I was in a reflective mood today and was thinking about characteristics I admire. Charateristics that I think are inherent to the Slacker@Work. There are three that came readily to mind: authenticity, humility and grace. I know, it sounds kinda new-agey or something. Bear with me because if you’re prone to philosophical navel gazing, I think you’ll dig it. And if you do dig it, chime in on the comments…I’m curious to know where your head is at with this stuff.
Authenticity gets a lot of play these days. Seems like everyone talks about it, especially in terms of blogging. “Good bloggers gotta be authentic–gotta have an authentic voice.” I don’t dispute the truth there, but I think the concept of authenticity is getting diluted. Philosphers go on and on about what constitutes authenticity, but I like this definition from the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s ethics glossary:
Authenticity: The character trait or virtue of authenticity is that of being genuine, honest with oneself as well as others. Therefore “authenticity” connotes not only candor, but an absence of hypocrisy or self-deception.
The way I see authenticity coming into play as a Slacker@Work is pretty simple and it plays well with that last definition. Authenticity says “this is me, who are you?“. Authenticity is neither passive, nor aggressive. It seems like a lot of what gets passed off as authenticity these days is more along the lines of “this is me and if you don’t like it, screw you.” Maybe you’re thinking, “Yeah, but that’s really who I am–I don’t care what other people think.” Great, not caring about what other people think can be a really useful trait. But not caring is passive and saying “screw you” is aggressive. Authenticity is neither–it is what it is. You may be have an aggressive personality, but don’t confuse your personality with your ability to be authentic. Authenticity isn’t aggresive, even though you might be. From my perspective, authenticity comes packaged with inquiry, but not challenge. Authenticity seeks to know others as much as it seeks to have others know oneself. It’s perfectly okay for us to say “this is me” and it’s perfectly okay for another to not like what they see in us. Authenticity erodes a bit when we start to throw up our defenses rather than accept the criticism and find the truth in it. Maybe even assimilate it into our lives. Too much of what passes as authenticity these days seems more like a a closed fist than an open hand. Pry open the hand. Give and receive freely.
At work, authenticity comes in really handy. Sure it’s useful in the easy times, but I think the utility of authenticity is maximized when things get rough. I know everything I said above just sounds so soft and wishy-washy. How does a manager reconcile being “hard-minded” with authenticity? Truth is, I don’t really see a conflict between the two. As a manager, it’s part of my job to be hard-minded. I’ve got to pay attention to the business and I can’t turn a blind eye to poor results. That’s good and that can even be authentic, provided that paying attention to results is really what I’m interested in. If I’m paying attention to results because that’s what my boss expects, or because that’s what I think other people want to see me doing, then that’s inauthentic. It’s externally motivated rather than internally motivated. It gets tricky then, doesn’t it? What if my internal motivation is to be externally motivated? No problem–I’m frequently that way. For instance, my physical inbox doesn’t get processed very regularly. I know that I’ll wait until I just can’t stand the sight of it any longer. I know that in order to process my inbox, I need some external motivation, and that knowing is authentic. It would be inauthentic for me to say, “well, I just a have schedule of cleaning my inbox and only I know when I need to do it” rather than acknowledging my actual external motivation. Being an authentic manager then, is both knowing yourself and acknowledging your motivations.
I guess that’s enough rambling for one night. Next up, when I feel the muse, is humility.