Authenticity – It’s a common buzzword today that many people are throwing around. But what does it mean to those in professional services? Dictionary.com defines it as the quality of being authentic; genuineness. That’s great but, again, what does it mean to accountants, lawyers and others in professional services?
When you are in the business of marketing or providing services rather than a product, the only way to truly gauge if a person is authentic is to observe their words and their actions and decide. Does the person do what they say they will? Do they get things done when they say they will? Are they genuine in their interactions with colleagues, prospects and clients? Are they honest and open? These are the types of questions that one should ask of themselves, as well, when interacting with others. Do I do what I say I will? Am I genuine, do I treat others with respect and honesty?
If you can’t answer yes to those questions about yourself then you’re probably not being authentic. Same goes for questions of those you work and interact with every day.
So, why is authenticity important? For those of us responsible for marketing or providing professional services, it’s pretty much all we have. Since we don’t have a tangible product, it is ourselves and our experience that we are selling.
When we interact with clients and prospective clients, we need to make sure we are honest about what we can and cannot do. We need to be honest about the breadth and depth of experience we have.
We need to adhere to any timelines or deadlines we set for getting additional information or even a proposal to a prospect or client. If not, we damage our credibility and our authenticity. Once the damage has been done to our credibility it’s extremely difficult to get it back.
Even when that prospective client becomes an actual client you still need to be authentic. You still need to be honest with timelines, capabilities and other deliverables. You also need to be honest and open with feedback and advice, even if it might not be what the client wants to hear.
Over time, your authenticity will become the foundation of your reputation and likewise, your brand. The same goes for our interactions with colleagues. Are you honest in your conversations? Do you accomplish what you say you are going to accomplish? Did you get it done on time? Do you respect them for who they are, their experience, and for what they’ve accomplished in their career?
Often, people tend to not be authentic when interacting with colleagues. They tend to stick to their own agenda and try to manipulate or coerce others into doing what they want in order to achieve some desired outcome. Not being authentic and honest leads to a lot more office politics, damaged relationships, and roadblocks than necessary.
When was the last time you listened to your colleague? Not to respond but to truly hear and understand their position? When was the last time you were honest with a colleague and told him or her that you did not agree with their opinion or idea? Not to put them down or belittle them, but to move the discussion forward and come to the best win-win outcome for the organization as possible.
If we can move our corporate or organizational culture more toward authenticity, perhaps many of the negatives associated with the current culture will disappear. It’s okay to disagree on business (or personal) activities. The key is to be open and honest and keep the goal of moving the firm forward at the forefront of any discussion.
Remember, not all ideas and opinions you have are the correct ones, so you need to be open to constructive feedback knowing that the other person is coming from a perspective of what’s best for the organization. You might even call it compromise. Conversely, not everything others throw out there is the greatest and best either. You need to be confident enough in yourself and your experience to be able to challenge thoughts of others in a constructive, non-derogatory way. Bear in mind, just because you challenge someone else’s thoughts or opinions does not make yours right either.
Being honest and authentic in your interactions with clients, prospects and co-workers, will allow you to be able to get things done and ultimately lead the firm forward.