Authenticity is Hard Work!

Guest Author and CMO Mentor:
Steven Handmaker, CMO,

Who doesn’t want to appear authentic? 

There are hundreds of books available about “authentic leadership” and discovering one’s own “authentic self.” It’s hard to find anyone who will tell you that authenticity isn’t a trait worth striving towards. And just so we’re clear, I won’t be the first! I’m a huge fan. In fact, authenticity is one of the key reasons I believe our company is routinely awarded as a great workplace culture.

It’s worth noting that among the most common characteristics of companies recognized and awarded as "Great Places to Work" are those which maintain a high-trust culture. And high-trust cultures are typically driven by leadership and seen by employees as not just transparent, but authentic. Authenticity is a major contributor to gaining and maintaining employee trust, commitment and overall job satisfaction.

But here’s a crazy secret - being authentic and actually seeming authentic do not necessarily go together.

For this reason, internal communications play a critical role in promoting and nurturing authenticity. Perhaps ironically, it takes a great deal of thought, planning and execution to come across as authentic. 

Take, for example, a CEO that has an important message they wish to share with their 300 employees who are spread across multiple locations. Rather than write a memo, or leave a broadcast phone message, the decision is made to make a video recording of the message since it will appear the more “personal” way to deliver the information. And this could have been a solid decision. Except for one thing: the video is overly produced with the CEO clearly reading from a teleprompter, in a studio setting, wearing too much makeup, with too bright of lights, with a series of cuts and camera angles that would make any nightly news anchor extremely jealous. The result was a flawlessly read message. But warrants the question: In the end, was video really the more personal and authentic way to deliver this message? I’d suggest not.

If executed differently could it have been? Probably.

Developing an authenticity strategy that will shape how you develop and share messages across all mediums is something I highly recommend. Engagement is hard work, but worth the end result as any “Great Places to Work” I know will attest. 


This post was originally published on Assurance's Business Insights Blog.