In my season of VALUES discovery the first value that emerged was Authenticity. Honestly, it was no surprise. This word has felt descriptive of me through all of my memorable life. The more I held this value up to the light the more it continued to show itself as one of my CORE values.
As an exercise I decided to write a short treatise on what I meant when I said “I value authenticity.” Below is that treatise. This is nothing scientific. It is merely a gathering of ideas that live inside of me around this value. It’s my best attempt to spell out what I think and feel when I say “Authenticity matters to me.” If you choose to read further please keep that in mind.
What is Authenticity to me? – A vulnerable candidness with myself. Appropriate, humble self-transparency. Based in the belief that my honesty with others begins with an honesty with myself. Authenticity is about clarity with MY purpose – primarily for MY sake. It is as much about acknowledging what I don’t know as it is about affirming what (I think) I do know. Doing this requires being candid with my own confusion and self-doubt which is always with me.
Authenticity is not about self-criticism. If I find myself here I have gone too far. Neither is it about self-pity. It is, however, about giving myself a break. At the core of my authentic self is the declaration that I’m not all that…but neither am I nothing. Therefore my higher invitation is to self-balance.
Authenticity is about ME being real with ME. The end is a better self-diagnosis which puts me (and all of us) on a healthier path to progress.
Supporting Values: Candid, Transparency, Forthright, Honest
A few lessons I’ve found helpful while living with this value that seem important to note…
- Not everyone values authenticity as you do – deal with it. There will be moments when you find individuals (or groups) that do not value authenticity as you do. No matter how much you think they should – check yourself. You will have a tendency to get triggered when that happens. Resist proclamations about their rightness or wrongness. It is seldom helpful. Instead, invite others (via curious questions) to explore their stance. But realize that they may refuse to take that trip – and that may just be the way it’s going to be.
- Definitions differ. Even though someone declares themselves as authentic – their definition of authenticity may not be (and probably won’t be) the same as yours. Stay curious.
- Don’t mistake authenticity for composure. Some may be significantly authentic in the midst of their lack of composure. Others may be significantly inauthentic in the midst of their composure. How each of us choose to flesh out our authenticity in a given moment is our decision. It is our act of leadership. I can’t control how other people will choose to present themselves – but I CAN choose how I will present myself. It is for that reason that being clear on my purpose, before I bring an intervention, is critical.
- Protect yourself. As much as you would like to believe that deep and vulnerable authenticity is appropriate in every situation – it isn’t. That doesn’t mean that some level of that authenticity can’t help many situations. Find the balance. Be purposeful about what should be revealed and what should not. When trust is low take it slow.
In my short season of research I’ve found this to be true…effective collaboration tends to start with the more effective leadership of one (or a very few).
It just does.
Consider these quotes from people smarter than me.
First, Harlan Cleveland, American diplomat, educator and author.
Individuals make things happen. In the early stages of each of these success stories, a crucial role was played by a few key individuals who acted (whatever payroll they were on) as international people in leading, pushing, insisting, inspiring, sharing knowledge, and generating a climate of trust that brushed off the distrust still prevailing in other domains. On the World Weather Watch these were mostly scientific statesmen; on small pox eradication, public health officers; on the Law of the Sea, visionary lawyers, including key players from the developing world; on outer space cooperation, lawyers and later some of the space travelers themselves with their visions on an undivided earth; on the frequency spectrum, a few telecommunications experts who saw an interconnected world that cooperation could create and conflict could destroy. (Harland Cleveland; 1990)
Now from David Chrislip and Carl Larson, authors of the book “Collaborative Leadership.”
In every example of successful collaboration we encountered, there were people who served as catalysts – one or more people who had the clear vision, or the energy to get people moving, or the words to inspire imagination, or the influence to marshal the resources, or simply the nerve to call the meeting. In the beginning, collaboration is fueled by individual acts. (David Chrislip, Carl Larson; 1994)
My friends, in the work of creating transformational collaboration, the more effective leadership of a single individual still makes the difference.
