The Most Powerful Note on Authenticity I've Ever Received

I was blown away by an email I received from a woman who recently read Winning Well.  I was touched on so many levels…by her brave journey toward authenticity in the workplace, by her clear sense of confident humility, by her gratitude for accepting leaders and an inclusive workplace, and quite frankly by the fact that there are Winning Well CEOs out there looking for other Winning Well leaders who have the ability to value competence and confidence over all the other crap that gets in the way of awesome results and incredible professional relationships.

I am so grateful that she took the time to write…and for her willingness for me to share her story with you. As you read, I invite you to reflect:

  • What would it mean for you to show up authentically with your team?
  • Am I creating a team environment where people can show up with their authentic best self?

Here’s an excerpt (shared with her permission):

“I just finished reading Winning Well (it’d been on my Amazon pre-orders list for more than a month, and I devoured it as soon as it arrived) and wanted to reach out to thank you and David for a fantastic book. Your book made explicit a lot of things I’ve been doing intuitively, and highlighted some places I can step up and do even better. I’m super excited to put those things into practice and to continue to grow my leadership skills as a result.

I also wanted to share with you my story about the power of authenticity and vulnerability, because I truly believe it is the key to everything I have achieved in my career in the last few years.

A bit about me: I am presently managing a technical team of what are essentially technically oriented project managers (and she shares her very powerful work history and accomplishments)

I am also a transgender woman, who transitioned while living in Silicon Valley 17 years ago, during the peak of the dot-com boom.

During the years my ex-spouse and I ran our consulting company together, I never talked about my past or my transition with anyone save a few close friends. My ex was scared it would cost us the respect of our clients and, ultimately, their business. It turned out that most of them knew anyway – and, as in your story in your book, it turned out that I’d damaged their faith in me and their trust in our relationship by hiding who I was.

When my ex and I divorced in 2012, I vowed not to make that mistake again. And, in fact, in my subsequent job search, I made the decision that I was going to be up-front and honest about all of my life experiences and how the lessons I learned from them – compassion, tenacity, determination – made me who I am. If a company wanted to look at all that I had to offer and then not hire me because I am transgender, I reasoned, that was a sure sign that it was the wrong company for me.

The final of five interviews for my first role at my current company was with the CEO and co-founder. “He likes to talk about our Core Values”, the recruiter had told me, so when I came into the office I’d already reviewed and thought about those Core Values. “So, tell me why you want to work here,” he asked me, and I just started talking. I talked about my experience as a transgender woman and the obstacles I’d overcome to becoming my true and most fully realized self. I talked about the myriad changes happening in my life at that time – 2013 was the year I divorced, moved to a new city for a new job, turned 40, and saw my adopted daughter turn 18 and move out on her own. I talked about my personal core values and where I saw alignment with my company’s core values.

In all, I probably talked for about 35 minutes. At the end of that time, the CEO looked at me from the other side of a small round conference table in his office. “I’ve scheduled an hour for our interview,” he told me, “and I’d like to spend the rest of the time getting to know you better. But I have to tell you, you’re the most interesting person who’s walked into my office this week, and you have to come work here.”

He still says that his conversation with me is the most memorable job interview he’s ever done. As a result of my willingness to be authentic I’ve built relationships all over my company, I’ve been promoted twice in three years, I have the respect of my leadership, my peers, the folks who I serve as a manager, and other employees all over the company. And as a result of that, I’m able to keep achieving the results I do,  for my team, for the company, and for myself. (One example: after 17 years of waiting, I finally had gender confirmation surgery last year – and, again, thanks to my willingness to engage in authentic dialogue, my company covered the cost on their health insurance.)

Authenticity is the key to relationship-building, I think, and relationship-building has been my superpower career-wise.

Anyway, since you talked at some length about authenticity in your book, I wanted to reach out to share a bit of my story, and to say thanks again for a terrific book. I really enjoyed it, and it’s definitely given me some new ways to think about what I do as a manager.”

This important note really made me think about all the other stories of authenticity I may be missing, even from my regular readers. If you, or someone you know, has such a story, I’m more than ready to listen. I’ll never share anything without your permission. Please reach out to me at karin.hurt@letsgrowleaders.com

FREE WEBINAR

Winning Well-3DJoin me on Thursday, March 31st at 2pm EST for a FREE Webinar: Winning Well: Managing the Art of the Tough Conversation With Your Employees. Click here to learn more.

Another Way to Outsmart the Competition

The hard-sell is so old school. Anyone with a passing interest in what you’re saying has 17 ways to get 17 different perspectives on what you’re saying in 17 seconds.  Your customers and employees have become conditioned to respond to any hard sell with a Google search for the truth.

The minute the Google-search has begun, you’ve inadvertently outsourced your explaining authority to the vortex.

