Making Tough Choices Easier by Being an Authentic Leader
Listen to Episode 89:
Episode 89 Transcript:
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of success. On the web at businessadvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated, and right across from me as always is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi Pam, it’s wonderful to be joining you again today for another episode of Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. If this is your first time listening, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders − and their companies − to accelerate to their next level of growth and success. So Pam, what are we discussing today?
Pam Harper: Making tough leadership decisions on the journey to being first, fast, and foremost, and how living in authenticity can actually ease the way.
Scott Harper: Sounds like that can be a real challenge.
Pam Harper: Yes. Every leader is faced with choices on a daily basis, but it’s especially challenging when the pressure is high. There are so many paradoxes to navigate…
Scott Harper: That’s true − paradoxes with internal built-in conflicts and choices that are hard to negotiate. For example, how much confidential information to share with others, while at the same time keeping some information confidential, because you have to, for legal reasons or other purposes.
Pam Harper: Right. Such as a merger, or something on that order. Another tough choice is staying sensitive to key stakeholders with conflicting needs, and we see that so much.
Scott Harper: Absolutely.
Pam Harper: For example, I remember one particular situation where a company had just been acquired, and the CEO was trying to figure out how he was going to navigate keeping people in the loop, and they had a long loop to be in. This company was actually going to close it’s doors in 9 months probably − they weren’t sure how long; that was the biggest challenge they faced. He had a very strong value of taking care of people, almost paternalistic. This really bothered him. His value was to share, he wanted to make sure people were taken care of, and yet at the same time, there were certain things he could not tell people as well.
You talk about a tough situation for somebody − this was one. The way that he actually ended up handling it, to help people, was to make the tough decision to bring in outside help. In this case, it happened to be me. Our objective was to help people through the decisions that they were going to have to make, as far as how they were going to prepare for the next steps going forward without the company in all likelihood, because as I said, that location was moving out of state. Of course they were angry at first, but at the same time, they were actually very appreciative that they were being given enough notice and some help with how they were going to think about their future careers.
It was a time of looking at change in new ways, and people actually wrote back and thanked this leadership team for making the decision to help them to be ready for whatever was going to come their way.
Scott Harper: To show them respect and to give them some choices, and some control over their situation, not just dumping them and saying, “Bye guys.”
Pam Harper: Exactly. In this situation, it worked … The story that’s even happier in this case is that people stayed on for the entire 9 months. Only one person left ahead of time. In another situation, there would have been different decisions; that’s what makes this authentic leadership. This man that I’m talking about, lived into his values, he lived into what was right for him, for the company. He had to make sure that the company purpose was being taken care of. He stayed open to what was going on around him, and he was able to negotiate and navigate with a number of key stakeholders with very different needs.
Scott Harper: You were saying he was being authentic to his inner values and the needs of the company …
Pam Harper: Exactly; and this is a great example of what we are talking about in terms of living in authenticity. According to Dr. Karissa Thacker, author of the best selling book, The Art of Authenticity, when we are living in authenticity, we are able to take on the perspective of others, align our behaviors with our values, stay purpose-centered, and stay externally open to learning, all of which he did. Rather than continuing to paraphrase, we’re going to revisit part of our conversation that we had with Karissa when she was our guest on Growth Igniters Radio. You can access the full conversation by scrolling down under “Resources” on Growth Igniters Radio dot com, Episode 89.
A little bit about Karissa’s background − she is the Founder and President of Strategic Performance Solutions Incorporated, a management training and consulting firm dedicated to elevating people to reach their highest potential and career satisfaction. She’s often quoted in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Forbes, MSNBC, and many other major outlets. Her articles have appeared in The Harvard Business Review, Business News Daily, and elsewhere.
Scott Harper: Okay. We’re going to take a short break now, with a last chance to take advantage of our special offer, and then we’ll join our discussion with Dr. Karissa Thacker. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: Thanks for joining us on Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. We’re brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − on the web at businessadvance.com.
