Tag Archive for: authenticity

Fears, Trust, And the Human Experience

When our daughters were much younger, we went on a family “adventure” to the Fantasyland Hotel in West Edmonton Mall and took in a ride in the submarine. After boarding, the hatch closed, and as we “descended,” the guide began safety instructions. The moment she said, “if any of you get claustrophobic…” I immediately started hyperventilating. My heart was racing and felt like it would explode. I was nauseous and dizzy. My lifelong fear of closed spaces took over and I went into a full-blown anxiety attack.

My family knew what was happening. Chandra got the guide’s attention who helped me ascend through the safety hatch. I climbed out the escape trunk, got into a row boat in the middle of a mall in six feet of water, and was escorted to back to pier.

We’ve had lots of good laughs about it all over the years. But underneath the humor, there is a deep respect for each other in our family. We all understand that anxiety is no laughing matter.

A few years after the submarine incident, we went caving in Northern Utah. We all knew this would be a challenge for me. I sweated it for weeks before we got there.

At Timpanogos Cave, I learned we would be 90 minutes in a confined space. “You don’t have to do this, Dad,” my young girls kindly said. The first thing I did was tell the guide, Royce, about my claustrophobia. He looked me right in the eyes with kindness and care that I’ll never forget. He gave me the flashlight and said, “Come right up front, right beside me. We’ll get you through this. You aren’t alone.”

I did get through it. One step at a time. With the love and support of my family and Royce, who guided me, not just through the cave, but to a newfound bravery and courage.

At the end of a tour, Royce shares his passion and love for these magnificent caves and offers a challenge:

“Most of us will never discover a cave, but each of us has an opportunity to discover something that we truly care about, something that we love. It might be music, mathematics, art, dance, languages, science, athletics, neighborhood parks, or a million other things. Just as our lives are better today because of the Timpanogos Cave Committee, the challenge is for us to use our energies and talents so that one-hundred years from now, life will be better for people and for this planet because we were here.”

Making Authenticity Real – A Leadership Checklist

A lot of research ( e.g. Harvard Business Review and Leadership & Organization Development Journal) shows that employees’ perception of authentic leadership is the strongest predictor of job satisfaction and can have a positive impact on work-related attitudes. Most employees believe authenticity in the workplace leads to better relationships with colleagues, higher levels of trust, greater productivity, and a more positive working environment. Much of the research contains detailed definitions and lists of attributes of authentic leaders, but how do you really know if you are leading authentically?

Here is a leadership checklist to test if you are leading authentically.

  1. Are you committed enough about your leadership to ask these questions? If you are interested in asking and reflecting on these questions, you are already on the authentic journey. Authenticity isn’t a destination; it’s an inquiring and honest method of travel.
  2. Do you care? Do you care about the people around you and what matters to them? Do you care about your work? Do you care about your own growth? Do you care enough about your team to help them find their gifts? And do you care enough to put the success of the team ahead of your own career advancement?
  3. Are you open to feedback? Are you open to know how your behavior impacts those around you? To learn about your blind spots and become more self-aware? Are you committed to learn to be graceful in receiving criticism? Are you willing to get past defending yourself and pretending you have it all together?
  4. Are you honest? We understand the importance of not stealing from your organization or lying to your employees. But there is another kind of honesty: self-honesty – accepting that you aren’t perfect. Honesty is understanding your strengths and weaknesses and ensuring people on your team are needed and valued by helping to fill the gaps.
  5. Do you keep your promises? Authentic people are accountable. We call people who think they are authentic but who can’t be counted on flakes. Flakes can’t be trusted. So don’t be a flake. Earn trust by being trustworthy.
  6. Do you enjoy your life? Do you enjoy waking up in the morning and coming to work – at least most days? One way to measure good leadership is that good leaders enjoy themselves. Authenticity means you’re living a life that belongs to you, which means you’re enjoying it. And if you are enjoying it, there’s a good chance people around you are enjoying working with you and finding some fulfillment in their work.

Four things to remember when leadership feels hard.

Leading – whether in your family, your team, community, or company – is like life: it’s hard at times.

When you decide to step up and stand for something, you open yourself up to be attacked, dismissed, criticized, silenced, and sometimes even assassinated. It is not uncommon to bear the scars from your efforts.

Leaders represent change, and with change comes loss, fear, confusion, and anger. And those brave enough to go against the crowd risk backlash. Change can make people cruel: empathy, compassion, and grace are often sacrificed when craving order. Irresponsible scapegoating of the authority figure is certainly unfair, but it comes with the territory.

Leaders are also always letting someone down. Somebody’s bound to be disappointed in decisions that are made, and stepping into leadership means shouldering the agony and aspirations of a community.

So… when leadership feels hard, here’s a few things to remember:

  1. Remember that hard comes with leadership. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would be leading. Once you understand and accept that leadership is hard, then it is no longer hard, because it no longer matters. You are on a more important mission than being comfortable.
  2. Ask yourself, “Is this a good hard or a bad hard?” Good hard means you are pursuing a worthy cause and accepting that obstacles are a predictable prerequisite. Good hard means your heart is open and you feel the pain of the people you serve. Bad hard means you have lost contact with yourself, others, and the vision.
  3. Preserve a sense of purpose. When you cannot find the inspiration and when discouragement and despair emerge (that only later are recognized as seeds of creativity) you just have to keep walking. It doesn’t have to be fast or spectaluar, but just keep stumbling forward toward the cause that you believe in.
  4. Find a life practice. To sustain your energy, every leader requires a daily practice – a habit that connects with and taps into the power of the life force that runs through us. A life practice is anything that you do over an extended period of time that consistently and reliably deepens the connection to your experience and expression of being alive.