And yet, the world continues to be filled with executives over-selling their vision, recruiters over-selling unrealistic lifestyles, and salespeople overselling features and benefits. More than ever, telling the whole truth has become a competitive advantage.

Outsmart the competition by being an explainer.

3 Ways to Outsmart the Competition by Being an Explainer

This is part 2 of 7 ways to outsmart the competition. If you missed #1 “Getting There Early.” Click here.

Great leaders are amazing explainers. They go slow to go fast. They take time to explain their ideas, perspective and values. They welcome the tough questions and the slippery slopes. They go there.

1. In Marketing: Teach Before Selling

So many people ask me why I give away so much content. I’ve been told “I don’t understand your model” more than once. But the companies who work with me get it.

My mission to grow leaders is vital. If you really can’t pay, you still need this, and I will share for free. I also know that the best work I do is face-to-face, helping you and your team go deeper. The deeper magic happens when we explore your world together.

I encourage you to adopt a similar approach. No matter what your mission, be a teacher. Help people understand the industry, their environment and what they don’t know. Give boldly. Important work will follow. If it doesn’t, improve your message.

2. In Recruiting: Give a Realistic Perspective

I was shocked to hear one of my MBA students come back disillusioned from a recent sales pitch of one of the big consulting firms. It was the exact same pitch I rejected 20 years ago. The story was “work-life balance.” The label I heard back then was “more nights home than away” (which I soon found out counted weekends, vacation, and holiday… essentially 4 nights of every workweek away.) Today, all it took was a few quick searches to hear the real message “We make it easy for you to hire people to raise your children, clean your house, say your prayers and do your gardening. You won’t have time.”

3. In Engaging Commitment: Tell The Truth

For God’s sake (and everyone else’s), don’t BS. If you are in a conference room trying to spin an uncomfortable message and your heart is sagging, listen to the voice. Your team will see right through any spin you are weaving. Do your best to tell the truth with the best words you can muster. If there’s still stuff you can’t share, whatever you do don’t lie about the future. You will win hearts, minds, and engaged arms and legs by telling the truth at every juncture. I’ve made a career of telling bad news well. Nothing opens the door for true engagement better than that.

Mean It Madness Month On LGL #meanit

Welcome to Mean It Madness Month on Let’s Grow Leaders. My sister, Jill Herr, works is a healthcare executive and speech pathologist, my nephew, Jared Herr (middle school) and son, Ben Evans (college), are active student leaders.

We’re all disturbed by a pattern we see across many contexts. The severe consequences of people not saying what they mean: damaged relationships, disrupted trust, missed opportunities, wasted time, frustration. So, we’ve joined forces to present Mean it Madness on Let’s Grow Leaders. We’re on a mission to encourage more sincere conversations.

Watch this less than 1 minute video to hear more about our movement, and join our Intergenerational and International Inquiry into why more people don’t say what they really mean.

Click here to tell us how a meaningful conversation has change your perspective, your relationship, or your life. We’re looking to hear your stories of when saying what you really meant, made all the difference.

How Do We Encourage More Meaningful Conversations?

Share your story on a particularly meaningful experience, where saying what you mean made all the difference. If you know people with stories or passion around this topic, please pass this along. We want to cast as broad a net as possible. If you have #meanit ideas, or see great examples of sincere leading and living, tweet it out with #meanit. If you’ve got something to say, why not send me a short video clip with your ideas?

Bloggers, another opportunity to share your views on sincerity is to contribute to the March Frontline Festival Click on the link for more information and to submit your post If you write other related posts this month, I encourage you to email them to me at karin.hurt@letsgrowleaders.com (don’t use the form for that). I’ll work to share it under our #meanit campaign.

Why Leaders Should Say What They Mean

To kick-off our Mean-It Madness, I wrote a post over at Switch and Shift:

Positioning, spin, strategic ambiguity – why do so many leaders fail to say what they mean? Leaders worry that if they say what they really mean.

  • Someone might panic
  • The truth will leak
  • Employees will make bad choices
  • They’ll become disengaged

Spinning the truth has all of those same side effects, only worse. When humans aren’t told the truth, the stories they concoct to fill in the blanks are far more dramatic than the actual scene.

I’m always surprised by how surprised employees are when they’re told the honest truth.  To continue reading click here.

In Other News

Don’t worry, we’ll return to our regular leadership programming most of the month, with occasional sprinklings of #meanit madness. Stay tuned, share your stories, and enjoy the fun.

Getting Past Fake Talk At Work

Fake talk diminishes relationships, slows work down, and jeopardizes results. At yet, the B.S. factor is alive and well in corporate America. We need more straight talk about fake talk.

Fake talk is attractive as an easy way out. But when fake talk’s the norm, the real game becomes guessing what’s really happening or what people mean.

