Recently, I read a LinkedIn post from an individual whose father had died. The post, while personal, was designed to call attention to how her organization responded and supported her during an incredibly difficult time. From her perspective, they went above and beyond her expectations. She didn’t have to show up differently. She was given the space to experience this struggle authentically. A process which she says helped her personally cope and professionally prosper.
As I reflected on this post, I realized that I am in an organization and surrounded by people, who I can say without hesitation, would go above and beyond for me. From the owners of our firm, to my colleagues the culture of MCG Partners is so strongly aligned with my personal priorities and values that I am not just allowed, I am encouraged, to be my authentic self.
Authenticity is critical to driving employee engagement. Acting in a non-authentic way, or ‘putting on a mask’ as many people describe it, takes energy and motivation. When you are free to be yourself in the workplace, you can take that mask off, unleashing energy and motivation that you can use to innovate, think critically, and solve problems more effectively.
How can organizations help their employees live more authentically.
- Help people understand what being authentic looks like for them
Sometimes we’ve put a certain mask on for so long, we forget that it does not truly reflect who we are. Help your employees discover and define what their authentic selves look like. From behavioral assessments like the Predictive Index®, to development exercises focused on self-reflection, companies should proactively help their employees define what being authentic means to them.
- Let people be themselves
By encouraging people to be who they truly are, and by welcoming differences, leaders create a more supportive, productive work environment. There are many ways an organization can help their employees show their true selves. At the core, understanding what drives and motivates your employees is key, as this information allows you to customize how you interact with them. Does your employee need to constantly interact with people, or does he/she value personal space? Just this one question can influence how you interact with and support that employee. On a general basis, show your employees that you care about them as people. How well do you know them outside of work? Are there interests or hobbies they have? Are they struggling taking care of aging parents? Do they have children? These are all basic questions that paints a picture of the employee’s full life and demonstrate a genuine interest in them as a total person.
- Define what you stand for
People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, something they can believe in. While you are encouraging your employees to show up authentically, as an organization you need to be able to do the same. What values and behaviors are critical to your organization? How visible and obvious are these values? Be honest when asking yourself if your actions as a leader are consistent with what you say the company stands for? Nothing will alienate an employee more than a company that states Respect as a key value, but does not hold accountable senior leaders that do not encourage or reward challenging the status quo or thinking of different ideas. Consistency is key!
- Be transparent and vulnerable
Be honest about who you are as a company. Don’t try to pretend you, or the company are something that you really aren’t. Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, who presented a powerful TEDx talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” talks about the negative impact that ‘invulnerability’ has in the workplace. Leaders that can’t display vulnerabilities ultimately end up damaging their relationships. On the contrary, showing up as real, imperfect people creates a connection and foundation of trust from which sustainable success is possible.
Today, I am grateful for a work environment and for colleagues that welcome the entire ‘me’. From the multiple stories of three active boys, to sympathy around aging parents, to collaboration on client work, my organization expects my authentic self to show up every day.
I have no doubt that by being myself, I am able to deliver more sustainable and impactful results for my clients.
What could happen if you took off your mask?
About the Author: Cheryl Jacobs
About MCG Partners
MCG Partners a woman-owned and certified consulting firm specializing in executive coaching, leadership development, organizational effectiveness, talent management and career management solutions. We help businesses optimize success through the entire management life-cycle. MCG Partners is also a Predictive Index® (PI®) certified partner.