The Authenticity Factor

Keep it real concept.To what degree are you genuine and authentic with your work colleagues – bosses, peers, and team members – in daily interactions? defines authentic as “not false or copied; genuine; real.”

If we ponder how our great bosses behaved with us, it is extremely likely that they were real. They demonstrated authentic care and service to us.

They interacted with no hidden agendas. There was no smoke and mirrors; there was simply honest discussion, transparent decision-making, and in-depth engagement.

Our great bosses kept their commitments, delivering on their promises. If they were unable to keep their commitments, they told us why, well in advance of the deadline. They also explained how they were trying to get back on track, as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, leaders that demonstrate authentic care are not the norm. For example, TinyHR’s 2014 engagement and culture survey found that 49% of employees are not satisfied with their direct supervisor.

In my work with clients around the globe, I hear about team member’s frustrations with their leaders all the time. These frustrations are often founded on the leader’s lack of consistent authenticity. Employees tell me, “I don’t know which boss is going to show up each day – Jekyll or Hyde.” Or “She says one thing then turns around and does the exact opposite. We see it every day.”

If leaders don’t demonstrate behavioral integrity – keeping their promises and modeling the organization’s espoused values – they erode team members’ commitment and contribution. Tony Simons’ excellent book, The Integrity Dividend, found that employee’s commitment goes up with observed behavioral integrity from their leaders. That causes employees to apply discretionary energy in service to their organization’s customers and goals.

The benefit? For one hotel chain, $250,000 annual profit growth for every 1/4 point gain on a 10 point scale!

There is another benefit to the leader’s authenticity. When leaders demonstrate authentic care, team members are much more likely to demonstrate authentic care with each other.

The coach of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, Gregg Popovich, is a player’s coach – team members love to play for him. He’s authentic and genuine. One way his genuineness plays out is that Popovich often devotes a portion of team meetings to the culture and history of team members.

Last June, in the midst of preparations for the championship series with the Miami Heat, Popovich opened a meeting by leading a team discussion about Mabo Day. Point guard Patty Mills – an indigenous Australian native – was surprised and honored by the coach’s actions.

Popovich believes that knowing one another’s stories off the court binds team members together on the court. “It builds camaraderie. They feel connected and engaged and do better work.”

Authenticity matters. Genuine care matters. Be real, be honest, be available, be present. Only then can you build positive relationships, serve others consistently, and inspire aligned behavior and contribution.

How did your great bosses demonstrate authentic care? How well do you know your colleagues’ history and stories? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Want hands-on guidance for boosting productivity while reducing drama at work? Join me in Denver for my Culture Leadership Roundtable. This series, based on my book, The Culture Engine, meets one-morning-a-month starting in April.

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