The Mask of Authenticity

There's a lot of buzz right now about being authentic. So more and more people are putting on the mask of authenticity.

"I am being authentic," they silently scream. Some not so silently. Some people are just plain rude and ill-mannered. And these are professionals who make a lot of money by most people's standards.

What we need is less authenticity and more politeness, more decorum, more professionalism. If you need to be authentic do so, but please, don't mistake being authentic for rationalizing your ill-mannered behavior. And don't think being "authentic" will make you better if you aren't.

I remember a group of engineers sitting around a conference room table talking about how to win business. Even though none of them had been outside of the cement walls to even meet a client, let alone explain how the solution may meet the client's needs, they all had an opinion--strong opinions. The harder they voiced their opinions, the more it sounded like they had years of experience winning business.

One senior engineer said, "Just be yourself. That's all you need to be." As if that was the key to winning business and the final statement.

Not being an engineer and someone who spent a lifetime in front of clients, I couldn't take it any more. It was not my best showing when I said, "Yeah, like you were when you interviewed for this job and you wore a suit and tie and you practiced and rehearsed all the possible questions the interviewer would throw at you."

I am not sure they got my sarcasm. But they would have if they would have looked at the clothes they were wearing (they were dressed in clothes I wouldn't be seen cutting my grass in). That is they were not wearing the suits they interviewed in, when they were "just themselves."

I think this sums up what I am trying to say. One client said to me, "I want people to be themselves. Unless they are assholes. Then I want them to be someone else."

Be yourself if you are a Prince (or a Princess). But since most of us aren't, (I'm not that's for sure), we have to work at being charming, delightful, and professional. Maybe authenticity has more to do with the slogan of 12-step programs: fake it until you make it.


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