Pam Harper: Can you do us a favor? If you’re enjoying and gaining useful insights from Growth Igniters Radio, can you let us know by writing a short review on iTunes? Now only does this let us know what you value, your review is one of the most important ways we can reach others who will benefit as well. Now, we have a special limited time offer. The first 10 people who submit reviews between September 14th and October 14th, 2016 will receive a complimentary autographed copy of my book: Preventing Strategic Gridlock. Reviewers have said this book is a timeless resource and a great book for overcoming stalls that derail strategic progress, regardless of the economy. To look inside, visit the Preventing Strategic Gridlock page on Amazon.com.
Scott Harper: Just be one of the first 10 people to contact us by October 14th, 2016 on growthignitersradio.com. Let us know about your new review, and we’ll get your autographed copy to you right away.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper − that’s me − and Scott Harper. Scott and I are talking today with Dr. Karissa Thacker, author of The Art of Authenticity, about how important authenticity is to all of us, especially to those of us who lead. Karissa, how can people find out more about you and your book?
Karissa Thacker: My website, www.karissathacker.com, is full of information and hopefully has some helpful articles and blogs that people who would like to dive more deeply into the subject matter can. Of course, there’s an opportunity to look at the book and get an excerpt, and/or buy a copy.
Pam Harper: Also you can access this by visiting GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, Episode 89 and getting links that way as well.
Now, let’s get back to our conversation. I’ve been looking at your book; it’s organized in such a way that you have the new vision, and in the second part of your book you have “the science of authenticity.” You discuss how many people mistake charisma for authenticity, which I thought was especially timely today. Why is that? What should we all be on the lookout for?
Karissa Thacker: I think that we mistake the two for the simple reason that both authenticity and charisma create intense feelings of positivity and connection to a person. What you have with charisma is this excitement, but we know after doing decades of research on charisma is that there is on clear link to results with charisma. The way to think about it is that charismatic leaders can be authentic and authentic leaders can lack charisma…
Pam Harper: Wait a minute. That’s a little bit of a tongue twister. You can be authentic without being charismatic?
Karissa Thacker: You certainly can be authentic without being charismatic.
Pam Harper: And you can be charismatic but not be authentic.
Karissa Thacker: Absolutely. Absolutely. One of the things that I think is important is for my readers and our listeners here to have an understanding of the clues that could lead you in the direction of “Hey, am I dealing with somebody who’s just very charismatic and maybe not the real deal here?” The distinction that you want to listen for is actually based in science. There are certain approaches and ways of thinking that greater me leaders take, and then there are certain approaches and ways of thinking that greater good leaders think.
Scott Harper: “Greater me, greater good” − what’s that?
Karissa Thacker: “Greater me” versus “greater good” − Greater me leaders are leaders who are leading to elevate themselves. Greater good leaders are leading to elevate the greater good. If we step back and we get really honest about human behavior and our tribal nature, we are all looking out for ourselves to a certain extent, so there is no pure greater good leader and … Well, I started to say there is no pure greater me leader, but that might not be the case.
Looking at it from that perspective, what are some of the clues? The first clue is what kind of people does the leader surround him or herself with, and I mean their closest associates. Do you notice anybody in that circle who actually challenges the leader’s point of view? If not, you very well may have a charismatic leader who is more about greater me than greater good.
A second clue is about the team dynamics. If you have a leader and there’s a team − and we humans are hierarchical by nature, we always need a leader − but what are the dynamics among the team? Does the leader promote the team to think about ideas and the bigger picture, or him or herself? I worked with a team one time and I sat in a meeting and I counted how many times … Let’s say the guy’s name was Scott … How many times he … No resemblance to the person sitting over there … How many times the team referred to Scott versus a principle or an idea in the room. Within thirty minutes it was fifty-two times. It’s just very interesting. That’s also one of the clues that you can look for.
