How to Be Yourself While Becoming Yourself
New behaviors feel like showing up for dinner dressed like Micky Mouse.
Frustration and disappointment are more comfortable than the discomfort of feeling inauthentic when you try on new leadership behaviors.
People say, “Be yourself.” But how can you be yourself while you’re becoming yourself? You feel obvious. Vulnerable. Fake.
Suppose you learn that successful leaders celebrate small wins and honor hard work, even if it occasionally falls short. But it feels unnatural to celebrate when you’re worried about what might go wrong tomorrow. Celebration feels uncomfortable.
Trying on new behaviors feels like putting on new shoes. You have to wear them awhile before you forget them.
Those who refuse to press through the awkwardness of new behaviors end up stuck in old patterns. It feels comfortable, but seasons change. Eventually they wear out.
Be yourself while becoming yourself:
Chose transparency over ‘fake it till you make it’.
#1. Reject secrecy. Tell trusted colleagues that you’re working on gratitude, for example. Ask them to watch for new behaviors.
Strength for the journey includes feeling like someone else is in the boat with you.
#2. Seek feedback on what’s working. For example, someone notices that you’re expressing gratitude more often. Explore their comments. “Thanks for saying that. I’m working on gratefulness. If you don’t mind me asking…
- What makes you say that I’m improving?
- What should I do more of?
- What could be better?
#3. Invite direct reports to help you improve. “I’m working to give affirmations. I appreciate any suggestions you might have.”
4 Benefits of transparency:
Break the pressure of secrecy with transparency. Secrecy makes you feel like a fraud.
- Transparency eliminates the fear of being caught.
- Transparency strengthens connections.
- Transparency increases humility.
- Transparency energizes next steps.
How might leaders try on new behaviors without feeling like fakers?
What new behavior would you like to try on?
Your work is so awesome and always timely. This blog is the perfect application of the vulnerability that is needed in so many new and tenured leaders today. Supervisory responsibilities permit us to ask those we lead for input in how we might lead better. How many of us a) take the time to ask, or b) have the guts to ask for helpful suggestions.
If we’re out of the habit, it may take a few iterations to begin to get authentic feedback. Folks may seem leery to be vulnerable in their replies if the leader hasn’t traditionally modeled vulnerability. The 10,000 mile journey begins with the first few steps! Thanks for encouraging us today!
Thanks Brian. You’re so right about “it may take a few iterations.” We have to keep pecking away. Thanks for a really helpful reminder.
I agree that you need to be clear about your own unfamiliarity with new behaviors. “I may not be clear or may be walking out on that limb, so please understand its new for me also…”. I also tend to try on these new things with a trusted peer or my director. Solicit advice. Bouncing it around a bit to see where it lands.
Very important not to fake it. Most likely, people who work with you “know you” and they will be able so see what you are doing is not who you are.
Thanks Will. The value of talking it through is powerful, especially when the behavior is public. The people around us respect transparency more than pretending we’re confident when we aren’t.
Love your articles and especially enjoyed this post! I am new to management and would value some recommendation on good reads to promote my personal growth!
Thanks Kathy. Congratulations for earning a management role. In keeping with the theme of today’s post I have two recommendations.
Discover Your True North – Bill George
Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman
Thank you! Appreciate when recommended reads are noted as part of your posts. Always looking for ways to improve personally and professionally.
I love this! Any advice for dealing with peers/colleagues who tear you down for trying out new behaviors? “Oh, so what’s with the new _____?”
Thanks Katherine. I suggest you go with it in a light hearted way. Be transparent. “Yeah! I want to get better at xyz so I’m trying a couple of things. I’d appreciate any suggestions you might have. I’m glad you noticed.”
For sure, don’t respond defensively.
MICKEY….like that song from the Mickey Mouse Club! Thank you as always, great post.
Thanks Kim…too funny. 🙂
Fear seems to guide so much of leadership behavior leaving little room for experimentation. I think we’re all, always “becoming ourselves”. If you’re not learning, experimenting, iterating towards the next, best you, then what are you doing? Excellent post.
Thanks Stephen. The message I take from your comment is that fear prevents us from becoming our next best self. Sad but true.
A friend of mine called after I posted this article. He said something similar to you. We haven’t arrived yet. There should always be some areas of uncomfortable growth, if not, we must think we’ve arrived.
Mr. Zakur, you have just stated my thoughts exactly. 🙂 We should always be a work in progress but, at the same time, we should be happy with where we are – (since) every point in a transformation is exactly as it should be.
Dan, your blog reminds us that we are on a journey and to continue working on our transformation. Very nice.
Another great post!
This is particularly true with sales, salespeople and sales management.
Think about how the Internet of things has changed the game of sales…up to 69% of the sales process is over before a customer speaks with a sales person. Sales people who are transparent and seek to serve customers win.
Sales managers who seek consistent growth need to build trust with customers AND their teams. Being transparent, being vulnerable, admitting when you make a mistake are keys to building that trust.
Make sure your company culture and who you report to has high emotional intelligence to accept and understand what you are doing and why.
Far too many companies still believe in fake it until you make it and will see you admitting your mistakes and being vulnerable as weakness.
The one thing we can count on is change. The days of the leader needing to be the smartest person in the room with all the answers is over.
Thanks Mark. Great application to the sales sector. Being real builds strong connections. Of course as you indicate, in some cultures it might back fire. Let’s hope the number of “real” organizations keeps growing.
Your warning is well taken.
You articulated the benefits of transparency well Dan. It left me feeling encouraged. Thank you.