A desire to be your authentic self is a noble goal. Labeling someone inauthentic has become an insult that cuts deeply. There is a potential problem, though, with touting our authenticity. What happens if you are authentically a rude, snarky and condescending person? Is your authenticity still something to hold up as a badge of honor?
I work with leaders and individual contributors at every level of the corporate ladder. The organizations I work with consist of multinational Fortune 50 corporations, local businesses and everything in-between. No matter what the makeup of the individual or organization, the goal is always the same: Find a way to get better.
I put my clients through an exhaustive period of self reflection before we move on to making changes. This process is exhaustive because in the early stages, I have them focus on the “warts” in their personality. Of course, I let them acknowledge the good things they observe about themselves, but we move on from those pretty quickly because this is not where the growth happens.
I remind them that the warts they are observing constitute their authentic self. I then ask the following question, “Are you successful because of these traits or in spite of them?” The answers are generally the same: “In spite of them.”
Once we acknowledge their authentic warts, we get to go about the business of making targeted behavioral change. We limit the changes we make to no more than three, usually only one or two. The reason for this is because one or two targeted behavioral changes will have massive positive ripple effects on your life and the lives of those around you.
To put this in the most rudimentary terms, you are not a millionaire because you are rude and dismissive of your secretary or employees. You are a millionaire in spite of those traits. What would it look like if you were kind and engaging instead? Would making that adjustment make you better or worse?
Not surprisingly, I work with people who initially think being dismissive is what makes them their successful and authentic self. It doesn’t take too much discussion for them to realize being dismissive doesn’t make them successful.
Now, all of the sudden, being their authentic self isn’t so great.
When we begin to implement a couple of targeted behavioral changes, something inevitably happens and it sounds like this: “These are the right changes to make, but if I make them, I will come across as inauthentic. People will say I’m being a phony, that this is not who I really am.”
I used to go on and on convincing clients this wasn’t going to be the case. But I realized quickly that it was the case. People will accuse someone of being inauthentic if they are trying to make not only change, but positive change. So, I simplified my response and broke it down to the basics.
“Is there anything more authentic than someone acknowledging their faults and trying to correct them?”
The answer is absolutely not!
However, feeling inauthentic is one of the areas people hold onto that prevents them from making positive change in their lives.
Now, we don’t always get it right.
We must work positive change and see if it has the impact we are looking for. If it doesn’t, we simply move on to another option and see if that behavior produces the positive impact we are looking for.
Now the rub: Not everyone is going to like the new you. Some people will have to be left behind that no longer support the new, better you. It is a hard reality, but it is the price to be paid for personal improvement.
And now to the Basalt River Park and that detestable fake rock on the new bandshell. There have certainly been plenty of negative comments on the new look of Basalt. And, not surprisingly, inauthentic is one of them.
For my part, I like the effort. We’ll see how it turns out and if it has a positive or negative impact on the town. But here is what I know for certain: The planners did not sit around a table and debate ways to make Basalt worse.
Let’s give it a chance. If it turns out to be a disaster, so what? We will know why it isn’t working in fairly short order and move toward making positive adjustments.
Or, it may be one of those changes you deem inauthentic and leaves you behind. Either way, changes are being made to make our beloved town better.
Does this make Basalt authentic or inauthentic?
Errol Doebler is a former Navy SEAL platoon commander, FBI terrorism investigator, and founder of his leadership consulting company, Ice Cold Leader. He can be contacted at Hello@Icecoldleader.com. Look out for Errol’s upcoming new book, “Ice Cold Leader: Leading From the Inside Out.”