You know what they say about sincerity. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made. It’s a mystery who said it first; it’s been credited to everyone from George Burns to Groucho to the French novelist Jean Giraudoux.
Sincerity sounds almost quaint. But the closely related authenticity has been a business buzzword for a few years now. It’s overused to the point of seeming, well, inauthentic.
And yet. Authenticity is so important to your business.
I tell my clients all the time, “The main thing your audience wants from you is – you.” More than your information, more than your clever phrases, more than your brilliant analysis. They want you.
And I’m in good company. I heard a National Speakers Association panel of experts not long ago touting authenticity and engagement over polished presentation. They said some very well-known speakers are finding themselves in less demand because their canned speech sounds just like a canned speech. And 2016 audiences want something more interactive and—there’s that word—authentic.
Everybody recommends it, and not just for speakers, by any means. Harvard Business Review says, “Authenticity is the gold standard for leadership.”
In a Forbes article, consultant Sohrab Vossoughi called authenticity in business “a distinctly 21st century concept” and stressed the need for “an authentic relationship with your customers.”
And the data analysis pros at Kissmetrics say, “Authentic businesses inspire and prosper.”
So just about every expert suggests that whether you’re an entrepreneur, executive or employee … authenticity will make you more successful. The question is – how do you get it?
Takes us right back to that thing about faking it, doesn’t it?
You really can’t fake authenticity, although some people try. I do think you can cultivate it, though. And the main way to do that is to get willing to be seen and heard as who you really are.
That means, of course, telling the truth. Not taking credit for someone else’s work. Owning up to mistakes and doing what you can to make up for them. Lending a hand when you can. And saying so, directly, when you can’t.
Or, as my mentor Larry Winget says, “Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it, the way you say you’re going to do it.”
I think there’s something else, too. It’s this idea of being willing to be seen and heard. To show up in front of an audience or your customers or your colleagues being who you really are. No mask, no artifice, no fakery.
And that doesn’t come easily. Because guess what, if people see and hear you as you really are, some of them won’t like you.
Not to be harsh, mind you. Some others will love you to pieces. But isn’t that really what keeps us from being willing to be authentic? We’re afraid people will think less of us when our real selves are front and center. So we get in the habit of hiding parts of ourselves.
People who hear me speak tell me often they appreciate how “real” and “natural” I am; sometimes I’m not totally sure that’s a compliment.
But most of the time, I’m pretty certain that being willing to be who I really am in front of an audience is a gift and one of the keys to my success as a speaker. And I recommend it to my clients. The main thing your listeners want from you really is you.
Second-to-the-last word on the subject from Brené Brown: “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
Now it’s your turn. Show up and be real … and tell us what it means to be authentic in your professional life.