“Being authentic” seems to be a great buzz phrase of the moment, applied to professionals, business owners, speakers, networkers, and leaders; but what does being authentic mean, should you bother and does it affect your firm’s performance?

What is being authentic?


What does being authentic mean?

So I hear many professionals worry about the need to “be authentic”, especially those running their own small firm, but no real definition of what it means! How would do you put it into words?

  • Says what she thinks
  • Does what he says
  • Isn’t pretending
  • Displays passion (trouble is – aren’t actors trained to do some of these?)

Aren’t they good things, regardless of some new buzz phrase? Are these not things that get your staff, clients and prospects to trust you?

windows 95Perhaps it all started with that infamous phrase that I always hated, “fake it till you make it” (how very 90’s – do you remember such good old days?)? The trouble is the modern version is just as bad, can you be authentic and “act as if you’re successful”.

Being an open book

Some of the authenticity definitions I’ve heard are about being completely open, surely that’s nonsense?

It’s great to let people know how you feel and not hide things (perhaps the world would be a better place if a few less people hid their true feelings); but can you imagine life in your firm if you always said exactly you thought?

Do your thoughts sometimes develop overtime? Do you listen to somebody and start off with one feeling, but sometimes end up with another? How would those discussions have gone if you had voiced your feelings earlier, you might not have had the opportunity to change them! When should “authentic” say something, if at all?

It’s important to be able to say what you think.

A great coach and friend of mine often asks people if they have somebody they can talk to – without having to worry about their feelings. It’s a problem lots of leaders and business owners have; expressing your worries about your strategy to your staff isn’t always a good thing and talking strategy to family doesn’t always help. It’s certainly where having a good business coach can help.

So being an open book isn’t great – but it’s important to have somebody to talk to; where does that leave authenticity?

Are you a conformist?

Do you see lots of people trying to conform to what’s expected of them? Accountants trying to act one way with their network, as they feel that’s how they should come across?

Just how should “the boss” act in front of her staff?

Would conformity be less important if people were more comfortable with themselves? If people were more comfortable, wouldn’t they perform better? If your and your team were all more confident in themselves, conformity becomes less important.

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Improving your performance

Decision making is often something that suffers when we don’t have enough “mental energy”. How much more energy would we have if we weren’t pretending to be somebody else? Would that extra energy help you focus on the right choices for you and your firm?

The authenticity challenge

  • How much better would your relationships be if you were more comfortable in your own skin?
  • If you weren’t comparing yourself to other people as much, perhaps you’d feel less negative?
  • How much more energy would you have to be successful, if you weren’t pretending to be successful?

So, is being authentic important?

No, I think focusing on being authentic is misdirection. If we focused on being comfortable in ourselves would we not perform better (and become more “authentic”)? The question becomes what do you do to build and maintain a level of self-confidence and awareness of others around you.

What do you think about being authentic?

Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees Click here for immediate access

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