By Tracy Diziere
Being authentic in business increases happiness due to simplified decision-making, improved communication, and a strong foundation for growth. Consider these examples:
- You want to work with people who are humble. A prospective referral source begins to rattle off his accolades and share how VIPs constantly praise him for all his help.
- Integrity is a shared value with a prospective strategic partner. When you need to express concern over how an arrangement might work, you can link it to an integrity conflict and she will understand.
- Your company culture has defined core values and developed tests for cultural fit. Current employees are engaged and committed. As you grow, assessing candidates and on-boarding new hires is easy. Your business thrives because the external messaging matches the customer experience and the internal culture.
In each case, you have a high level of self-awareness, which is at the heart of authenticity.
The Process of Authenticity
Authenticity is a process, not a destination. It is a commitment in the present–during each present–to embrace our humanness and others’ humanness with non-judgment, let go of preconceived ideas of how we are supposed to act, and act in accordance with our core values instead. However, you can prepare for the journey by taking 4 foundational steps: (1) examine your own goals, values, and preferences, (2) define those synergies that will make you happy, (3) choose your relationships accordingly, and (4) speak in a language that resonates with your ideal client.
Step 1: Examine
Authenticity starts with self-awareness, both in the short-term (identifying how we are interpreting the moment) and our worldview. It requires looking inward, which may or may not be a challenge, and seeing and assessing what is found there, which can be difficult. We need to ask ourselves:
- Where do I want to go?
- What do I want to take with me?
- What is no longer serving me that I’d like to leave behind?
- Why am I here?
- What are my core values?
- What traits do I admire in others?
Step 2: Define
Define the synergies that will make you happy. In looking at the list of traits you admire, how many of these apply to clients? Could they? What else is missing from the list?
What are the relationships with these people like? On the flipside, what is the opposite?
Consider your core values and how you might refine them for your business. For entrepreneurs and others who are the company, the core values are your own but they should be expandable, transferable, and in line with the future vision you have for your company. And, they should be mutable in small ways, like minor steering adjustments–not constantly shifting, as in weaving in and out of lanes.
Step 3: Choose (evaluate)
In looking at Step 2, how do you know when there is a fit? To whom or what you will say “No”? We’ve all heard “You can’t be all things to all people, there’s riches in niches,” etc.–but to choose, we must know what the undesirable traits are and develop the tools to evaluate subjects. Where X is the undesirable trait, ask:
- Where have people with X come from? How have we met? (This may also drive networking and other marketing activities.)
- What do the people with X have in common?
- What questions can I ask the person directly that would show me X?
- What questions can I ask references that would show me X?
Obviously, it is easier–and more positive!–to go to market with authentic core values and messaging to attract the right people–having them self-select instead of having to weed them out. It also saves time and energy.
Step 4: Speak
Having authentic core values allows you to create messaging and content that will represent you and speak your truth when you are not there. This is why “marketing” can be so much broader-reaching than many people think. Marketers consider how you want others to describe you– what’s the word or series of words tied to an emotion that is true to your core values, true to the experience of being your customer, and representative of your culture? (In marketing strategy terms, this work is brand development or branding and includes external market factors, such as “competitive” analyses.)
But getting the language right is only part of the job. Consistency is the other part. The message throughout your communications needs to be the same–across all media. Tools such as audits and brand guides can come in handy here.