Dear Young Professional,
Early in my career I had mentor who introduced me to a concept that was very helpful to me in shaping my actions and behaviors. The ability to make changes to get the results I wanted helped me achieve personal and professional fulfillment.
She told me everyone has an Authentic Self. Authentic Self can be defined as your natural style and desired state.
Think of it this way:
- Are you a direct or indirect communicator?
- Do you get energy from people or thrive in a quiet setting?
- Do you prefer people projects or doing tasks?
- Do you like to go it alone or work in a team?
- Are you feeling oriented or people oriented?
She then explained, that your authentic self might not be the best approach in all situations. If I was to grow as a professional and in my relationships, I needed to work on growing my Developed Self. Developed Self can be defined as the acquisition of skills and knowledge to expand your effectiveness.
Here’s an example from when I was a young manager. I like results. I communicate directly. I like to be in charge. That’s my authentic self. I was promoted because I had a brand of getting things done on time, high quality and in budget.
As a manager of a client services team, we hired people who were naturally high in empathic skills. They were terrific as relating to customers (feeling oriented), wanted to reduce tension (indirect communicator) and worked together to share and solve problems (team preference).
When I brought my Authentic Self to work and stated outcomes to achieve it came across as barking orders, creating stress and while the outcomes were achieved at what cost?
I was grateful a colleague pointed this out to me. Now I knew there was a problem how do I address it without rolling over? I was struggling with how could I be “me” and get results without stressing out a team I respected.
That’s when my mentor stepped in. She helped me see I didn’t have to abandon who I was, but I did need to “flex” some unused muscles to get a different result. I had to build my empathy skills, I had it; it just wasn’t my go to state. I had to learn (knowledge) that managing was about getting things done through others. I need to shift from being in charge to leading (a different form of being in charge).
What did I do?
- I started conversations with the team acknowledging what they were feeling (that took less than 2 minutes) about the task we had to accomplish (empathy)
- I asked for different ideas (teamwork)
- By asking not “telling” it was little less direct or harsh (leading, guiding)
Depending on the outcome, sometimes we came to a better solution than what I may have directed. If we didn’t at least we had a process of involvement and when I explained they “why” behind doing it a certain way there was buy-in.
By flexing (not abandoning) my approach I created a better outcome and environment for my team. I have and continue to grow as a leader by continuing to expand my Developed Self.
Take time to reflect on:
- What are the traits of your Authentic Self?
- Remember a time when you didn’t get the result you wanted (or it required more energy than it
- What could you flex to get a better outcome next time?
- Imagine a person you had frequent conflict or tension with?
- What can you do to “flex” to create more cooperation?
This is a process not a one-time destination. Don’t stress, being part of the family, you will continue to get tips on expanding your Developed Self.