Monday, January 24, 2005

Authentic Relationships Are Good Business… Machiavelli Was Wrong!

A Lesson About Relationships:
by Jeff Black, Principal Consultant, McDermott & Bull Executive Search

I’ve been fascinated in my consulting experience to observe the power of authenticity. There are a lot of slick people who are successful in our dynamic market, but I believe there is an increasing desire for authenticity, not slickness. Recently I circulated several questions to a large network of executives to test a premise; Do authenticity, integrity, and ethics matter more to people in their work than the conventional Machiavellian-wisdom of our society would suggest? It is my belief that the look in people’s eyes matters to a lot of people.

The questions were: (1) Think of the person or people you like best in your work life. Why do you like them? (2) What do you not like about your work life? (3) Describe the ideal work environment. (Note: answers were limited to 10 words each to gain concise and prominent responses).

While the sample was admittedly not representative of the population, it is a credible reflection of our work-oriented relationships. Scientific or not, the answers were quite revealing. Some of the key results included:

  • People love to be challenged and to have the ability to grow - 55% identify growth and challenge as part of the ideal work environment. Interesting… they don’t complain about their pay – only an amazing 2% mentioned it as an item they "don’t like about my work".
  • While people did not complain about their pay, "feelings issues" mattered a lot. 64% commented about things that hurt them personally – Personal-life sacrifices, conflicts of values, bureaucracy wasting their time. Interesting…far fewer commented about not liking things they have to do – only 26%.
  • People love to enjoy themselves at work. 55% include fun and cooperation in "what we like about others". Interesting…even more – 60% – identified fun and cooperation as elements of the ideal work environment.
  • Integrity, ethics, and trust were included by 52% as part of "what we like about others". Interesting…this was more than the 48% who included intelligence, work ethic, and results, as reasons why they like others.
While challenge and growth are extremely important to most of us, we clearly desire a fulfilling, enjoyable, and high-integrity work life. Success doesn’t seem to be enough. I believe the answers indicate that integrity, ethics, and trust - the keys to authenticity – are more part of our person-to-person relationships than our connections with companies, environments, or jobs. In fact, more than twice as many people mentioned integrity in people they like (52%) than included it in their description of the ideal work environment (22%).

I have observed the power of authenticity and openness that exists in some companies while not at others, and the positive differences in company effectiveness and individual fulfillment that result. This power has been clearly demonstrated in our own firm’s experience with the coaching of Vance Caesar. The potential for our firm’s success and the personal fulfillment of our people appears to be more authentic and real with each passing day.

Right now you may be mentally ticking down a list of people in your work life and determining if they feel authentic to you. Choosing to focus attention on authenticity in relationships is a sure winner if you seek to enjoy the work you do.

If you have a company or group that needs to hear this message, I have adapted these observations into a learning experience entitled "Authentic Relationships Are Good Business – Machiavelli Was Wrong!" I can be contacted through http://www.mbsearch.net/ if you would like to schedule a date.

Note from Bruce: Jeff Black is a respected member of the Southern California business community and a successful search professional for McDermott & Bull, Inc. (www.mbsearch.net) a retained executive search firm based in Irvine, California. M&B specializes in recruiting difficult-to-find and critical talent for its clients and is the fastest growing executive search firm in Southern California.