Tag Archive for: authenticity

Dealing With Gossip – The Authentic Way

We’ve all been there. Criticizing someone who isn’t in the room. Badmouthing a colleague. Condemning our boss.
It’s called gossiping and means we disrespect a person in their absence.

What I’ve learned about gossip:

  1. It’s a defense against having the courage to be direct. It’s easier to deal with our anger towards someone by talking poorly about them when they aren’t present.
  2. It’s addictive. You can get a high from self-righteousness, especially when you get someone to listen to you.
  3. It erodes trust. Suppose we criticize our supervisor in a way we wouldn’t dare if they were present. What happens if we have a falling out and you see me speaking with that same supervisor?
  4. It eats away at your integrity. Being one way with one person and another way with another exposes dishonesty and insecurity and leads to disrespect.

Authenticity, when it comes to gossip, requires three decisions:

a) Decide you will be loyal in people’s absence. It will earn you self-respect, respect of your comrades, and will foster trust. If you want to retain those who are present, be loyal to those who are absent.

b) Decide to be direct with the person you are frustrated with or let it go because it’s not the right thing at the moment to bring it up directly with them.

c) Decide that self-respect that comes from integrity is more worthwhile than the superficial approval from preying on another person’s weaknesses.

When a person starts gossiping to you:

i) Empathize with their feelings, but tell them you don’t participate in gossip.

ii) Bring all the parties together (if you have a role to do so) to deal with the issue directly.

iii) Talk about positive things about the person in their absence.

iv) Apologize when you forget all this and get sucked back into the comfort and ease of gossip rather than the courage of your convictions.

v) Remember that all these principles and practices apply to personal and family relationships as much as they apply to relationships in the workplace.

Is it ever okay to lie at work?

What upsets me is not that you lied to me, but that I can no longer believe in you. – Friedrich Nietzsche

No. It is never okay to lie at work.

But you have to understand that, while telling the truth is vital to establishing trust, truth-telling has to be tempered with skill, tact, and good judgment. Truth without respect is not truth at all. It’s brutality. The kind of truth when your four-year old says you look fat in a bathing suit lacks maturity and sensitivity. You expect that from a four-year old, but not a forty-year old.

Sometimes we need to withhold information or temper the truth with discretion because we deem it best for the greater good or for the good of the person on the receiving end.

In “The Speed of Trust,” Stephen Covey tells a story about his father in a clothing store in Canada. As he was considering the cost of purchasing a fairly expensive coat, he mentioned that he would have to add to the duty tax that would be imposed when he returned to the U.S:

“Don’t worry about the duty,” the store manager said. “Just wear it! Then you won’t have to pay the tax.”

“But I have to declare the things I’ve bought and am bringing into the country,” my father explained.

“Don’t declare it; just wear it,” the manager said once again. “Don’t worry about the tax.”

My father was silent for a moment, and then said, “Look, frankly I’m not as worried about having to pay the tax as I am about that new salesperson you’re training. He’s learning from you. What is he going to think when you sign his commission? What kind of trust is he going to have in you in guiding his career?”

So… if you want to build trust, good will, and respect in the workplace, it’s never okay to lie.

Dealing with Disruption and Disorder – The Authentic Way

Disruption and disorder have always been a part of the human condition. This reality is often seen at a global level, as in the brutality of terrorism and war, and sometimes more personally, as in the sudden arrival of an illness, an injury, or a personal betrayal. Our work is to embrace times of great difficulty honestly and courageously through the lens of authenticity, allowing the pain to break us open so a stronger, wiser, and kinder self can emerge.

When faced with a global disruption or a personal tragedy, will you become a better person from the disturbance, or will you distract yourself and miss the growth opportunity? Will you use this time to develop your authenticity and connect more deeply with yourself and the world around you, or will you look for diversions to drown out your pain?

Specifically, how can disorder in the world or in our lives make us better people? Here are three simple strategies to resist the tendency to distract during times of disruption and instead take the road less traveled to deepen our authenticity.

Disconnect to connect. Periods of disruption lead to the allure of escapism, particularly the kind that technology can offer to alleviate emotional pain. Programs on our devices are designed to give us relief by drowning out grief. Does the escape these devices offer actually lead to greater well-being? We’d be hard pressed to claim these devices will pilot us into increased mental health.

Connect with your emotions. Binge watching shocking news is different than connecting with your own experience. Take time to ask yourself a few questions:

  • How are these atrocities affecting me? What is my own inner experience?
  • How do I respond to the endless images reminding us of the wars in the world?
  • How do I process the scenes of horror, the carnage in Israel, the Gaza, Ukraine?
  • How do I process the grief?

