Thursday, May 5, 2016

Are you being your Authentic Self as a Leader?

My word of the year is Authentic.  Sitting at my desk in my Gym gear at 3pm is not unusual.  I am a CEO and I also run Group-Fitness Pilates Classes during the day.  I do this for my work life balance and because I love working in the health and fitness area. 

Finishing my fitness class at 1pm allowed me 30 minutes to have some lunch and 30 minutes to drive back to the office.  Thankfully my client meeting at 2.00pm was online via Skype- just like the old Telecom Advert, except I was sitting here in my Lycra and no-one was under my desk painting my toes!

My team are fully aware that I have multiple jobs and it does not surprise them when I run a meeting in Lycra.  This is also part of me being Authentic.  A few years ago I would never had dared to do such a thing, however now it enables my team to see me as a person and a leader and that yes, leaders can be real people too!

I’ve drastically taken a look at myself and my own style recently, especially my Authenticity.  As a leader I was often much more guarded about my feelings at work, choosing to present to my team how I ‘thought I should behave’. 

After having the opportunity to self assess, I now behave how I want to behave.  Being Authentic as a leader means telling people how you feel and opening up about yourself.  I am now able to discuss personal issues with staff in one on one meetings which I would never had dared broach in the past. 

I had the opportunity to float the concept of “Being Your Authentic Self with another CEO this week.  His comment was that he believes that he has to ‘Act’ in the role of the CEO as that is what is expected of him and that people have a perception of how people in that role should be. 

Pondering this thought, he also added that different types of Authenticity may be needed at different times of an organisations life-cycle, or perhaps with different cultures within an organisation.  We then discussed Millennials.  I pondered myself and realised that our organisations were quite different in culture- mine being fully of Millennials and Gen-Y, his being perhaps more full of Baby Boomers.  So I thought about this question: Does the organisational make up of these different generations have an impact on ones Authenticity as a leader?

I sat on this blog for a few days thinking of the answer and I have decided, Yes, it does.  I’ve also worked out that Millennials and Gen-Y’s like to feel like they are working with their “friends” but just as important working with people who are Authentic.  When I asked one of my Millennials in the office about this he said that having fun and achieving at work was ranked well below working with friends and Authentic people. 

This got me really started.  I then did a mini flash survey around my team asking them to rank on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being most important, the following questions:

“How important is it to you that the people you work with are their ‘Authentic Selves’?

I then followed up with “How important is it to you that your leaders/ managers or superiors are their Authentic Selves?’

The results of these questions actually astounded me, both questions coming up with an average of 7.2 out of 10.  Telling me that working with Authentic people is critical to my team.  The lowest mark was a 5 and given in the ‘people I work with’ question, yet the highest mark was a 9 given in the ‘how important is it that your managers/ leaders are Authentic”.

I also had the conversation with these Millennials and Gen-Y’s about why Authenticity was important. The few I was talking to while preparing their lunch said something quite astounding.  They said- “How can you truly connect with someone if they are not Authentic?”.  We then had the discussion that connection also builds trust as this was important between both work mates , leaders and colleagues.  Trust is essential in all relationships.  So it looks like in this scenario in the workplace, Authenticity helps build Trust.  So why do we not see the word “Authenticity” sitting in many organisations company values I wonder…..

Being Authentic allows my team to see me as truly present.  I laugh with them, I share their sadness and I can also lead them together as a team to achieve great things simply because I am being myself, not someone I think I should be.  Not everyone may agree with my style but I do know that it is as important to my team as it is to me. 

Since spending the time working on myself and being more Authentic, I am finding things at work a great deal more effortless.  I have also since discovered how ‘tiring’ it is to ‘Act’ in a role all of the time.  Just imagine- having more Energy.  Those who know me well would say I have enough already!

Being Authentic enables me to feel more relaxed and to deal with the frustrations in a more seamless way.  Since I have changed my own behaviour and worked on my Authentic Self, I have also seen my team around me excel in ways I never imagined possible.  I have the best team around me in the 10+ years of working at Business Mechanix.  The company is excelling, the team are excelling and our customers are getting the best of us we can offer. 

So my gym gear is going to stay in the office and I will continue to let the people around me see my Authentic self- both the good and bad.  Keeping it real just feels good!

Is it time for you to change and truly be your Authentic Self?  Have you being acting in your leadership role for so long that you just don’t know how to be your Authentic self and be in your role? 

I challenge all leaders out there to simply ask yourself ‘Am I truly being my Authentic self?’  If you answer ‘no’, it’s probably time you ask yourself what’s holding you back?  Just think of the possibilities for yourself and the people around you…..

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