graphic for The 2019 Index of Intelligent Technology in HR Tech

 

Most people spend too much energy trying to fit-in and not rock the boat, especially at work. We want to be accepted. Choosing authenticity (we call it Flying your Freak Flag) means abandoning the quest to be normal, and inviting yourself and others to accept you just as you are.

Most people spend too much energy trying to fit-in and not rock the boat, especially at work. We want to be accepted. Choosing authenticity (we call it Flying your Freak Flag) means abandoning the quest to be normal, and inviting yourself and others to accept you just as you are.

I went to a funeral recently of a 33 year old woman. She died of cancer.

It was touching and gut-wrenching.  One after another, her friends, family and colleagues spoke to the hundreds of people who had gathered to honor her life. She had touched many parts of our community through her work, friendship, three young children, and passion for others.

As I listened, my eyes filled with tears. This woman had really lived. They told stories that showed how she was loving, vibrant, devoted, courageous and full of life.  Although I did not know her well, I could tell they were not saying nice things just for the funeral. The world had lost an amazing human being. Despite her young age, she leaves a strong legacy.

I wondered about my own life and work.

My first thoughts were selfish:

  • I hope this doesn’t happen to my wife or me.
  • I can’t die any time soon because I still have so much to share with my kids (or maybe they have so much to share with me).
  • I need to step it up so that if something happens to me, people will say things half as nice at my funeral.

Then, I started thinking about our culture work at Talent Anarchy. We help people and organizations cultivate authenticity. Authenticity, by our definition, is knowing who you are and behaving accordingly. This work is about aligning your values and aspirations with your behavior and actions. Through authenticity, we help organizations not waste their employees’ talent and passion. We show them what they lose when they value conformity over authenticity.

Most people spend too much energy trying to fit-in and not rock the boat, especially at work. We want to be accepted. Choosing authenticity (we call it Flying your Freak Flag) means abandoning the quest to be normal, and inviting yourself and others to accept you just as you are.

One of the tools we use is to have people write their own eulogy.  We ask what kind of legacy they hope to leave, and how they make a difference in other people’s lives. It makes people uncomfortable. But it gets them focused on who they are and what matters — authenticity.

As I sat in the funeral last week, the true gravity of writing our own eulogy really hit me.

This young woman lived an authentic life full of intention. She lived her values at home, work, and with everyone she knew. As a result, she had a dramatic impact on people.

This reinforced for me the importance of showing who you are in all parts of your life. Being authentic at work is definitely good for business. But the true impact is far greater than that.

At work we say, “It’s not personal. It’s just business.”  This is reckless and dangerous. Living with authenticity means that everything is personal. Once we are adults, we spend just over a third of our waking hours at work (assuming you only work 40 hours per week).  Let that soak in for a moment.

Work is a natural and inseparable part of our life.  It’s where many of us find identity, value and validation. So, it IS personal. And it should be treated with care.

Here’s what this means for organizations and, more specifically, for human resources and managers who are charged with the care of the humans who work there.  By asking people to fit in, conform, color inside the lines, and be normal at work, we are asking them to be less of themselves for at least one third of their lives. This is unacceptable. It’s harmful and damaging to both the individual and the organization.  And I suspect that it’s a huge reason why people are disengaged at work. We don’t really want them, only what they can do for us.

It’s time to turn the tide.  Authenticity is not a buzzword.  It’s a powerful force for unleashing the best in human beings.  And it’s rocket fuel for innovation and performance.  Chose to cultivate an inclusive culture where people can be whole, authentic representations of their best self. Your business will thrive.

graphic for The 2019 Index of Intelligent Technology in HR


 
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