The third one is to begin to sort of dig below the surface with your leader or manager and try and understand who they are as a person, back to the top of the call when I said that authentic leaders tell their stories and listen to the stories of others and when we figure out the truth and connect in that way. So you’re looking for a leader that can connect with yo below the surface when the time is appropriate as well.
Pam Harper: So they actually have to invest in the relationship? If they’re investing in the relationship, that’s a sign?
Karissa Thacker: Yes. Yes. I think that’s a huge sign, Pam. I can’t take that one directly from science, and I tried to stay pretty close to the science in the book, but in practice I think that there’s that … Well, one of the things I tried to do in the book is bring the science into practice, and I will have to say that even though the science doesn’t take us where you just went directly, Pam, it’s definitely there in experience.
Scott Harper: Okay. We’ve been talking about reading other people for signs of authenticity versus charisma. In your book you also state that the notion of self-awareness in people is incomplete, so obviously self-awareness is part of our authenticity and our ability to become more authentic. What’s missing in this?
Karissa Thacker: We talk about ourselves as if we are like fixed like concrete blocks, like there’s no malleability to who we are. I find that problematic, because the more highly functional a person is, usually the more they’re able to vary and adapt to different situations.
Scott Harper: Okay.
Karissa Thacker: I want to move us from self-awareness to a conversation − “I’m an introvert. Here’s my little introvert box. Let me hide in my introvert box” − to what are the values and bigger picture ideals that motivate you. That is much deeper than a personality trait. Becoming your best self may involve stretching out of your comfort zone. Being an introvert or an extrovert is primarily about your comfort zone − and I just pick on that one because we use it so much in the business world. What I want to do is take us beyond trait psychology to the deeper questions about who you want to be as leaders.
Scott Harper: Okay. I agree that we adapt to the situation; I heard some people refer to as they swing in the breeze. They’re phonies. They tell people whatever they want to hear. What’s the difference between that and what you’re talking about?
Karissa Thacker: One of the tools in the book is a free link to go on and measure yourself on what we psychologists call self-monitoring. One of the things that we know from personality psychology is that some people are better at self-monitoring, Scott, or adapting to situations than others. The quick and dirty way to look at it is − is a person an onion with a lot of layers, or an avocado, where you sort of know what you’re getting? The center of an avocado is the center of an avocado. Onions, not so much.
I think that’s a useful tool, because a person who is by nature more of a self-monitoring person and does adapt to situations could be authentic. That may be an authentic part of them, but I don’t want to leave off the fact that what you’re talking about too, Scott, is that there are some bad apples who may not be looking out for the greater good. One of the distinctions that I think is important in figuring that out is just understanding that one of the variances in personality that is really consistent is this penchant towards self-monitoring or adapting yourself to situations with more fluidity. I’m a self-monitor. I do it without thinking about it.
Pam Harper: Okay. I guess talking about onions and avocados and apples and thinking about transparency, you speak about the myth of total transparency, which I thought was interesting. I think it’s related to the onions and avocados somehow, especially was we’re in an age of transparency where everybody … Transparency is like a favorite word.
Scott Harper: It’s a watch-word; yeah.
Pam Harper: It really is, and now you’re talking about the myth of total transparency, so let’s talk about that briefly.
Karissa Thacker: I think when people say things like, “I just want to be totally transparent,” my B.S. monitor kind of goes “beep, beep, beep, beep, beep.”
Scott Harper: Uh-huh (affirmative). “Let me be perfectly frank…”
Karissa Thacker: Yeah.
Pam Harper: “Let me be totally honest with you.”
Karissa Thacker: “Beep, beep, beep, beep.” A couple of things with that − one I talk about in the book is what I call the “truth serum question.” Whenever a client of mine is really torqued up about how nobody is telling the truth and what’s really going on, I can’t figure it out, I’m like, “Imagine for a moment that everything you’re thinking and feeling as well as everything that everybody else is thinking and feeling in this place is broadcast.” One of my clients said to me the other day, “Karissa, I feel like that’s what social media is.”
