This conversation took place over an hour on 18th January 2017. The individual is the COO of a division in a global company, and leads a team of about 100 people. He participated in several Corporate Theatre learning events in his previous company, and the purpose of this conversation was to find out how he used his learning about authenticity from those to create an inspired culture in his new organization, and how that has contributed to its outstanding performance.
How has our work on authenticity helped you and your current team to inspire performance?
"This is the biggest question that corporations have to deal with – and they don’t. We become unaware; we become a certain type of person. We sacrifice our authenticity. If you don’t conform it’s very hard to get on. Modern free-thinking corporations manage to navigate it – they want people to be authentic.
It’s a shame.
It means you don’t see the best in people. It’s very very hard. The longer I was in [my last company] the more inauthentic I felt. There was a lot of talk about values, but the way people were treated was at odds with those values.
The ILW (The Corporate Theatre Inspirational Leadership Workshop) was one of the most influential courses I been on. It opened my skill set with regard to authenticity - I always used to bend my style so as to develop my career.
It brought back the huge power of storytelling, and I’ve used it on countless occasions.
The focus on how to appeal first on an emotional level was a career changer for me. My father in law was a very successful business man who reinvented his business three times. He always said, ‘Business is all about the people’. I was given the opportunity to sell the business I was leading in my previous role. Authenticity enabled me to lead that without kowtowing. A perfect opportunity. The only thing I cared about was that the people who came with me should have a great experience and that we should enjoy ourselves.
Our performance elevation is based on the priority of creating a great place to work. The human spirit is personally important to me, and any business which restricts it means that people’s health is affected. We laugh together, we cry together when people leave; and when I left the larger organization I experienced a positive release of tension. It was freedom.
In an inauthentic environment people have to default to process to get things done. We still have them here, but we reward people for being different. This drives the spiky conversation. We are not PC; we value the ideas and delivering things brilliantly in the market.
Being authentic means that
On the transactional level, we are very agile. For example, the reformulation of our product. This normally requires months of research, but we had the idea in March/April 2016. In August we did the reformulation, and by November we announced it to the market. In my previous company this would have taken 2 years if we were lucky. This is because of a dramatic desire to be authentic, to use Head, Heart and Guts, a desire to do something better with a better purpose.
So a culture of high authenticity can shorten the time it takes to go from idea to market."