Authenticity and its Place in Teams

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Recently I ran across a very interesting question:

Authenticity — what does it mean to you? Do you believe it exists as a central core characteristic? Is it a construct of the modern management environment? Does it have a relevance or should we be more concerned about commercial metrics, performance and the like?

Authenticity is completely neutral. It is neither good nor bad and being an authentic jerk doesn’t make you better because are being authentic.However, being ‘authentic’ is a positive character trait, although we may not like the authentic behavior we see in others or ourselves.What does that mean? Too often in management and leadership today we see the thin veneer that people have created around themselves to protect themselves from weakness, perceived or real.

Authenticity DOES have a place in modern management, but falls under the difficult to measure arena like directly measuring trust. Very difficult to do.

Additionally, it is difficult to ascertain if someone is being ‘authentic’ or simply showing you that same veneer.

Forgive me for being a little bit self-promoting, but an example may work well here. We have several workshops and retreats that are designed to bring out that authentic behavior. They are all experiential in nature because we get to see, not what we think we do, but we REALLY do.For some groups we take them sailing. Before we go out we ask them to remove anything valuable and put them into a zip lock bag – watches, IPhones, Blackberrys (yes there are some devoted fans out there), basically anything that could get damaged by saltwater.We staple the zip lock bags shut and then put them into a red dry bag and take them with us onto the boat.After learning man overboard drills the group gets a little cocky and is feeling pretty good.

I tell them I am now simply here for safety’s sake, to prevent them from harming themselves or someone else and then say,

”Remember all the stuff you put into the dry bag” and hold the bag in the air and continue, “I hope you were paying attention to the man overboard drills because your stuff is now overboard,” and throw the bag into the water.

Here is an opportunity for authentic behavior. What do we REALLY do in crisis or stress? Versus how we THINK we respond.

That veneer doesn’t crack, it shatters.

It does not matter what happens in response to the crisis, it is the process we are interested in:
* How do you treat each other?
* How well do you communicate?
* What did the leadership look like?
* Did the group take time to plan?
* The list goes on…

Once you get used to being authentic, versus shining that veneer, the more you want to BE authentic.

Your ‘FIMAGE’, or fear of image, goes down and you are happy to have people take you as you really are.

Back to modern management.

I think you will find that teams at all levels are more successful if they are authentic with each other. There is a high degree of trust – makes sense – and very little pre-tense. Ego is more easily removed in crisis and the situation is handled.

Now, how relevant or important it is depends upon your focus.

But is it important? I think so. And not because it is part of some pyramid model of management or because someone has said it is.

Authenticity is important because it makes MY life better.

And in the end, end, end, what else really matters?


The Carrot and Stick Approach No Longer Applies

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Most of the time, business is at the forefront of change in our society. Sometimes, on the cutting and bleeding edge of change.

But from time to time, business is sadly behind what we know to be fact.

This is especially true when it comes to what motivates employees within a company.

Traditionally, a ‘Carrot and Stick’ approach to rewarding employees has worked very well.

A goal is set and if you achieve it, you get the carrot. If you fail to achieve it, you get the stick.

According to Dan Pink, author of Drive, the Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, the carrot and stick still work, but in narrowly defined areas.

These areas are in simple problem situations – ‘in the box’ creativity versus ‘out of the box’ creativity.

Using Duncker’s famous ‘Candle Problem’, intrinsic versus extrinsic motivators were tested by Princeton professor Sam Glucksberg.

In one experiment, two groups were asked to solve the problem of how to affix a candle to a wall, given a simple wax candle and a box of tacks.

One group he told he was just timing them for norms. The other group he told if they finished in the top 25% of times they would get $5 and if they finished fastest overall they would get $20.

The key to solving the problem is to use the box of tacks as a holder for the candle, a rather creative and ingenious solution to the task.

So what happened? The group that was promised rewards for the fastest times actually took longer to complete the task.

In fact, they took and average of three and half minutes longer than the group that was not promised incentives.

How does this happen?

It’s simple.

External rewards to increase motivation can serve as blinders for our creatiivty.

A lot of the solutions to our problems are out on the periphery. But the external reward cause us to narrow our focus and our potential solutions.

But what if you take the tacks out of the box to begin with?

The solution becomes obvious and the external motivators WORK! The groups that were incented by money do, in fact, perform more quickly.

What does this tell us?

Pink does a fantastic job of highlighting this in his TED presentation.