It just does.
I’ve decided to use the holidays for my own, personal season of values clarification. It’s sad to admit, but I’ve been helping clients for some time now to get clear on their values and have yet to do the hard work myself. Those days are over. As part of my work I’ve decided to chronicle my own personal journey here. My hope is that it might serve as an invitation for you to join me – and/or some encouragement along the way should you decide to take the trip.
As a starting point it seemed appropriate that I would begin the work by discovering what my values possibilities were. This isn’t rocket science…but neither is it a cake walk. It takes effort to brainstorm value possibilities. So I pulled up a tool from Brené Brown called “List of Values”.* This is from her recent Dare to Lead book. There’s no magic to this list. It’s simply a way to get the juices flowing.
So this is how I used this tool.
First, I read through the list slowly – every value. My agenda was to mark all the ones that seemed to resonate with me (no matter how long my initial list became). The goal wasn’t to get a quick final list – it was to get curious. Which of these apply (in any way) to me?
Let me just say that this took concentration and effort. It required me to be thoughtful…and being thoughtful requires me to slow down. Granted, overthinking wasn’t productive either. But my edge during this exercise was to give myself the challenge to slow down. This is not a race. I looked at each word on the list with this question, “is this me?”
Once my initial run through was done I laid my first list down for a day or two letting it cook in the crock pot of my soul. When I came back to the list, I looked over my picks and whittled them down some more allowing a day or two of cook between each shorter list…until there were two.
Once I got to two I put them to a final test. The test was to look back at every value that had made my original list. I asked, “Did each original value marked now seem to bow down to these two?” If the answer was “yes” (and it was) I knew I had landed on a value.
It was pretty exhilarating when I realized I had hit pay dirt. These were my core values.
Stay tuned for my discovery and what I decided to do next.
*This was available online at her website.
Friends, meaningful, lasting learning and growth requires some discomfort. It just does. As a person who makes his living coaching and training those who are hungry for change I would love to tell you otherwise. But I would be wrong.
Unfortunately, the trend in many organizations is to design learning to be as easy as possible. Aiming to respect their employees’ busy lives, companies build training programs that can be done at any time, with no prerequisites, and often on a mobile device. The result is fun and easy training programs that employees rave about (making them easier for developers to sell) but don’t actually instill lasting learning.
Worse still, programs like these may lead employers to optimize for misleading metrics, like maximizing for “likes” or “shares” or high “net promoter scores,” which are easy to earn when programs are fun and fluent but not when they’re demanding. Instead of designing for recall or behavior change, we risk designing for popularity.
The reality is that to be effective, learning needs to be effortful. That’s not to say that anything that makes learning easier is counterproductive–or that all unpleasant learning is effective. The key here is desirable difficulty. The same way you feel a muscle “burn” when it’s being strengthened, the brain needs to feel some discomfort when it’s learning. Your mind might hurt for a while–but that’s a good thing.
Mary Slaughter and David Rock/No Pain, No Brain Gain: Why Learning Demands (A Little) Discomfort/Fast Company
If you don’t have to collaborate – my advice is to skip it. But if it is essential – don’t let the hunger to hurry up with the next great activity seduce you away from the process work.
In their book Collaborative Leadership, David Chrislip and Carl Larson offer this…
…the primary focus of leadership when people have to collaborate needs to be on the “process” of how people work together to solve problems, not on the ‘content’ of the problem itself. If the relevant community of interests is brought together in constructive ways (process) with good information, they will come up with appropriate responses (content).
Friends, as it relates to collaboration, coming up with ideas of what to DO (content) is almost never the hard work.
It is the HOW (process).
- How do we create an environment to not only survive but thrive in the hard questions that need to be asked?
- How do we clarify and hold to our purpose when there are so many differing opinions about what we should be and do?
- How do we build and foster trust when there is so much baggage between us?
- How do we value of the work of process (unseen by the public) when the prevailing worldview of success is to hurry up and be seen (by the public)?