What do you keep in mind when leadership feels hard?

I grew up when the work ethic was so strong that talking to others and enjoying yourself at work meant you were wasting time.

Friendships in the workplace were seen as distractions.

But recent Gallup data indicates that having a best friend at work actually improves employee performance and motivation and is strongly linked to business outcomes, including profitability, safety, inventory control and retention. Employees who have a best friend at work are significantly more likely to engage customers and internal partners and get more done in less time.

Good leaders not only encourage friendships among employees, but also help facilitate them.

Here are three ways leaders can foster friendships in their organization – i.e. build friendful cultures.

  1. Make friendship a company value. Make friendships at work a priority. Be explicit. Be intentional. Talk about what it’s important and what it means to you. Ask what it means to others and respect each others’ expectations and degree of openess. For some, being “friendly” with each other will be enough. Emphasize that friendships have to happen “organically.” They can’t be forced.
  2. Establish rituals. Create regular team learning and team building events – experiences that foster collaboration and friendships. Our team went fly fishing on the Bow River last fall – an amazing experience. A client has a bucket list bulletin board in their coffee room. Everyone in the company is encouraged to have a bucket list, and every time they accomplish something on their list, they post a picture of it on the board and tell the story at the next team meeting.
  3. Practice Heartfulness. Heartfulness means knowing what you love and being supported and encouraged to go for it. Schedule a regular time to share each other’s stories. Heartfulness means ensuring that everyone knows that they belong. Make time to ask: What do you love? What do you care about? How does your work here help you take care of what you care about? How can we support you to do that better? What is your WHY and how can we support you to realize it? I’m at my best when…

In the past we would just tell people to do their job and expect that it got done. Those days are gone, thankfully.

People expect much more from their leaders today and that is a good thing.

Just as we need to expect more from ourselves in what we bring to the cultures we work in.

Tending a friendful culture isn’t just good for people and for relationships. It’s good for business.

The Call To Citizenship

In the very early months of WWII, my father excitedly rushed to enlist at the first opportunity. However, upon the discovery of his poor eyesight, he was declined. Unable to go to war, he returned to his work as a youth leader on the inner streets in Calgary. Forty-five years later, if asked about being unable to serve his country in the war efforts, he would tear up, still too upset to talk it.

Dad’s understanding of citizenship went beyond the conventional, limited definition concerning the act of voting and upholding the constitution and laws of a country. Whether he was scolding me for self-centeredness, picking up trash when we walked through a park, or volunteering to help the homeless in our community, my father understood citizenship from the scope of one’s civic duty to their community, whether a city block, a nation, or the world.

Here’s a few strategies to respond to the call to citizenship. What are yours?

  1. Roll up your sleeves. The world is filled with opportunities to be kind and useful. Rising above self-serving desires to contribute isn’t just good for the community, it’s good for your well-being.
  2. Spend below your means. Don’t spend money you don’t have on things you don’t need to impress people you don’t know. Overspending to impress is not a path to citizenship.
  3. Embrace the grind. Citizenship, and the character that comes with it, are not achieved by having things too easy. Pain, difficulties, and challenges are a part of a good life.
  4. Take the long view. Citizenship is not about immediate gratification. Citizens are geared toward making this world better in a generation or two – not just today. Citizenship means planting trees that will bear fruit you will never eat and cast shade you will never enjoy.

Let’s make a career of humanity … and you will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country and a finer world to live in. – Martin Luther King Jr.

What drives your life? A Phone or a Compass?

It’s been said that the average person will spend up to five years of their life looking at their phone. To me, the phone represents the mountain of success we are climbing. It’s about being driven by the world’s expectations. It’s about appointments, schedules, goals, productivity, and achievements. It’s about comparing ourselves to others, developing a reputation, impression management, keeping score, and measuring up. It’s about defining ourselves by how the world defines us.

And then something unexpected happens to knock us off the mountain. We fall into the valley: a cancer scare, a struggle with addiction, the loss of a loved one, a pandemic, a bankruptcy, a divorce, some life-altering tragedy that was not part of the well-laid-out plan. You suddenly find yourself in a dark trench without the cell service of what the world expects from us. No device can take us out of this kind of terrain. It takes, instead, a surrendering to the great difficulty, allowing the pain, confusion, uncertainty, fear, and insecurity to break us open, so that a stronger, wiser, kinder, and more real person can emerge.

In this unknown territory of darkness, instead of a device, we reach for a compass, an inner guide that initiates a life journey guided by values, purpose, contribution, service, and meaning.

I know the authentic journey is not this clear cut and delineated. It’s more messy. But it’s worth pausing and asking where we are on our path to success and meaning.

What are you focused on? What is driving your life? While being driven by what the world expects and measuring up to the standards of the culture is a necessary stage, the authentic journey (what I call in my book by the same title, The Other Everest) asks us to deepen our lives, to find an inner guide beyond what a device can offer us.

Success, after all, isn’t just about height; it’s also about depth.