Get out of your comfort zone and be “Authentic”

Today I read a very inspiring article, which I found in of all places, CNN.  Titled “Take a risk and put your true self out there” by Brené Brown.

The article is something that hits very close to home for me.  I am constantly searching for the authenticity in myself, in others, in the place I work and in the places I choose to do business with.  It can be very hit or miss at times, but there is something very powerful when it’s found.  An organization that says what it does and does what it says.  A culture where the values exist, are well known, and evidence abounds of their continual reenforcement.

Brown goes on to say in the article “It’s easy to attack and criticize someone while he or she is taking a risk — voicing an unpopular opinion, or sharing a new creation with the world, or trying something new that he or she hasn’t quite mastered.”.  I applaud Brown for this comment.  There are so many people that hold back from just communicating because they are too concerned with being perceived as a pessimist, non-conformist or imperfect.  Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a time and a place for some conversations.  Just blaring out anything that comes to your mind, especially when coupled with poor manners to begin with, is a recipe for disaster and likely to lead to unforeseen changes in your career path.  It is said “There are those that have to say something, and those that have something to say“.   It’s the latter of the two groups that you want to find yourself in.  Someone speaking up, coupled with an environment of temperance, tolerance and rational behavior can be a very powerful source of information for managers and leaders.  It can help us understand when we are doing something right, and take pause to evaluate when we may be doing something wrong.  If someone doesn’t speak up unless they know they are right, then that will make for two conditions.  First, they will only be speaking up when something is likely already well known, and in this case it adds little to no value.  Second, they will likely not be speaking up very often.  The end result is less communication, less authenticity, and less innovation, less advantage, weaker culture……..oh but it’s very safe.  Safe is a losing strategy when the issue at hand is internal communication.  After all who are we trying to stay safe from?  What’s the worst case scenario?  I am not speaking of limitless boundaries of common sense, but rather speaking in terms of someone speaking up to say “I disagree”, or “Maybe there is a better way…”, or “why aren’t we doing things this way?”.

Managers and leadership are still in control.  Decisions are still made based on an understanding of what is the best way to proceed, but the amount of information one has to make a decision increases.  Some people would say they don’t want all that information.  I would say those people should look to change their own ways.  All companies are competing on ideas and information.  Ideas have value and if someone’s ideas are not valued, then maybe they shouldn’t be working there, however if they are, then they should be heard.

One of the points Brown brings up is “When I started thinking about what it really means to practice authenticity, I realized that choosing “being real” over “being liked” is all about playing it unsafe.”  I disagree partially with Brown on this.  I don’t think you have to compromise either “being liked” or “being real”.  Most rational people should want you to be real and like you for being real.  If people don’t like you, and it’s simply because you have different ideas then they do, then it is they who have the problem.  And believe me those people exist, in all organizations and generally everyone knows who they are, and they usually are not well liked themselves.  The reality is, if you are disliked simply simply because of your ideas, then you are probably either saying and doing things that are not inline (perhaps you need to work on your soft skills, as approach is 99% of a successful delivery), or perhaps you have found yourself in a truly caustic culture and the determination needs to be made if it can be repaired or if you should jump ship.  Props to anyone who has stayed to help change a culture, it’s such a more simple and easy decision to leave, but quitters aren’t the kind of people that ultimately advance a company into the winning position.

Much of this goes back to what we keep hearing from every business school, magazine, blog and life experience.  Disruptive change is happening, those that embrace it and learn to profit from it, will be able to steer a course that furthers the business and stays ahead of the competition.  Those that resist disruptive change, will be caught in the crash of a wave and find themselves in unfamiliar territory very quickly.

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