Last February 23, we had a powerful webinar helmed by Coach Anda Goseco, ICF-PCC, and Jack Madrid of IBPAP (IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines, Inc.). The insightful conversation revolved around how leaders can navigate the volatile landscape our businesses operate in by means of practicing authenticity in the workplace.
The two main elements of the topic, authenticity and change, often elicit vulnerability — and we all know how this emotion can be negatively perceived in the workplace. Hence, there’s a natural tendency to shy away from discussing such. But lo and behold, close to 200 leaders were present in the webinar.
I believe the jam-packed audience paints a picture that describes today’s business environment: leaders are experiencing endless changes and they recognize the need for help on how to effectively go through these tough times.
If anything, the astounding number of people present last Thursday simply corroborates that this discussion is necessary. This is no surprise. Change after all is inevitable as each one of us will have to go through it. Beyond the aftereffects of the pandemic, change will still persist. So as leaders, how can we and our people persist and thrive as well?
Here are 2 ways that can help leaders own change through authenticity.
1. Great leaders keep themselves anchored first
In navigating change, you must first ensure that you’re ready to get into battle before you can lead others — and that starts with understanding who you are.
Who are you?
As it is, change can be scary and discombobulating. It automatically pushes one outside their comfort zone. If you’re not careful, it can overwhelm you. However, you won’t be swept away if you’re anchored to something — and that’s where your core or who you are comes in.
Ask yourself, when push comes to shove, what personal values and beliefs do you cling to? When things get hazy and confusing, what keeps you focused and motivated? On the contrary, what triggers you? When difficult moment after difficult moment happens, what type of leader do you envision to be? Who are you?
These are vital to know because as Anda said, “Self-awareness is so important. If you’re not aware of what triggers you, your environment can swallow you up.”
Besides, what’s authentic leadership if you do not know yourself?
Who you shouldn’t be?
I won’t forget what Anda shared during the opening of her session, “Change is a process of learning, unlearning, and relearning.”
When change is introduced, all things that are new are what are often highlighted — new technologies, processes, and structures. But have you ever thought of treating change as a platform to also unlearn old habits and norms? Here’s an example.
I think one of the tendencies of leaders when dealing with overwhelming change is to immediately position themselves as people who must know everything. Leaders shouldn’t seem lost. Leaders must always know what to do. But these are old notions that don’t exemplify humility, much more authenticity.
As contradicting as it sounds, wise leaders are those who courageously admit they don’t know all the answers.
For you, what are some of the things that you think are keeping you from being your true self in the workplace?
2. Great leaders keep their team anchored
Navigating change will never be a cakewalk. However, it is less of a challenge when a workplace is anchored on high-trust relationships. In Great Place To Work’s over 30 years of research, we found that one of these crucial relationships is an employee’s relationship with management.
For leaders to be able to build trust and anchor their people during seasons of change, they must demonstrate credibility, respect, and fairness.
Below, I’ll discuss what each one entails through questions. While reading, I encourage you to exercise authenticity and build self-awareness by honestly reflecting if you practice such things.
Our data shows that the timeless principle of leaders walking the talk warrants the employees’ trust. Leaders must display consistency in what they say and what they do. When commitments are followed through, management is deemed credible and trustworthy.
- Do you keep them informed about important decisions and changes? When things are vague and ambiguous, do your employees know the source of the truth?
- Do you have a clear view of where your organization is going and how to get there? Do your employees find clarity when talking to you about the situation?
- Do you walk the talk? Do you not confuse the employees with what you say and what they observe you do?
Trust deepens when people feel their leaders show genuine concern for their well-being and that more importantly, they act on their concerns. And for this to happen, leaders must treat their workforce not just as mere numbers or employees but respect them as human beings.
- Do you genuinely seek their suggestions and ideas? Do you ask to be perceived as collaborative but with fixed ideas and decisions already in mind?
- Are you appreciative of your team and their contributions? Do you express your gratitude with sincerity?
- When people make mistakes as they try new ways of working, do you count this as part of doing business? Are you not quick to blame and reprimand?
Employees’ experience of inclusion improves when they, regardless of their demographic profile, are treated in a way that conveys their true value and worth to the organization. Impartiality in the workplace is also practiced by ensuring that everyone is equally heard — whether it’s to appeal a decision or to bring up an uncomfortable conversation.
The aforementioned is especially true when navigating the rocky waves of change. Jack hit the bull’s eye when he said, “Encourage stability through active communication and by making sure your people feel like they’re listened to.”
To have your employees’ trust during uncertain times, they should see and experience you as a fair leader.
- Do your employees feel that they are treated fairly regardless of their age, gender, race, or whatever demographic profile defines them? Did you consider their difference and uniqueness as you planned these organizational changes?
- People tend to form cliques when there is ambiguity in their attempt to get better clarity and direction. Are you aware of politicking and backstabbing in the organization? Do you address these boldly yet kindly?
- And if someone feels unfairly treated, is there a platform where they can find a safe space to share their complaints and find justice?
The impact of authentic leadership
When looking at leadership qualities, authenticity is often not the first to come to mind. Priority and more weight are placed on hard skills such as analytical and technical capacities. However, what those skills do is present capabilities, but they do not necessarily build relationships that get workplaces through tough times like change.
If employees feel their leaders espouse credibility, respectfulness, and fairness it’s a tell-tale sign that they trust that management is well able to bring them through change and eventually onto the shore.
Anda also shared that in her many years of experience in coaching senior executives, authentic leadership has brought higher engagement rates and financial returns to the business.
The value of bringing one’s authentic self to work is heightened when the risks are known.
Without leading from our core, there is a tendency to make rash decisions out of fear or panic. When you’re not genuine with your people, an apathetic work environment is created. And we know that when people are indifferent to their job and workplace, it costs the business in all sorts of ways — especially money- and productivity-wise. When we fail to actively and clearly communicate with our teams, people talk within themselves and cliques form — eventually destroying whatever camaraderie is left.
Authenticity is not just good to have, it’s a necessity for building a high-trust workplace that thrives when difficult change transpires. And it must start with us leaders.
This reminds me of a quote I like by John C. Maxwell.
The pessimist complains about the wind.
The optimist expects it to change.
The leader adjusts the sail. – John Maxwell
Wise and caring leaders are first to adapt through transitions by adjusting their communication and leadership styles — they adjust the sail.
Recap all of what I’ve said above and more in the replay of the Great Means More: Navigating Change as an Authentic Leader webinar.
Antoniette Talosig is the Managing Partner of Great Place to Work® Philippines and the Lead Consultant for Singapore. Driven by her passion to help people be the best that they can be, Toni started Great Place to Work® in the Philippines with a vision to create a high-trust workplace experience for every Filipino. She has close to two decades of partnership with some government agencies, SMEs, MNCs and some Fortune 100 companies across industries and geographies. Toni believes being a mother is the greatest adventure of her life and she enjoys seeing the world with her family.