Pam Harper: That’s true. It’s a very noisy room out there.
Karissa Thacker: It’s a very noisy room. The reality is that oftentimes we ourselves as individuals may not have a total awareness of how we feel about certain things and how we actually think about certain things, so there’s that that makes total transparency a myth, but there’s also just the practicality, which is kind of where we’re going in terms of the noise. How do we make transparency a force in the workplace that can actually make us more productive and create more meaningful work? I think total transparency would be overload, and I think that’s what he was expressing and said, “Wow, that’s the digital world Karissa.”
Pam Harper: Yes. Yes. It’s true. I think you have to grapple with what is the balance, I suppose…
Scott Harper: What’s appropriate.
Pam Harper: … and even what you know about yourself in all of this. These are all considerations. We’re going to talk a little more about how to apply some of these concepts in everyday life after our break. When we come back we’ll talk more with Dr. Karissa Thacker about The Art of Authenticity. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: You are listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement, Incorporated, on the web at www.BusinessAdvance.com. Pam, you know we’ve been talking for a long time about how critical open and authentic conversations are to success for any company. The thing is though, we have to admit that sometimes the conversations that really need to happen just don’t happen − for a variety of reasons.
Pam Harper: That’s right; too many to go into right now. So that’s why we’re going to suggest that you take the opportunity to download a Harper Report that we wrote a while back called How to Take Control of the Elephants in the Room.
Scott Harper: Right. We talk about how to spot the elephants in the room at a much earlier stage before they get out of control.
Pam Harper: That’s right, and we give you steps to create the conversations that are critical to get back on track and accelerate momentum.
Scott Harper: Go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, select Episode 89 and request your complimentary copy of How to Take Control of the Elephants in the Room today.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last two segments Scott and I have been talking with Dr. Karissa Thacker, author of The Art of Authenticity, about many of the nuances of authenticity and why it matters more now than ever. Karissa, can you tell us again how people can find out more about you and about your book, The Art of Authenticity?
Karissa Thacker: Yes, www.karissathacker.com is my website. It has all kinds of information about the book and my work in helping people become more effective leaders.
Pam Harper: That’s great. Go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com and select Episode 89 to find out more about Dr. Karissa Thacker that way as well. Now we’re at the point in this episode where we want to get down to the immediately practical steps that people can take. Let’s say that somebody is driving in their car and they’re listening to this episode. What’s one thing that they could do to become a more authentic leader?
Karissa Thacker: I would encourage people to design an experiment that they could try within the next twenty-four hours. The reason experimentation is important is we don’t have a fixed self, and the more we can play and experiment with who we are and tell our stories, that helps us become more authentic. What do I mean by an experiment? Oftentimes useful experiments are in areas of paradox. When I say to people, “Do you tend to prefer to command or collaborate,” usually people say command, or they’ll say collaborate very quickly.
Scott Harper: Or “It depends.”
Karissa Thacker: Yeah, it depends. An experiment would be if somebody said, “I tend to prefer to collaborate,” I would say, “Try on a command face tomorrow.” Or if it depends, choose one and then try to switch gears, Scott. Design an experiment that takes you to a different place as opposed to being on automatic pilot. The biggest enemy to authenticity, to spontaneity, to finding meaning in our lives is auto pilot, so useful experiments really do keep us engaged in our own game, as well as help us continue to build and create that sense of self that can get stale or fixed.
The other one that people usually find useful is I use the term some people tend to be open books, other people tend to be more guarded, more cautious selves. Another experiment is that if you tend to be more cautious, find a specific way tomorrow to open up more. Nothing big, nothing major, no megaphone, but just reach out and build a relationship in a different way. If you tend to be an open book, find a way to protect yourself. The experiment is this ongoing literal experiment with “who am I in the world and what works for me?”
