Becoming More Authentic: A Practical Guide

You are born authentic. Life happens. You slowly start to hide bits of yourself from yourself and others. Not deliberately. It’s a gradual mutation, hard to see– let alone feel. You work to convince your heart this new you is practical, even necessary. More life happens.
Reverse the pattern.

Benefits of Aging

From the hundreds of folks weighing in on yesterday’s post in various circles (including great comments yesterday, THANK YOU!), the most frequent theme was, “I have become more authentic with age.”

Perhaps it’s because early attempts are clutsy. We need more life to understand our values. Or, we take an aggressive stance without thinking it through. Or perhaps as LaRay Quy commented in yesterday’s post:

Sooner or later, life catches up with those who are not authentic, but I feel sort of sorry for them because most of them have no idea WHO or WHAT they really stand for the illusion has become the reality. I think it’s sometimes called “mid-life crisis?”

Don’t just wait it out and hope for your years to make you wise. You want every bit of authenticity as early in your game as possible.

Growing Toward Authentic

There’s no easy way to BECOME more authentic. I didn’t see authenticity 101 in my son’s freshman choices. But it’s helpful to consider some components.

Values

Get deliberate in articulating your values. Make a short list. Write them down. Order them. Notice the natural tension among them. When your deeply held values battle which wins? For one week, at the end of each day take out the list. Grade yourself honestly on each one. Notice the patterns.

Integrity

Integrity sits at the intersection of your heart, head, mouth and feet. Pay deliberate attention to when and where you do what you say. Where do your best intentions break down? When are you tempted to cover up your choices?

Courage

Most of us show up more authentic in some places than others. Some people and scenes stoke our authenticity. Others bring out the faker in us. Identify one situation where you need more courage. Name the fear. Give it an audacious and ugly name. Then find one way to punch it in the face today.

Transparency

Start today with a stroke count. Count how many times your heart called you to share more, but you bit your tongue. Notice why. Look for patterns. Ask you team for help. What are they longing to learn more about, take the risk and let them in.

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Simple Gifts: The Best You Can Do is Enough

My favorite Christmas stories are the ones where a humble hero offers the best gifts he can muster.  It never looks like much on the outside.

In Why The Chimes Rang, a small child accomplishes what all the rich and famous could not with their extravagant gifts.  He did what he could, with what he had.

The Little Drummer Boy, “had no gift to bring” but we keep singing about him.  I could go on, but the point is not about Christmas stories it’s about you and me.

Why Our Gifts Remain Ungiven

Where do we stop because we think our gifts are too simple.

We sooth our conscience with stopping thoughts:
“I’m really not the best qualified.”

“There’s not much I can do”

“This problem is too big”

“I don’t know what to say”

“I’m not really that good around sick people”

“They probably are being bombarded with support.”

We think ourselves out of doing.
We think ourselves out of helping.
We think ourselves out of leading.
And our gifts remain ungiven.

Encouraging Reluctant Gifts

As leaders, do we look for the humble gifts available in others?

It’s easy to pre-judge potential contributions. We look for the most talented.

We go to our “go-to” guy again. We want this project to be perfect, so we don’t give it to the woman who would grow most from the experience.

A few months ago, Ben, my high-school senior son came home and told me he was going to conduct a middle school brass quintet.

I was surprised and skeptical. Ben loves music and is a competent musician.

But he will not major in music. He does not aspire to be drum major. He has never had a private lesson.

On paper, there are more kids in his school qualified for this gig. If he had asked me, I might have offered my hesitation.  But he didn’t ask me.  And, they asked HIM.  And he said yes. 

He selected the music, he conducted the rehearsals, he found venues and scheduled performances. He put on a ridiculous Christmas sweater.  His gift was a gift.

Each middle school musician also trumpeted their gifts.   A Blast of Brass makes beautiful music and a joyful noise.

Begin the offering, more gifts will emerge

Don’t let yourself or others talk you out of giving what is enough.

 

Stupid Feedback: When Stupid Smarts and What to Do About It

We’ve all been on the receiving end of stupid feedback from time to time. It’s mean. It hurts. And it isn’t useful or is it?

Feedback is stupid when it’s alarming but not specific when we leave the conversation not understanding what to learn, or have any inkling about what to change. It’s easy to become frustrated and defensive.

A stupid example

I just spoke with an old friend. He was visibly distraught, “I was just told I am not a good leader,”

“Oh, why?”

No tangible examples

“What? That’s stupid feedback,” I replied.

And then, my brain went into one of those spins where I tried to concurrently entertain two competing thoughts leaving me with this divergent response:

1. “You can’t take that seriously”

2. “You must take that seriously”

What’s stupid

I have seen this guy lead up close. He’s got a lot of good going on. This kind of feedback destroys confidence. Even if there are issues, broad statements like this from someone in a position of power are not productive.

I then asked him to tell me why he knows he is a good leader he had a nice list.

Why it’s still serious

And then the tougher conversation.

What was driving this impression and subsequent feedback?

Who else was hearing this view?

Is there real feedback here to be understood and acted upon?

Looking beyond stupid

I began to think of some of the really vague and frustrating feedback I’ve received over the years. Usually, once I got past the emotional reaction, there was some nugget worth learning.

The lesson was not always obvious, but there was value in the digging.

Some approaches that can help

  • Examine the bigger context as objectively as possible
  • Calm down, and then go back and ask for clarification, examples, and help
  • Seek feedback from others, are there patterns to be understood?
  • Consider a 360 Feedback assessment
  • Look for a coach or mentor to support
  • And then again, after open-minded consideration, it’s possible that the feedback is not being given from a helpful place. That’s a discovery too

Even when delivered clumsily or from a biased viewpoint, feedback may offer some value. If we can look beyond the delivery, we may be surprised by what we can learn.