In 12 years, I have had 7 titles of which I applied for 3 of the roles and the other 4 times I promoted in place. Performance is a given to continue progressing your career path and promoting. It’s the extras that make the difference in how and when you move up.
Recently, I became aware that one the biggest X-factors of my promotions was really an A-factor. It was the authenticity factor. Irony isn’t lost on me that I was slow to realize how being authentic had impacted my career path.
I was offering congratulations to a co-worker who was relocating for a new position and she shared her appreciation for how authentic I was on our initiative. We didn’t know each other well. We worked in different departments. But her biggest impression of me was how authentic I was which struck me. I mentioned it to my husband and he quickly chuckled at my surprise which is usually a pretty good sign that it resonates.
Then, another glaring example presented itself when I took a DISC assessment. The influence results were expected but the revelation was where my styles landed. My natural and adaptive styles as pictured below were next to each other. It pretty much screams what you see is what you get. It shows my A-factor strongly. Shh…it also proved my husband right but we don’t need to tell him that.
Being authentic is defined as real and genuine or true and accurate. And authenticity has been quite the buzzword in business articles and self-help books as a key to success or path to leadership. But why? And how?
It isn’t simply who is the most real at the office who moves head. And to be clear being authentic is not a license to be a jerk in the name of being genuine. Being authentic means your words and actions align displaying your values consistently. I am not exactly the same everyday and you shouldn’t be either. The situation will influence what I say and do but I am guided by my true self. Those who know me personally and those who know me professionally might know different things about me but all witness the same character.
It doesn’t take long for someone new to get a sense of who I am. I am an easily excited bubbly lady with jazz hands who is loud in all formats. I tend to be self-critical driven by high personal expectations. I have a big heart and love people which lends to a strong sense of altruistic motivation. My mind is very process oriented and focuses in on the details while still seeing the big picture. Some of these qualities have made it easier to progress in my career and others have been ones that cause me to learn lessons the hard way. Being true to me means that I know myself and I am comfortable acknowledging my strengths and weaknesses. I am honest about my past, present and future.
Being authentic in business really is skillfully navigating each day with your core as the compass. Authenticity has been researched because of the profound impact it can have. And owning my authentic nature led to exploring the associated tenants of being authentic. I believe all the buzz and books give reverence to it being a pivotal X-Factor of success because of four key components of being authentic.
A-Factor – Authenticity and Happiness:
Being authentic leads to reduced stress, improved health and increased happiness. It is difficult and exhausting to be one way privately and another professionally day in and day out. I am happier at work because I am not trying to keep up some persona that I think will get me ahead and instead being my best me. For example, I am heart on my sleeve, people-person who genuinely cares about others. I am sucker for a good cause and often I am the first one to volunteer or donate. I will remember your sister has been in the hospital and worry about how she is doing. I may ask about a lifelong dream you mentioned one time. My former teammates dubbed me the bleeding heart when we were picking nicknames for a team poster. I am happier at work because I don’t try to hide who I am. Being authentic and happy go hand-in-hand. You can find happiness too by being authentic.
A-Factor – Authenticity and Self-Awareness:
Now being authentic doesn’t just lead to happiness, but also to an increased state of self-awareness. Self-awareness is another trending term that correlates closely with authenticity. When you are being you, it makes you more aware of your strengths and weaknesses. It allows you to be more attuned to where and how you can develop further personally and professionally.
Self-awareness not only involves consciously knowing your own personality but also understanding individuality and how others view you too. Research has shown that self-awareness leads to sounder decisions, deeper relationships, improved communication and better leaders.
I am more self-aware because I am staying true to my core values and have learned how others may perceive those over time. Individualization is one of my top 5 strengths according to Strength Finders which helps me with the external portion of self-awareness. For example, individualization assists with personalizing communications. It also aids with more effective collaboration because I know me and think about others as individuals. I naturally think about the win-win for all parties involved which has been beneficial. I don’t always get it right but self-awareness gives me insights to increase my chances. You can gain the self-awareness advantage too through being authentic.
A-Factor – Authenticity and Approachable:
Being authentic allows you to know yourself on a deeper level and also for those around you to see you which leads to being more approachable. Everyone knows what to expect when interacting with you which makes it easier to reach out. Approachability provides unique opportunities to develop yourself and others.
It is beneficial to have a reputation of being a go-to person. The approachable advantage establishes space to build relationships and collaborate with others. Being approachable can help you lead and develop others.
When you are approachable, it also means others are more likely to be open with you. This creates scenarios where you gain information that may not have been provided otherwise. You will become the first to know instead of the last. Putting others at ease can even enhance their performance as they are comfortable with you.
Being authentic and approachable closely align because finding yourself is inviting to others.
A-Factor – Authenticity and Feedback:
Authenticity increases being self-aware and approachable, which leads to receiving better feedback. Feedback increases in quantity and quality with authenticity. Authentic people acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses and are open about their celebrations and struggles. This makes others more comfortable sharing direct and candid feedback.
I have found this personally beneficial. I can think of a couple co-workers that being real with each other encouraged us to provide real-time and off-the-cuff feedback. Most people get uncomfortable being critical of others but when they know you are authentic and approachable that makes it easier to bring up a difficult topic.
By being authentic, you hear feedback more often from a larger base which increases the odds to learn about improving skills and addressing perceptions. Feedback is one of the most valuable resources you can tap into and the a-factors lead to obtaining it.
The a-factors of authenticity build on each other. Being your true self leads to higher levels of happiness due to reduced stress. This makes you more approachable as you are viewed as genuine and positive. Adding a measure of self-awareness increases authenticity while also encouraging feedback.
Simon Sinek said, “Authenticity is more than speaking; Authenticity is also about doing. Every decision we make says something about who we are.”
I couldn’t agree more that although authentic is a buzzword that it isn’t one that should be thrown around lightly. It is more than words but is truly actions. Authenticity does not require perfection but honesty. Being authentic isn’t a one-time exercise but an approach to life.
Authentic leadership has remained a top headline in business articles and research studies alike and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Authenticity will remain important and I believe that is influenced by the closely related a-factor drivers of happiness, self-awareness, approachability and feedback.