Scott Harper: That makes a lot of sense. As a person who was trained as a research scientist, experiments are very exciting to me. And you have to be very clear about the question you’re asking. “What do I want to get out of my experiment to get more insight into whatever it is I’m looking into?” A hundred percent, that’s great. What’s another piece of practical advice?
Karissa Thacker: I think if you can name three specific people that you go to often who you know are going to disagree with you and you take their advice, then you are getting a balanced view of the world. If you can’t name three people that you surround yourself with that you tend to disagree with and you actually think they’re right at times, you’re not surrounding yourself with a balanced point of view about the world.
This echo-chamber of our own minds … We were talking about digital. I think it’s even easier in some ways to surround yourself with an eco-chamber of people who think just the way that you think, and to me that’s-
Pam Harper: That could be dangerous.
Karissa Thacker: It’s incredibly dangerous. This idea of surrounding ourselves with diverse viewpoints is critical for self-development.
Pam Harper: If we’re listening to other people, we’re taking the other side, we’re doing something that would be contrarian to our automatic nature, what is it we’re supposed to be looking for in ourselves? Couldn’t it be confusing to say I thought that my authentic me was this and now all of a sudden I’m going against what I thought I valued? I’m a little confused.
Karissa Thacker: The notion wouldn’t be to change political parties with that one, Pam. The idea would be to take in the alternative viewpoint and really listen to it. What I have found fascinating over they years is that … This experiment method that I do every day, and I have never had a client come back to me and say that felt fake. What they come back to me and say. “Karissa, that worked,” or, “Karissa, that didn’t work for me.” This notion of finding what works for you and this idea of continuing to find what might work better for you, that’s the point, Pam.
Pam Harper: So it’s stretching your possibilities really?
Karissa Thacker: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Pam Harper: And making you think maybe I’ve been very habitual in my thinking and there’s more to me than I think and that there are more ways for me to grow as a person?
Karissa Thacker: That’s what I’m up to. People often discover in this process of experimentation that they’re capable of far more than they ever thought.
Pam Harper: This is great. What’s a third thing that people can do?
Karissa Thacker: Diane von Furstenberg in her autobiography famously said, “I did not know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew the woman that I wanted to be,” which is an interesting philosophical sounding statement. However, one of the things that we lose site of in our day-to-day world is that we are becoming a person who embodies certain values and model certain values. I encourage all of my leaders to write down two people that they admire, why they admire them … So let’s say I admire Scott. Why do you admire Scott? Because he’s intellectually curious. Then use the phrase “I am,” and go, “I am intellectually curious.”
If you start with three or four characteristics, you can really begin to get a sense of the kind of person that you want to be. I have my leaders go over those statements every morning if possible, or keep them in a folio so this idea of keeping track not just of what you’re doing and your to do list, but what kind of person, what kind of leader do you want to be?
Pam Harper: Karissa, this has been a really great conversation. Do you have any final thoughts for us on this particular topic?
Karissa Thacker: The thing you want to remember is that there’s your success, and then there’s the being true to yourself and feeling good about where you are in your life. That’s a meter that I think high powered business folks and entrepreneurs can lose sight of, so there’s this accomplishment meter, but there’s also there’s a meter of “am I being true to myself? What’s the meaning? What’s the purpose?” Both of those barometers really matter, and the book really is an invitation to pay continual attention to both of those meters.
Pam Harper: Thank you so much for being our guest today.
Karissa Thacker: It was a pleasure.
Scott Harper: Karissa, thank you again, and thanks to you out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To check out resources related to today’s conversation, share on social media, download How To Take Control of the Elephants in the Room, or open a conversation with us, go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com and select Episode 89.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper…
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: … wishing you continued success, and leaving you with this question to reflect on:
Scott Harper: What’s one thing that I can do today to experiment on becoming a more authentic leader?