Last evening, I sat with a friend, who was putting her parents, who stayed with her in Canada over the summer, on a plane back to Israel. They are in their seventies and want to get home to do what they can. Sitting with this woman for just a few moments yesterday made the war more real to me. Connect to yourself. Connect to others. Let life touch you. Don’t let it consume you, but let it touch you, even briefly.

Clarify your values. In search of authenticity, I am inspired by the words of Brad Stulberg in his book, Master of Change, about how to navigate unavoidable upheaval; that a more sustainable response to change can be found in your core values:

When you feel the ground shifting underneath you, when you don’t know your next move, you can ask yourself, how might I move in the direction of my core values? … The portability of core values means that you can practice them in nearly all circumstances. Thus, they become a source of stability throughout change, forging the rugged boundaries in which your fluid sense of self can flow and evolve. Nothing can take your values away from you. They provide a rudder to steer you into the unknown.

There are times in our lives when we are on narrow roads. At those times, we are fools if we try to maintain our usual speed. Disruption is a time to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n when the world seems to be speeding up. Stop and get your bearings. Reset your compass. Clarify your values and renew your commitment to take the small actions that can make a big difference within your sphere of influence.

Value-driven responses are not as immediately enticing as a manic digital escape. These escapes, Cal Newport reminds us: inevitably reveal themselves to be transient and the emotions they’re obscuring eventually return. If you can resist the allure of the easy digital palliative and instead take on the heavier burden of meaningful action, a more lasting inner peace can be achieved.

Five Ways Leaders Accidentally Create Dishonesty In Employees

Honesty is a key value for any organization. It sets the tone for the kind of culture you are committed to create. It provides consistency in behavior. And it builds loyalty and trust. Honesty is one of the most effective ways to establish the environment that will propel your organization to long-term success. As a leader, the importance you place on honesty can create a culture where your team members feel inspired, empowered, and validated.

Moral dishonesty, such as stealing, padding expense accounts, or lying about results can unfortunately be a part of an organization. More subtle and every bit as important, however, is psychological honesty.

  • What is the experience of your team members working in this organization?
  • Do people feel free to bring you their concerns, questions, or feedback without fear of reprisal?
  • How tense do people feel working around you?
  • Can people be honest with you about your leadership?
  • And how do you know if people are giving honest answers to these questions? How much are people on your team choosing to be merely polite rather being genuine?

Here are five ways leaders accidently create dishonesty in their team. I say accidently because no one sets out to create a dishonest work environment. Often, however, amid stress, demands, and particularly in a hybrid work environment where we may not be as connected to our team, we may inadvertently overlook some unintended consequences of our behavior.

  1. A lack of transparency with your team about why you made a decision. If you aren’t modeling honesty, it’s difficult to expect it.
  2. Unacknowledged stress, tension, and anxiety. It’s tough enough to be honest with your boss. But when you add emotional volatility to the mix, you are inserting a variable of instability which encourages being polite rather than genuine. It is for this reason that leaders must pay close attention to how they act and communicate. To create an honest workplace, you must attend to your inner state. Whether you see it or not, if you have unrecognised strain, tension, and anxiety, your team is likely going to hold back telling you the truth. Volatility breeds unpredictability. And unpredictability breeds dishonesty.
  3. Talking over people. When we interrupt others rather than sincerely listen, we give the message that we think we are smarter than they are, that they aren’t as valued, and aren’t needed. I, for one, am guilty of this when I’m feeling stressed, pushing for results, and forgetting about the importance of the people on my team.
  4. Ignoring people’s emotions. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to ignore your team members’ feelings. This error often occurs when a leader is either unable to deal with their own emotions or are overly focused on tasks and results. The key here is empathy: you will succeed only when you care enough to attend to those around you. You are less likely to increase anxiety in others if you consider how your actions impact them. It’s your responsibility to be attentive to how people around you are doing.
  5. Defensiveness. This is the big one. If you ask for feedback in these areas, you need to let go of needing to be right to protect your ego. As Steve Covey used to say, “seek first to understand…” That is our work. When people have the courage to bring anything to our attention that creates discomfort in us, our responsibility is to resist the tendency to get defensive and to listen to understand.

In summary, positional leaders impact their employees’ stress and anxiety levels. What they say, feel, and do hugely influences their team’s physical and emotional well-being and how they respond. But sadly, far too few leaders are aware that they have this power. And many are overconfident in their leadership skills, creating a gap between their perceived and actual levels of competence. This explains why even well-meaning bosses may inadvertently contribute to high anxiety levels in their team members and how they inadvertently shut people down.