Overcoming Fake Talk

This week, I spoke with Overcoming Fake Talk author, John Stoker about the dangers of Fake Talk:

“Fake Talk can be defined as any time a person intentionally misrepresents the truth, is unintentionally vague or unclear, when people go along to be agreeable or not rock the boat, and when people are focused on being politically correct rather than discuss and understand the finer nuances of what is going on. When people engage in these types of behavior, then performance is not improved, work is often redundant or inefficient, accountability is lacking, and the bottom line ultimately suffers.”

He shared a story that seems crazy, but sadly not surprising.

“Years ago I was hired to do a culture assessment for a CEO and his team of VPs. After I had interviewed all of the vice presidents and identified what was not working, I met with the CEO and his senior team to give them feedback. I was barely five minutes into the presentation when the CEO stopped me and said, “We really don’t talk negative about our company. I have to ask you to stop.”

I responded, “I’m not talking negative, I’m going to tell you the reality of what is working here and what is not working, with the intent of improving your processes and getting results.” All of the vice presidents in the room were uncomfortable and looked down.

overcoming fake talkI continued, “If you can’t talk about what’s not working, then how can we ever identify what it is that we need to improve here?” Fortunately, he let me continue. I would venture to say that this was the first real conversation this team had conducted in a very long time.

Individuals in corporate America, be they leaders or managers, who are not willing to talk about the real issues and take steps to improve what it is that they are trying to achieve cannot really hope to achieve anything different. Progress simply cannot happen in a vacuum.”

So how does our LGL community discourage fake talk? I asked John his thoughts on how to develop and encourage leaders to hold real conversations. His advice, “help them prepare.” When we deal with tough conversations in the moment, our survival and protection instincts kick in. 

Even if we know intellectually that we want to tell the truth, it’s tough to think straight in the heat of the moment. Prepare for what you need to say, and anticipate potential reactions. His book offers a four quadrant model on how to prepare.

Planning For Real Conversations

Prepare – What outcome would you like to see? What could you do?

Connect – Consider What do YOU want? What do THEY want?

Initiate – Attention check: I’d like to talk about.

Data – I noticed.

Interpretation – I’m wondering if

Discover – What questions should you ask? What answers do you need?

The Big Problem with Little White Lies

When’s the last time you sat in a meeting and heard a “little white lie”?

Sure, what they presented was “technically” the truth. The statistics they presented were real, but no one walked away with the full story. Perhaps you found yourself wondering “do they really think I’m that stupid?”

“White lies introduce others of a darker complexion.”
~William Paley

We all have different triggers and thresholds. I’ve come to learn that my white lie-detector is set to quick frustration. I go from skeptical to spitting teeth in a matter of seconds.

I suspect I’m not alone.

Little white lies come in many forms

  • spin
  • strategic ambiguity
  • manipulated data
  • left out facts
  • embellished stories
  • hedging
  • broken promises
  • covering our butts
  • ?

Little white lies can…

  • be easy
  • get you out of jam
  • buy you time
  • shift blame
  • destroy your relationships
  • derail your career

If you tell a little lie, we question…

  • where did these numbers come from?
  • did you tell me the truth last time?
  • what else do i need to dig into?
  • what aren’t you telling me?
  • are you for real?
  • do you have my back?
  • should I work with you again?
  • can I trust you?
  • ?

Great Leaders Don’t BS

It takes courage to…

  • Admit when we’ve screwed up
  • Share the whole truth
  • Lift up problems
  • Tell the whole story
  • ?

Ask Yourself These Truths…

  • When you present do “they” know you are sharing the whole view?
  • Would they work with you again?

Please comment: Is there a place for “little white lies” in business?
Does it always pay to tell the truth?

How To Tell Your Boss The Truth

I learned this one the hard way.

My first year out of grad school, I was invited to a symposium on self-directed work teams. In academia, I was well versed. I had little practical experience. The morning began with a senior executive sponsor setting the vision. After he spoke, I immediately raised my hand and challenged one of his major assumptions. I shared my “truth.” There was a palpable gasp from the crowd. He was embarrassed, as was I.

It doesn’t matter if my “truth” was true. I am not sure if I ever recovered with that executive.

I believe in telling the truth. I need to hear it. My boss needs to hear it. You boss needs to hear it.

Frame your truth in a way that can be heard.

Truth Packaged Well

Your boss is likely working on her leadership as much or more than you are working on yours. No matter how confident someone appears on the outside, they are dealing with insecurities, complex personal and family dynamics, and personal triggers just like the rest of us.

When done well, your boss will hear the feedback, and be grateful that you cared enough to take the time.

A few tips:

  • Stay centered in your own intentions is this about you or about them, or the chemistry between?
  • Ask– are they open to some feedback?
  • Schedule some time, or look for an opportunity free from distractions
  • Provide the feedback in private
  • Come from a spirit of caring and helping
  • Ask questions, try to understand her point of view
  • Be prepared with specific examples
  • Own the feedback, this is from you, you are not representing the rest of the group
  • What would you add ?