By Sarah Toney
Think about buzzwords you hear these days… mindfulness, balance, authenticity. They sound straightforward on their own but when it comes to implementing them in a business environment, what do they really mean?
And yet, these buzzwords are being heralded for their ability to usher in next-level clarity and return on investment. When it comes to authenticity, a critical hallmark for great leadership, the waters get even muddier.
What does authenticity entail? Well, at a minimum, it encompasses three key capacities:
- Emotional regulation
- Skillful boundaries
Your ability to handle difficult emotions dictate how well you live your life, at home and at work. When we avoid difficult feelings, we miss opportunities to learn important truths about ourselves, situations, or people, develop trust, and explore new opportunities. Without emotional skill, we prioritize minimizing our uncomfortable emotional reactions, instead of creating best possible outcomes.
Since we experience emotion as physical sensation, focus on what your body feels like before applying meaning. This will allow you to navigate your business with much greater skill.
Most small business people face fear regularly, if not daily. When I operated Hi Point Coffee and Café, I was terrified of money; having enough cash for payroll and bills was a consistent worry. All too often, I ignored my finances to avoid the discomfort of fear. When I finally allowed my fear to be present and feel it without reacting, I could see what needed to be done, as well as new possible solutions that were present all along.
By simply feeling my fear without reacting, I was able to get professional support, focus marketing efforts for maximum impact, and navigate my cash flow issues. When I ignored my fear, I did not have full access to my own skill and creativity. I was too busy living in denial.
Contrary to what you may think, boundaries don’t get in the way of human connection. They are necessary for strong relationships. Boundaries are present when you understand:
- Your feelings, wants, and needs are your responsibility to know and share
- You don’t know other people’s feelings, wants and needs, until they tell you
- Other people don’t know what you feel, want and need unless you tell them
So, I feel me. You feel you. We share our realities and come to understand each other. Without clarity in boundaries, we will cultivate fear and confusion, instead of trust.
Take the time be aware of your feelings, needs, and wants, and prioritize sharing and inquiring about others. To help you do this, try meditation, a quiet walk, or deep breathing before to coming in to the office. Make time to ask yourself questions and stay in inquiry until your answers surprise you and yet still feel true. When you practice awareness of your needs, share, and listen to others, your relationships and your teams will thrive.
Most of us feel we are ok in the world when we perform well or succeed. When we define our worth as dependent on external circumstances, we will always be off balance. Believing we need to do, be, or have something in order to be ok is a foolish race with no end.
When we come to see we are already complete and worthy of love, we are free to explore greater fields of possibility. Our fear of inadequacy will cause us to hide from truth and support when we need it most.
Question the ways you define what you need to do, achieve, or have in order to feel at rest in the world or in your own skin? Is it true? Do you hold other people to the same standard? Why would you be different? Consider that you may be wrong in your judgments. What becomes possible when you allow yourself to be ok now?
Practicing presence and self-compassion in business, even though it may not seem intuitive, are key in cultivating authenticity in your leadership. When you commit to awareness practice and prioritize listening to yourself and others, powerful authenticity will naturally follow.
Sarah Toney is an innovative leader, business coach, and nonprofit professional. She is a certified coach through the prestigious New Ventures West organization, where she is also adjunct faculty. She offers small organization thought leadership, workshops, and community through Bonfire Tribe. Toney’s Marketing Like A Human six-week digital course launches January 19, 2019.