Idolizing Authenticity

You may know that I spent nearly twenty years at Sony, Turner Broadcasting and Universal back in my corporate days. But you may not know that I worked on promotional campaigns for a variety of television series including Married...With Children, Xena: Warrior Princess, Law & Order, Dr. Phil, Ricky Lake, Sally Jesse Raphael, Maury Povich and, yep, Jerry Springer.

While I've pretty much sworn off sitcoms and talk shows these days, I must admit to being a total geek when it comes to American Idol. Yes, I know The Voice is much more au courant, but what can I say? I'm an Idol loyalist. What I love about the show is that it encourages, okay, forces people to take the risk to be who they truly are. That is, to share their most authentic, raw, and vulnerable selves with millions of people.

Interestingly, when I look back at my own TV career, I realize how scared I was to bring my authentic self to work. More often, I felt like I needed to put on a social mask or suit of armor before I came to the office. Frankly, it was exhausting. I found a much better fit in my current career as a coach, writer, and speaker. Maybe it wasn't the corporate culture, but me all along. Maybe it was just too intimidating to let my authentic self shine and I put the lid on it in self-protection.

While I don't advocate creating a me-me-me environment, I do think it's a good idea to let your personality and principles soar in the workplace. So how do you bring your authentic self to work? Check out these strategies:

•    Don't check your values at the door. If punctuality, civility, and returning emails within 24 hours are among your values, don't feel the need to leave those ideals at home. Let others know what you hold dear by role modeling those behaviors, especially if you're the boss.

•    Combine kindness and candor. At one time or another, we're all expected to give and receive feedback in order to facilitate business growth. Resist the temptation to sugarcoat your criticism. Be candid with others, but never mean-spirited. People can handle the truth, especially when it's delivered with kindness.

•    Let your freak flag fly. So you're a tango dancer, kite surfer, or birder. Why hide it? Sharing your passions with others (in conversation if not in fact) makes you unique and memorable. If you have no passions, for heaven's sake, find some! You can start by becoming an American Idol freak, like me!