External, carrot and stick, reward systems worked in the 20th century because most of our problems were more simplistic.

Dont’ get me wrong, even with the tacks out of the box, it is still a creative solution to tack the box onto the wall!

But in the 21st century, we will have more and more need for solutions that require us to take the tacks ‘out of the box’ and create a solution.

For that to occur, we need to intrinsically motivate people.

What does that mean? Well, many things. Google famously created the 20%. 20% of the time, Google employees spend on whatever they want. Most of the new products that come from Google come from the 20% time.

Pink also mentions ROWE environments, Results Only Work Environments, in which employees set their own time, come in when they want and are not required to attend any meetings. These have shown to be highly effective in white-collar work situations.

Bottom Line

Moving forward, organizations need to intrinsically motivate employees if we care about achieving greater results and creating positive workplaces. It will take extra time and energy up front, but the dividends will pay off huge if done correctly.

If you are unsure where to start, you might want to look at our activities. They are set up to help individuals be introspective and truly understands themselves.

We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”

Marshal McLuhan

About the Author

James Carter is Founder and CEO of Repario. Repario helps companies connect the hearts, hands and minds to their organization through Emotional Experiences and sustaining the individual motivation through unique technology applications. Additionally, James recently authored Discovering Your Inner Strengths with Ken Blanchard, Brian Tracy and Steven Covey.

About Repario

We are a commited group of individuals focused upon helping you improve individuals, teams and leaders through experiential opportunties that connect the heart and mind.

Follow Your Instincts

Decision making occurs on a moment to moment basis. Sometimes it is automatic. We make decisions that are so second nature we don’t even realize they’re decisions. Sometimes we think long and hard. We try and gather all the information we can and rely on reason to guide us on making the right choice.

Rationality is a powerful agent in the decision making realm, but what is truest in its rawest form are our emotions.  Basically put they outline and motivate us toward our instinctual desires – what we really want.  But more times then not, we are met with decisions that we try to over think, causing the outcome to actually fall astray from what we really want.

Psychologist, Timothy Wilson, replicated several distinct studies examining the decision making process.  He asked college females to pick their favorite poster from five possible options: A Monet landscape, a van Gogh of some purple lilies, and three funny cat posters.

He split the participants up in two groups. One group was the non-thinking group.  They were simply asked to rate each poster on a scale from one to ten.  The second group had the harder task explaining why they liked or disliked the poster before rating each.  At the end each participant left with their favorite poster.

It was interesting to observe the different decisions made between the two groups.  Ninety-five percent of the non-thinkers chose either the Monet or van Gogh pieces.  While, the thinking group, was spilt down the middle between the paintings and the humorous cat posters.

A follow up interview revealed that the non-thinking group was much more satisfied with their decision. While 75 percent of the people who had chosen the cat poster regretted their selection, nobody regretted choosing one of the artistic posters. How is that, through greater means of thinking and analysis, decision making became skewed and reflected distorted choices?

An explanation of our likes or dislikes requires us to use language.  Thus, bypassing out instinctual cognitions and forcing us to describe an external stimuli solely through verbalization.  Descriptions of Monet’s landscape on van Gogh’s lilies, although generating a positive reaction, were tough explain.  Perhaps, we don’t know how to put language to the one’s we really like, we just know we like them.  While the simple, humorous cat posters were much easier to explain. Participants had a much more in-depth explanation of why they liked the cat posters and therefore chose those for their favorite pieces.

This simple study uncovers a decision making process that might otherwise be masked in rationality.  No doubt there are decisions in life that require laborious analysis and in depth consideration.  But there are also times when we have to act on our instincts.  They carry with them a deep rooted emotional cue that would otherwise be lost when trying to rationalize the decision.

We also like to do things in life that we can explain.  It is like the pavement of our choices.  A justification for why we made them and an aid in trying to see them through.  But at times, certain things we do in life we cannot explain.  We shouldn’t neglect those parts of our life just for that reason.  Emotions are strong – they are charged with the essence of you.  They are crucial to your decisions and to living a life that is your own.

It might be uncomfortable to be at the crossroads of an unpredictable decision – an unfamiliar choice, but if the idea excites you, then your heart is in it.  Making the choice is easy because it is driven by the most unbiased, seeker of joy.  You are behind it, it might not make sense to you right now, but it feels right.  As wide as the scope of language reaches, it falls short at digging into our emotions – emotions which should not be left out when trying to navigate through your legendary adventure.