unfortunately, taken on buzzword status. So there are a lot of folks talking about it, simply because it has become a popular thing to talk about. An easy way to identify those who are playing buzzword bingo rather than engaging in real dialogue is simply to ask them what authenticity means to them. You will likely find that a whole big bunch of folks talking about authenticity (for or against) cannot provide a concise, logical definition. You will likely find the same results with other very popular ideas such as leadership, innovation, engagement, and inclusion, those words are workplace fashion accessories more often than representative of active bodies of work.
When Jason and I talk about authenticity, we are talking about being true to who you are.
That is what authenticity means to us; it involves really knowing who you are and the more challenging work of acting accordingly. It is, we believe, incredibly valuable for both individuals and organizations, and also fairly difficult.
We do not and cannot know what being authentic means for you, we cannot teach you that, but we can and will share what we have learned from our own experiences and research on the issue, and already know that what we have to say on this set of issues has been helpful for others.
Authenticity does not happen without intention and effort; we reject the idea that anything other than our first natural instinct is automatically less than authentic.
I, today, have some clarity regarding what my core values are and try to live my life accordingly. Sometimes I have urges that want to take me in a different direction though. If I am behind you in line at the grocery store and the line is moving slowly and now you have coupons and questions and are (slowly) writing a check to pay for your groceries, I might start to fantasize about punching you in the eye. For just a brief moment, that might be what I feel like doing to you.
To us, that is not authenticity, that is simply reacting to stimulus without thought. Easy, lazy and far too common.
Authenticity is looking to what is inside, guiding principles, core values, etc., and using that stuff to choose your actions.
Do you know what is inside?