Authentic communication is not always easy. To be honest with one’s self and others in the workplace takes courage and creates emotional dilemmas. Yet authentic communication is a hallmark of great leadership.
As I research women in leadership, I can’t believe the volume of information on this topic. Sheryl Sandberg in her book Lean In talks about the challenges she faced as a women working as the Chief Operations Officer of Facebook. I like the chapter “Seek and Speak your truth” as I am passionate about being authentic and honest in our communication. Let’s face it I do train in Assertiveness and How to have Difficult Conversations and honesty is the cornerstone of these communications.
How does honesty play out in my own life? As with everything in my life I try to ACCEPT that I am doing my best to be honest and authentic in my communication. I was taught to always do my best and it is a value that I hold dear to my heart. What does that mean when you’re a wife, mother, daughter, aunt and a small business owner focusing on training and coaching? It means sometimes I have to say no and be comfortable with saying no. I was recently asked to do a keynote for a conference over East. But the conference is the same time as when my first grandchild is due. So I had to say no to this opportunity as I want to be available for my daughter. To me family comes first but I also recognise that I am blessed to have a choice to say no. Not every women is in this position.
Sheryl Sandberg said “Authentic communication is not always easy, but it is the basis for successful relationships at home and real effectiveness at work.” My customer who I recently said no to, knew exactly why I was saying no and respected that decision. I know in the future another opportunity will appear. In fact it already has.
What are the consequences of not speaking our truth? Our relationships suffer, difficult conversations are avoided and people don’t receive honest feedback. Staff become stressed and disengaged at work.
If you want to reach your leadership potential one of the key skills that you need to find is your authentic voice and to speak up with honesty and respect.
Fred Kofman believes that great leadership is conscious leadership. “It begins with recognising that there is my truth and the other person’s truths. We can’t afford to hold our truth over someone else’s truths”. The take away from this is that statements of opinion are always more helpful if they are first person, “I”, statements. The reality is a lot of people are uncomfortable using “I” statements as it means taking ownership and responsibility for what’s being said or decided.
What I like most about Sheryl’s book is that it gets to the core of communication and the importance of honesty and being authentic. Stephen Covey states that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. If we want to understand our truths and others truths, then we need to listen.
Another area that jumps out of my research is the issue of giving and receiving feedback (truths). Research shows that this is a skill set that women struggle with. How often do we avoid seeking and giving feedback? Three helpful questions to ask yourself and your Leaders, are: –
- How can I do better?
- What am I doing that I don’t know?
- What am I not doing and I don’t see?
Sometimes feedback is uncomfortable but that’s how we grow and learn. If you want to reach your full potential as a leader, you need to be open to asking for, and receiving feedback. Just like I needed to say no to the keynote so I would be available for my daughter, It is about being real with people and seeking and speaking your truth.