Clients often ask me how they can be authentic and true to themselves as a leader while still improving their communication. People struggle to communicate with stakeholders who have vastly different communication styles and thinking. When we realize these styles exist and know how to address them, it gives us an advantage. Communicating better with people is all about developing and practicing a broad range of skills that anyone can acquire with practice. When we do this, we’re learning how to use the language of our listener.
And, yes, you can learn to speak differently with different people and still be “you.”
Psychology Today outlines four ways to be authentic:
1. Self-Awareness (“Know Thyself”) knowing your own strengths, limitations, and values. Knowing what you stand for and what you value is critical.
2. Relational Transparency (“Be Genuine”). This involves being honest and straightforward in dealing with others. An authentic leader does not play games or have a hidden agenda.
3. Balanced Processing (“Be Fair-Minded”). An effective authentic leader solicits opposing viewpoints and considers all options before choosing a course of action. There is no impulsive action or “hidden agendas”—plans are well thought out and openly discussed.
4. Internalized Moral Perspective (“Do the Right Thing”). An authentic leader has an ethical core. She or he knows the right thing to do and is driven by a concern for ethics and fairness.
Let’s use a musician as an example of how this works. Freddie Mercury, famous as Queen’s lead singer, had a broad range of musical skills and experience. As a child, he took classical piano lessons and enjoyed opera. As he grew up, he joined a rock band (that would become Queen) and added new skills to his range. Broadening range helps you be great and find authenticity.
Self-awareness, as noted in the Psychology Today list, can also mean knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses and what triggers us. For the most part, my clients are leaders who are continuously growing in self-awareness, and we work on that in coaching. I help clients understand themselves better through naming emotions, and choosing how to show up more effectively for specific situations.
Example: My client considers a coworker to be annoying and boastful. This behavior rubs my client the wrong way and causes him to feel suspicious of, and worried (two fear emotions) about, that coworker’s motivations. So what to do? Name the emotion. Work through it and make a decision on how to proceed around that person. If you have not named it, and you are not accepting the fact it worries you, your angst will come out the wrong way. For instance, unnamed emotions can surface as an outburst or a snippy comment. By processing the emotion, you can proactively plan how to cope with it and grow into having better conversations with that person. A better conversation can free you from being triggered while allowing you to experience more clarity. Once we gain self-awareness, we need to layer on breadth, and political savvy, and you can be authentic at the same time.
Here are some examples of how this works:
- If they don’t like lots of slides, try a casual conversation to be more effective.
- If the person likes to get to the point, prepare and share the bottom line first.
- If the stakeholder prefers data and detail, bring it on.
- Always plan and have a strategy.
Better communications require reading others, understanding their needs, knowing what they trust and what annoys them, and discerning their preferences for learning.
What does that require?
Take into account if they are annoyed by a deck of slides, prefer funny stories or evidence, or need tactical or strategic information. You have to know your audience. If you don’t take your listener’s preferences into consideration, you may never know why you didn’t get what you wanted. If you would like support in this area, message me here. I coach executives and senior managers on being more effective in communications, collaboration and influence.
If you would like support in this area, message me here. I coach executives and senior managers on being more effective in communications, collaboration and influence.