I touched on authenticity briefly, when I blogged about leadership earlier in the year and I believe it merits it's own blog. Authenticity is simply not something I see in people everyday but when I do I am instantly won over. This is especially true when being an employee (in a former life...) or a customer.
Professionally, I see two areas where being authentic can be a huge difference maker: LEADING AND SELLING. In each area, authenticity can lead to a great deal of influence and trust from those we interact with.
Let's start with Leading: In my experience, employees crave empowerment, participation, recognition and most important, someone they can truly learn from. If you encourage someone sincerely and it comes from a good and unselfish place, it can create a relationship of trust and belief in YOU, as a leader. And when this happens, the employee becomes very willing to listen to what you have to say and believe in what you are trying to do - the result of which is your team fulfilling its potential.
Now, this isn't as simple as it sounds. It takes hard work to remain authentic, especially in a corporate environment where politics, pressure and achievement often dominate. And with the general expectation to overachieve on corporate objectives, traits that can require great patience, such as care, perseverance and authenticity, are more difficult to attain. Especially for those who don't come by it naturally.
Being authentic needs to be woven into your personality fabric; it has to be sustained to be believable. Let me qualify that being authentic is not a prerequisite to be successful but I really believe that it makes you a better Leader. Being authentic encourages trust and buy in from those around you, and this often translates to better results. I have seen this time and time again in my own career.
Selling authentically can be even harder. Sometimes we may be asked to sell products or services we don't entirely believe in. When this happens, our ability to remain authentic can become difficult. For the most part though, the very same principles apply. Of course, you want to be selling something you believe in. Look at how it helps your customer be better. What value can it add? Find one nugget that you can believe in sincerely. And if you truly can't get behind your product in some way, it might be time to find something else you CAN support. It is nearly impossible to fake authenticity and any reasonably savvy consumer will see right through you.
If you are selling something you believe in, then let that work to your advantage! Be passionate and energized and share your excitement. Use the steps above to learn how you come across to others. This is a really powerful tool as you strive to become more authentic. Finally, look for specific ways to show you're sincere about what you're selling; find something specific that resonates with you and share it! Better still, if you also own the product or service, share why you chose it for yourself.
Too often, we find insincerity in the workplace, instead of honesty and authenticity. Strive to find an organization that aligns with your own values and ideals so you can keep YOUR integrity and principles intact. If they are, it will be that much easier to be authentic in all of your interactions.
A few things that will help you be authentic (as a Leader and a Seller):
- Practice - actually role play with someone to see how you come across; while awkward, this exercise can be very revealing and tell us how we are being received - being uncomfortable is worth it!
- Record yourself - then watch it and look at your body language; yes, another unusual experience but very effective - World Renowned Toastmaster's International made this technique famous
- Look within to see if is natural or not - think about how you are with family and friends; simply ask them if you come across as authentic and fingers crossed they are honest with you!
- Watch peers of yours who do this well - mirroring is a great way to help yourself; consider who in your inner circle (personal or professional) embodies what authenticity is all about.
People have a genuine desire to feel good and being authentic fits right into that desire. If this is already who you are, kudos! Keep doing what you're doing and strive to evolve even further! But if you want to change your approach and become more authentic, now's the time! The results will follow.
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