Much like mindfulness is the buzzword in today’s spiritual and educational domains, authenticity gets thrown around in the business and leadership spaces, and often becomes a cliche at best, and an outright deception at worst. Brands are constantly talking about bringing more authenticity to the workplace with company values, customer service, sales pitches, marketing, product delivery, etc. And while this is a great intention, how often, in your experience, is this really lived?
When is authenticity bullshit?
There’s often something that happens when authenticity becomes something to advertise. In fact, if you or your business needs to proclaim itself as authentic, something is already off the mark. Authenticity gets quickly compromised when it needs to get promoted, sold, and marketed. In my experience, if you and your business are truly authentic, your people will feel respected and love working there. Your customers keep coming back. You continue to create an experience worth talking about.
In fact, I used to work with a company that had ‘authentic’ in it’s name, and was on the wave of this trend before it was trendy. The problem in literally using this as your brand, is that anywhere you are not showing up as ‘authentic,’ starts to reveal itself in spades.
Thus, from the marketing to how the leaders of this company conducted themselves behind the scenes with their products, services, leadership and management really started to show, and became painfully apparent that there was a big disconnect between the ideal and reality.
Truth-telling versus Authenticity
One of the keys to expressing authenticity in the workplace is knowing the context you are in. I once had a CEO explain to me his difference between telling your truth and authenticity. He said, “most people these days think it’s ok to just share whatever you are feeling or your opinion whenever you want, and that this is being ‘authentic.’ What these people don’t track is getting the context they are in. That first you should feel whatever it is you are feeling, but then you have to be aware if you are talking to your boss, a customer, etc. and get the relational context for the conversation, and feel through what’s actually appropriate to share.”
This advice was tremendously helpful for me at the time as I was coming from the place of ‘sharing my truth’ and thinking I was contributing to the organization and the values they instilled, yet making a mess all the while, and actually creating harm by not respecting the organizational structure.
This article goes a step further and warns of the dangers of authenticity and not respecting the context of ‘sharing one’s truth,’ especially in a business domain.
There is no replacement for being genuine with yourself (Oh no, did I just create another buzzword?) your people, and your products and services. And the results are found in your growing referrals and brand loyalty. It’s not something you need to market. It’s either in your bones or it’s not. And if you're not living your ideal, what can you do today to close the gap to another degree?