The Art of Authenticity

Running a business is difficult: there are invoices, taxes, paying contract workers, negotiating a scope of work, the dreaded and inevitable "scope creep," and of course the actual project.  Yet, the most difficult thing I have learned while running Elisha Consulting is the skill of being tactfully authentic.  After negotiating a contract, getting to know individuals at a company, and diving into a long-term project it can become apparent that there are major issues within a company.

I have noticed that issues arise as individuals have worked to the point where they cannot view their position objectively or business practices have not been altered because they are simply the status quo and have been done for as long as anyone can remember.  In these situations, the issues are glaringly obvious to me as I am an objective outsider.  Yet, what should I do?  If I state, what to me, is obvious then will executives be upset, will individuals trust me, or will I even have a contract at the end of the day after explaining what I have observed?

This can be a large dilemma for consultants, how do they deliver news in a tactful way that is difficult for an executive to accept, especially if the executive is the founder of the company?  Fortunately, I have amazing mentors and have received great advice.  One such piece of advice is to eliminate the words “think” and “feel” from my consulting vocabulary.  I make sure to never say, “I think ________;” instead I make it a point to say, “based on my observations and gathered evidence I have noticed ________, in order to improve we should do ________.”  This subtle tweak has accelerated how I am able to deliver information that is important to decision makers.

Yet, eliminating the words “think” and “should” are not enough, it is important to have honest conversations with decision makers that can be uncomfortable – this is the art of authenticity.  Subjective opinions are pushed aside and replaced with observations, data, and facts.  This allows for a tactful and professional conversation that centers on authenticity.  If I am not authentic with my clients then I am not doing my job.  Yes, I am skilled with digital media, organizational structure, strategy, among other tangible talents, yet one of the most important skills I am developing is to be authentic and deliver news that decision makers need in order for their organizations to grow.