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As leaders, it is our responsibility to create environments that foster productivity, innovation and growth. What if we went further and also prioritized personal growth? A corporate culture that promotes openness and transparency encourages employee satisfaction, which in turn promotes excellence and efficiency. As such, following this approach can take us much further than the traditional mindset.
As a woman in a male-dominated industry, I faced significant challenges early in my career, with people often dismissing my opinions, actions, and decisions as emotional or irrational. I learned that to be taken seriously, I had to mask my authentic self. So I spent years learning to hide my feelings, personality, and passions because I was made to believe that was the only way to move forward. Granted, it worked, but as I gained more experience and worked my way up, I realized that this culture was deeply flawed, no matter (unfortunately) how common it was.
The key to creating a thriving workplace
With experience, I have realized that the key to creating a successful workplace is authenticity: an approach rooted in trust, allowing individuals to build relationships based on openness, honesty and be themselves while actively allowing work-life integration.
Work-life integration is based on the idea that work and life are not separate, but rather that work responsibilities, family life, hobbies and personal development can be intertwined in a way that supports and improves our general well-being. It suggests a holistic approach to managing work and life, where the lines between the two are blurred and the focus is on creating fulfillment and overall balance.
This approach prioritizes the well-being of individuals, inspiring them to embrace each other and create positive energy that drives collaboration, innovation, creativity and productivity. More so, it encourages employee loyalty and engagement, which benefits us, our companies and our employees in the long term.
The bottom line is simple: Employees who enjoy going to work wake up excited about their day and ultimately contribute to the success of the company.
With these ideas in mind, I used principles of authentic leadership and work-life integration to create a culture that empowers employees to be authentic without fear of judgment. I’m proud to say that my team has thrived on this approach, with proven increased engagement, job satisfaction and productivity.
This all sounds great in theory, but how does it actually work?
How to create this type of culture
To bring this approach to life, you have to start with yourself. Authentic leadership relies on a leader’s ability to be honest, transparent and real with their employees while encouraging the reciprocity of these principles. Below are some tips on how to achieve this, with the goal of fostering a company culture similar to the one I created:
Lead by example: Authenticity of the model by to be vulnerable and share your experiences/emotions with your team. By leading with honesty and promoting transparency, you can create an environment in which team members feel comfortable and are empowered to share their own insights.
Create a safe space: Foster a culture where criticism is seen as an opportunity for growth by actively seeking feedback. Foster open communication and encourage your team to be transparent and honest with each other, including you. Authenticity goes both ways, which means you’ll sometimes receive feedback you don’t want to hear; When that happens, put your ego aside and drop the “I’m the boss, they can’t talk to me that way!!” mentality because it will not serve you and will only deter your team from being transparent with you.
Provide growth opportunities: Invest in employee growth and development to show that you value your team. Provide training, mentorship and career growth opportunities or a pool of learning resources (i.e. online learning platforms). Don’t skimp on the time spent on learning and development, as this investment will pay off in improvement employee retention and satisfaction while creating a culture that values learning and innovation, driving success for the company as a whole.
Promote healthy work-life integration: Offer flexibility, remote work options, and paid time off to prevent burnout. Accept, expect and adapt to the realities of personal life because they are inevitable. Don’t waste employees’ time explaining personal commitments or apologizing for external factors in virtual meetings, instead allow them to respond and return to work with renewed focus. Life will go on, with or without stress, so choose “without” by normalizing work-life integration instead of encouraging worry or fear of judgment when personal life overlaps with work.
Build authentic relationships: If it doesn’t come naturally to you, actively invest in your relationships with your team members by engaging in conversations that build your interest in their lives and well-being to build trust, respect and empathy. Recognize that your team is your greatest asset and create a culture where they can feel supported. Within my team, this approach has allowed the formation of beautiful friendships, stimulating both commitment and collaboration.
While this approach can bring incredible results for businesses, it is not without implications, such as the possible challenge of putting your personal feelings aside to remain professional and objective; this can be especially tricky when you’re faced with tough decisions involving your team.
To avoid being caught off guard, it is essential to anticipate the potential impact of personal biases, prepare for them and take steps to reduce their impact. True authentic leaders make decisions based on objective analysis, recognizing and remaining aware of their strengths, weaknesses, values and beliefs. They use this information to guide decision-making rather than clouding it, allowing them to make more thoughtful and effective decisions than they otherwise would.
By harnessing both the benefits and implications of authentic leadership approach, you can promote an environment where individuals and businesses can thrive by creating a positive, supportive and fulfilling workplace. After all, we spend a large part of our life at work, so why not spend it happily?