5 Reasons To Be Authentic In Business
I am an incredibly honest person. I was brought up in a family that lied as easily as you might take a breath, so I made a conscious decision when I was very young that I would be the opposite. I would be honest to a fault.
Since making that earnest promise to myself, I've come to realise that honesty - authenticity - isn't always valued. I've learned to temper my honesty with a cushion of kindness here and there, sometimes people don't want to hear the truth so it's better to say nothing than to lie but mostly, I like to think, people want to know where they stand and what their options might be.
As much as I like to tell the truth, I also appreciate hearing it. There have been notable occasions over the years when it's hurt a bit (OK, a lot!) but I'd much rather know than not know. It's how I've brought my sons up too, and the big pay-off has definitely been that they have told me all kinds of things that they could have kept secret, or even been too scared to share; and certainly things that my friends don't hear from their own children.
So taking honesty a step further, what about authenticity? How can being authentic - or real - help you, and your business, to achieve rewards?
1. Being authentic builds relationships. Some of my best relationships - in business, as well as on a personal level - have come from being authentic. It's much easier to connect with someone who is being who is being their genuine self, rather than pretending to be someone - or something - else. And if we're talking about business relationships, this is a key sales and marketing strength. People buy people before they buy what they're selling, right?
2. Authenticity breeds kindness. We can't always sugar-coat things. Sometimes the truth can be hard to hear, and hard to say. However, if you have a relationship built on authenticity, and being genuine, it's much easier to say something difficult - and for the other person to accept that it's said with kindness rather than just to be critical.
3. Being authentic is easy! So here's a thing - it's easy to be who you are. It takes much more time, effort (and a good memory) to remember who you're trying to be. And shouldn't we be happy with who we are anyway? Referring you back to point 1 and the point that people buy people, the chances are that if you're living in imposter mode, most of your friends and colleagues realised it a long time ago - and LIKE YOU EVEN SO! Maybe now is the time to be who you really are?
4. Authenticity projects a company message faster and more effectively than anything else. With the advent of the internet and social media, it's much easier for consumers to really get into your company message. And, therefore, also much easier for them to figure out when you're off message. Being authentic - warts and all - is by far the best way to build relationships and, therefore, revenue. Oh, and if you get a negative review - don't delete it; face it head on, answer it, resolve it, and move on. Honesty is the best policy, remember...
5. Being authentic just might bring you a whole new career! I have spent my life being honest, pushing the boundaries of 'respectability' (that just really means hiding stuff that people don't want to hear or confront), and speaking out and up. The more I spoke, the more people listened. The more they listened, the more I was asked to speak. And now I have developed a whole new career as a motivational speaker.
I've been asked to speak on a huge range of topics from my experiences of entrepreneurship - starting my own business both as a woman and/or a single mum - through to domestic abuse and having to seek sanctuary in a women's refuge.
I've spoken to groups of students and vulnerable women, on business panels, global webinar platforms, even at a premier league football match in front of 30,000 fans.
And it's opened up a whole new world. Never would I have imagined, back when every day was a monumental struggle, that taking this extra step forward into Authentic Ali would have yielded such results for my career and my business.
Of course, not everyone wants to bare their soul as I do but being honest and genuine can still bring rewards both on a personal and a business front. I have brought in all kinds of clients by just being my real, honest, self for over thirty years (against the advice of my managers, and various sales trainers I might add); and I've developed a network of supportive friends on a personal front.
Sometimes you just have to ignore the advice of people who think they know better than you - and just be the person you are. Trust me, it works; just watch those rewards roll in.