“Authentic behavior with a client means you put into words what you are experiencing with the client as you work.” -Peter Block, Flawless Consulting*
As an internal Lean healthcare consultant, I don’t have the operational authority to get my job done. Instead I lead through influence, developing trusting relationships with my clients – and authenticity helps to build that trust. When I’m in a defined consultant/client relationship, I pay attention to the contract, look for resistance, give feedback. It’s not easy, but I make an effort.
Where I really get hung up is giving voice to my experience in those every day moments when I’m not in formalized consultant/client relationship. Consultant/stakeholder. Staff person/random person. Rachelle/mother-in-law! And not being confident about being my authentic self in these moments gives me a lot of grief.
Scene 1: Coworker enlisted to help me with a project arrives late, leaves early, rolls eyes and acts in a generally disrespectful manner. Makes me feel like the work – and my person – are both pretty unimportant. I say nothing.
Scene 2: As a front line staff member presents to a group I am in, two leaders start whispering and carrying on a side bar. They pull a third person into their discussion. Not only can’t I hear but it is really painful to watch the presenter try to carry on. I say nothing.
I let myself stew about both these interactions. I have thought about ways to avoid working in Scene 1 again. What I should have said in Scene 2? I am still feeling pretty dissatisfied by both interactions. Why? Because the other people are jerks? No.
It’s because I was not authentic.
It’s not just how I was treated, or the situation I experienced, that has left me feeling badly. It’s because of how I reacted – or didn’t react. I did not give voice to my inner experience and ended up feeling like a doormat because of it. A simple response might not have solved the behavior but would have left me feeling better about these situations.
“Authenticity is simply being honest with ourselves and being direct and honest with others…it is a high risk strategy.” -Peter Block, Flawless Consulting
So what’s the risk? Others might say you’re being insubordinate, or yell at you. Or worse, they might not care! When you put yourself out there, you need to have a certain comfort level with vulnerability. When you are your authentic self, the other person will know that you, too, are a human. You have emotions. This level of vulnerability can be scary.
So why go through it? To what end? Behaving authentically is an investment – in the relationship, and in yourself. It’s an investment that may not always pay off. Yet authenticity is a risk worth taking because it just might help you move toward a more trusting, collaborative relationship. And because…
“…each act that expresses trust in ourselves and belief in the validity of our own experience is always the right path to follow.” -Peter Block, Flawless Consulting
*A special thanks to the guru of flawless consulting, Peter Block. Go read his book!
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