For several months I’d been helping a client prepare for a speech she was to present to one of her important clients. Knowing that this one presentation could be a key to leveraging her career, she put all her energy, including many coaching sessions and a great financial investment, into the crafting of the speech.

It resulted in an incredible delivery that far exceeded her client’s expectations. However, she received one small piece of corrective feedback and went into a dark funk for days. She became so despondent she considered walking away from her entire career.

After a long debrief about the experience, we explored the trap of putting our identity and worth into one facet of our lives. Like our financial net worth, we’re vulnerable and even fragile if it’s all in one basket. What happens when our entire life is defined by our work, and we retire? What happens if our identity is in raising our kids, when our kids leave home? What happens when our worth is attached to a healthy, strong body, and you become injured or get old? What happens when your worth is attached to your position on a board of directors and your tenure comes due? What happens if our identity is tied entirely to our possessions, and a fire destroys our home and everything in it?

Diversifying your identity, a concept I first learned from Brad Stulberg, is parallel to diversifying your financial investment portfolio. If you place your investments with a mix of stocks, bonds, international companies, and domestic companies, when one goes down, another one might be going up or staying stable.

The story of world record holder speed skater Nils van der Poel illustrates what it means to diversify your identity. Prior to his phenomenal performance at the 2022 games, Nils was struggling. He wasn’t performing at his best. When he stopped and reflected on what was going on, he realized that every time he stepped onto the oval to compete, fear began to consume him because his entire identity was derived from speed skating. This singular identity resulted in excessive, destructive pressure. Nils van der Poel as a person was synonymous with the results he generated on the ice.

Nils decided to create a strategy to diversify his identity. During the week, he trained with the same level of commitment and intensity. On the weekdays he remained a world class athlete. However, on the weekends he stepped back and allowed himself to be a person away from speed skating. He started hanging out with friends who weren’t athletes. He started going out for beer and pizza. He went bowling. He went on hikes. It wasn’t just giving his body a rest. He was giving his mind a rest. As he diversified his identity, he developed a sense of worth beyond speed skating. No longer was he just Van der Poel “the speed skater.” He was Nils Van der Poel, the friend, the community member, the man who loved hiking in the mountains.

Not only was Nils preparing for life after his sport, diversifying his identity also allowed him to come to the ice with less fear. He started to race with greater ease and joy. He was more relaxed. He was less attached to having to win to prove his worth because he had an identity away from the ice. And, at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, van der Poel, paradoxically, went on to win two gold medals and set a world record.

Identity diversification isn’t just good for sport. Many great difference makers were diversified. Da Vinci wasn’t just an artist. He was also a mathematician, inventor, and writer. Eleanor Roosevelt was a writer and great humanitarian. A well-worn fiddle case accompanied Einstein wherever he went. Diversifying your identity builds resilience by becoming a more well-rounded person. It also strengthens your primary path of focus.

Reflect on what you might be overly identified with at the present time. Where is there vulnerability, fragility, and unnecessary pressure from being overly attached to one identity? Where is there a need for “identity diversification?” What relationships might you be neglecting? Where might you need to let go of some over-attachment to roles you currently have? What is something in a totally unrelated field you could learn about that would enrich your life? What hobbies could be developed? Where is there an opportunity to do some service in your community – beyond your current role?

My client turned her experience into a learning opportunity. While she did take her career to a new level with an amazing presentation, after an extended holiday following the experience, she came back more well-rounded and committed to continue to work on diversifying her identity – with much more joy and greater resilience.

Replacing Perfectionism with Being Human

I’ve spent a good deal of my life trying to be the best at everything I do – at school, in sports, in my work – in every part of my life. While this drive for perfection has led to the achievement of many goals, it has also contributed to much tension and stress in my life. When your worth is attached to an unattainable ideal, not only are you continually frustrated, you miss opportunities assuming you can’t do them perfectly. I’ve also wasted far too much time and energy trying to complete projects perfectly rather than embrace the beauty of “good enough.”

I know that the seeds of perfectionism were planted in my response to trauma. With little control during the formative years of my life, I unknowingly tried to be perfect at everything as a way of controlling the uncontrollable in order to feel safe.

Today, I am learning to find the good side of my addiction to perfection. I see the strength that comes in daily disciplines, routines, and efforts to improve. I know that my temperament responds well to discipline and structure. And rather than striving for perfection, I’m content with making progress. As I let go of perfection and learn to live with greater authenticity, passion, and presence, I am actually enjoying life more and even making a greater contribution. And I hope I’m a little more enjoyable and fun to be around. To borrow from Leonard Cohen, I’m letting go of my “perfect offering” and remembering what it means to be human.