We recently had the opportunity to observe three Presidential debates. Undecided voters watched the responses from both President Obama and Governor Romney to determine who they would like to vote for. Some people were interested in learning more about each candidate’s policies on important issues. Others observed the poise shown when faced with the tough questions. In the final analysis, most individuals want to vote for someone they believe in.I In the final analysis, most individuals want to vote for someone they believe in. They want to develop a sense of trust. They want to believe.
In business, others will only “want” to follow if they believe that you truly have their best interests at heart. They want to know that you are moving the organization in the right direction. They wish to have the opportunity to be part of the solution. It’s up to you to convince them that they should believe in the message, and most important – they must believe in you.
The following are a few suggestions to communicate with authenticity:
1) Speak From Your Heart – If you only communicate on an intellectual level (for example – give lots of statistics, show many slides, etc.) you have missed the point. You must show passion for your message, and let everyone know that this comes from your core beliefs and values. If you are scripted and robotic, others will not believe the message. You must be genuine. You must be real.
2) Focus On Others – Being seen as authentic involves having others recognize that you understand their pain. You understand their passions. You understand their wants and needs. You will connect with others when they know that you care about them. If they don’t believe you, the message will get lost. In this Presidential election, one key issue is the unemployment rate which has been over 8% for a long time. From a leadership perspective, the communication can’t simply be about whose policies will bring that rate down. Part of the assessment being made by the American people is who do they believe really cares enough to make this happen – who understands and really cares about their pain.
3) Demonstrate Consistency – Not everyone will agree with every decision you make. They will evaluate you relative to how consistent you are in your decision making process. Do you communicate one message to one audience and another message to others? Do you change your message to get buy-in, only to have your track record appear inconsistent? As author Tom Peters says – “There is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity.”
4) Be On Purpose – Do you know your purpose? Your purpose goes beyond just the achievement of specific business metrics. It has more to do with your legacy. It involves the impact you have had on others. A big part of authentic communication involves having other people understand your purpose, and know that it involves their well being. In evaluating who we want to be President – some people are interested in each candidate’s motive. Why do they want to be President? Is it for the power and prestige, or is it to make our lives better? People do not want to follow others whose focus involves only their self interest (and believe me, most people can recognize the truth). They want to know that you are committed to making the world (or your organization) a better place for all. They want to know that they are included in the process, and that their voice matters.
5) Exhibit Confidence – Not only must you communicate with self-confidence and conviction, you must show confidence in others. People want to know that you believe in them. They want your communication to involve them. They want you to capture their hearts.
Here’s a simple test that I would like you to think about. If I were to ask each member of your team individually – would they like to go to lunch with you, how would they answer? If they were to say no, why not? If they believe in you, know that you care about them, why would they say no? I have often heard commentators on television discuss that some people ask the same question when deciding who to vote for President. So, why do you think this is important? If someone can’t stand to go to lunch with you (or the President), are they really listening to the message? Authentic communication often takes place over a cup of coffee, where it’s just the two of you.
Great leaders know that authentic communication is felt in the heart, and everyone knows that they care. They know that you have earned the right to be heard, not because of your title, but because of the depth of your character. If you communicate with integrity and authenticity, and let everyone know that their needs matter most – you will have loyal followers. If not, you might just lose the election.
RL Cooper Associates’ book “Heart and Soul in the Boardroom“ outlines suggestions for leaders to develop highly respectful and ethical work cultures and is available in the Manage My Practice Store. For additional information about their services, please visit www.rlcooperassoc.com.