In a search to explore more about what it means to be authentic in the workplace (and also wider life) I recently came across Mike Robbins’ TEDx talk on The Power of Authenticity.
I am currently studying as a Person Centre counsellor and am interested in how we can apply Carl Roger’s 3 core conditions of empathy, respect and congruence in the workplace so that we can grow both as teams and personally. Congruence, aka being real or authentic, is perhaps the one I struggle with most personally, and from having spoken to others, I am not alone.
Mike Robbins acknowledges that often it seems easier to say what we think other people want us to say, rather than to say what is really going on for us. We want to be liked, to fit in, to not rock the boat and risk rejection. What it takes is a willingness to be vulnerable and to share what is real for us “below the tip of the iceberg” of what we are showing to the world.
Icebergs can be a good metaphor for authenticity. The majority of what we really feel and what is really going on for us is down below the waterline (both consciously and unconsciously) – below the tip of the iceberg.
Mike describes an example of facilitating a dysfunctional team. As the meeting starts to breakdown he stops and introduces a 20 minute exercise in response to a “sense that there are things that we are not talking about that are not only impacting this meeting but the team.” In turn each person is invited to repeat and complete the phrase:
“If you really knew me, you would know this about me…”
The invitation is to lower your waterline. To really let people know what is going on. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What is happening right now?
As soon as one person is really real it starts to give others permission to be real and to open up. In short it takes bravery and courage to move through the fear of vulnerability. But the results make it worth it – more satisfying relationships, better decision making, and a sense of personal and team growth, and ultimately more connection.
In a longer talk Mike suggests that many of our communication problems are only a ‘ten minute sweaty palm conversation’ away from being addressed. Can we move through the discomfort and take the risk to be authentic and the vulnerability that this often entails?
Personally, I am going to commit to having one of these difficult, sweaty palm, conversations this week. I would also be interested to hear other people’s experiences of lowering the waterline and suggestions of how to help people to be more real at work….
Bella Cranmore has a keen interest in Conscious Business having been a client of Conscious Business People in 2013-2014.