To be authentic is to show up as who you truly are. To be your whole, unedited self, in all your unique qualities and eccentricities. It means being true to your personality, values, beliefs, and ideas, despite what others may think as a result.
Great things happen when people feel they can be their authentic selves at work. There is more creativity, innovation, and collaboration. In fact, there is a 140% increase in employee engagement and a 54% lower staff turnover.
Research into authentic leadership has shown that authenticity is the strongest predictor of an employee's job satisfaction, of their commitment to the organisation, and workplace happiness.
Employees are generally happier when they know they can be their true selves, but they first need a deep sense of belonging and psychological safety to show up authentically. As managers and leaders, you must work hard to create a strong culture and community at work where colleagues feel valued, where they feel seen, and where they know they matter.
Here are five ways to do this:
1. Promote open and honest feedback
Genuine feedback is a game changer for enabling a culture of authenticity. Why? Because when employees are listened to and their opinions respected, they are more likely to be comfortable at work and invested in the organisation’s success.
Giving and receiving constructive feedback is a bit of an art form, but don’t let that put you off. Leaders who consult their team members, ask for their input and consider how any actions affect them will have happier and more invested employees.
It’s crucial not to let your emotions get in the way. Leadership is about the ability to deliver honest feedback without allowing personal opinions to cloud your judgement.
2. Show vulnerability
Some of the most successful organisations in the world understand that making mistakes is crucial to innovation. In agile working, the phrase ‘fail fast’ gives employees the freedom to fail so they can learn from their mistakes and succeed faster next time.
Allowing or encouraging failure is not easy, and it can be difficult for employees to grasp if the leadership team isn’t actively living it themselves. By showing vulnerability and admitting when you aren’t sure of something, your employees will be able to relate to you. It creates a level playing field - a common ground everyone can aspire to.
Everyone has flaws, and everyone makes mistakes. That is the greatest thing about vulnerability; it shows that we are all, indeed, entirely human.
3. Lead with empathy
Supportive leaders who demonstrate genuine concern for team members, not just as employees but as individuals too, have a significant effect on how they feel at work.
Empathetic leaders take an interest in those around them, what makes them tick, what inspires them, and how they feel, within both their home and work life. They have a high level of emotional intelligence and make the difference between an employee showing up to work as their true self or a made-up version.
Being empathetic will demonstrate your deep care for your team’s wellbeing. Using Loopin allows you to understand and support your team and applaud their successes with a real-time understanding of an individual's mood and emotion. Here’s how Dan at Heights uses Loopin to lead with empathy:
“I logged on to see how my team is doing this morning.
“A mixture of emotions - mostly positive but a couple aren't (heat/sleep related) and so I know in advance when I speak to them to check in on them, make sure I'm not too demanding or full on, and to give them the space they need to recover.
“Personally, as 'team coach' I find it so insightful to understand how my team are really doing, and it gives us data and insights to flag when the team is overstretched and burning out...
“Your team's wellbeing isn't something you should take for granted - and there's no need to.”
You can book a demo to see the full Loopin feature set or continue reading the blog for the final tips within this guide.
4. Create psychological safety
Employees who are comfortable asking for help, sharing suggestions, and challenging ideas without fear of repercussion are more likely to be innovative and adaptable - important capabilities in today’s rapidly changing environment. At its most basic level, this is psychological safety.
Leaders can enable psychological safety in organisations by creating the right climate, mindsets, and behaviours within their teams. To do so, they must develop the skills to allow their employees to thrive.
A big part of showing up authentically boils down to inclusivity. Without a sense of belonging, your employees won’t feel psychologically safe or secure enough to show up as their whole selves.
This means that, as a leader, it’s important to model inclusive behaviours. Aside from the behaviours above, you should also champion relationship building and employee recognition and encourage participation from everyone in your team.
5. Support development
Promoting learning and development opportunities within your organisation is one of the best ways to foster authenticity. When employees know their leader is invested in their future, they are more likely to feel happier at work, leading to greater engagement and motivation.
Setting aside for employees to enhance their skills promotes innovation and satisfaction. For example, look at Google’s 20% rule, where employees can spend 20% of their time working on whatever they like. This freedom has paved the way for many of Google’s innovations, such as Maps and Gmail.
When it comes to leadership development, it’s important that this is not a one-size-fits-all approach, undertaken during once a year training. But instead it is a consistent, daily practice shaped around individuals. Loopin is the powerful alternative to traditional leadership training, supporting managers in real-time with consistent data-informed actions and advice. Click here to learn more about Loopin for managers.
Finally, being authentic is hard work. It takes trust and support to feel comfortable enough to be completely transparent - it doesn’t just happen when an employee shows up for work every day. It takes a level of vulnerability and going outside of your comfort zone.
For leaders, it often takes getting to know yourself and your people, before learning to be authentic at work. As an employer, fostering a culture of belonging and wellbeing is critical to bringing out the best in all of your employees. You must be the sail that steers the ship, and your team must know that it is ok to be a work in progress.