The unsung hero of a fully engaged, energized workplace may surprise you.
To uncover this everyday tour-de-force, let us turn for a moment to perhaps the most challenging of all battlegrounds for maintaining attention and engagement—teenagers in a classroom.
Sam Intrator is a teaching expert who spent 130-days shadowing and closely observing teenagers in a diverse California high school. He discovered the key to holding their attention, making personal connections, and thus making learning meaningful for them.
Is it a boisterous presentation? Is it a commanding and even fear-inducing presence? Is it a comedic or hip approach? No, it’s authenticity.
“Teachers who connected with students told poignant personal stories, conveyed their passions, and expressed emotion and vulnerability. Time and again, I heard students say about teachers who were capable of snaring attention, ‘Mr. X is a real person.’”
In the workplace, too, it is the existence of a real environment and accompanying genuine behavior that maximizes the quality of connections between coworkers, fires up engagement, and creates enduring moments of meaning. It starts with the primary teachers in an organization, its leaders and managers, who must role-model authentic behavior.
It’s easy to understand the importance of this when you imagine what it’s like in an inauthentic environment where disingenuous, untrustworthy, or fake behavior is the norm. The unhealthy roots of such inauthentic behavior will soon kill the tree that’s trying to grow. Moreover, the offending acts don’t remain buried; disingenuous behavior has a way of surfacing and revealing itself. Human instinct is strong and in tune to a lack of authenticity.
In fact, nothing is more transparent than when someone’s not being transparent. And again, the effects can be devastating.
Think of the incredibly negative emotions you have toward people when they are not being transparent and you know it. It’s hard to repair. Now think of how energizing it is when you are encountering someone being genuine and honest. Why wouldn’t you always seek to create that kind of energy? The truth is, most managers absolutely want to be transparent and authentic. However, the problem arises in the level of vigilance required. Well-meaning managers can ruin years of goodwill with just one unintentional slip.
Adhering to a code of conduct for authenticity is one helpful way to ensure the right behaviors are always top of mind. Sharing these principles with your organization can help set behavioral expectations and standards. Accordingly, I’ve outlined a code of conduct for being authentic:
The Authenticity Code of Conduct
Be a beacon of…
- transparency, honesty, and integrity.
Be worthy of…
- belief and trust.
- in a genuine, down-to-earth, and approachable manner (no matter the conditions).
- in a manner congruent with your values and character (at work and outside of work).
- with humility, humanity, and vulnerability.
- without regard to position-power, leveraging relationship-power instead.
- in the power of each person bringing his or her whole self to work, and encourage individuals to bring forth their unique skills, styles, and original thinking.
Be beholden to…
- employees who speak truth, expose issues, and admit mistakes (and do so yourself).
Be the first to…
- live the values of the organization (especially if you establish them).
- show passion and productive emotion.
- give credit away and accept blame.
- laugh, have fun, and encourage others to do the same.
Be wary of…
- politics and two-faced behavior.
Be a provider of…
- truth, reality, and hope.
- genuine feedback that is positive and corrective (and from the heart).
- a safe haven for taking risks and venting frustrations.
All in all, promoting an atmosphere of authenticity helps yield norms of behavior that forge strong, meaningful bonds and that produce vastly stronger results. It is the unsung hero that can turn you into an everyday superhero at work.