What 2020 taught me about authenticity

I have been reflecting a lot about what I learnt during 2020. In some ways it was a tough year, business was quiet for a while, I saw less people, and I was concerned (like many people) about the unknown. But it also taught me some great lessons around patience, trust and authenticity.

This was the year when we got to see into each other’s homes, had dogs barking or kids yelling in the background, and the catchphrase was ‘I think you’re on mute.’ It was ok, we all accepted it because it was happening to all of us.

Charlie Brown and I doing some editing in our outdoor office

We all did free webinars and training sessions, where connectivity issues meant we got cut off or the screen froze. We went to more meetings online than ever before. Like many people, my uniform became “ office on the top, pj’s on the bottom”. And it was totally acceptable.

It took me a while to get used to this ‘new normal’. I have always thought I had a very clear work persona, an expectation of myself about what I wear and how I look. It was how I presented to the world when I was at work. This changed in 2020 as we moved online. Would clients still accept me if I didn’t wear makeup? It turns out they didn’t care because they weren’t wearing any either. Jumper and leggings became my work attire.

I also realised that it was ok that my virtual workshops weren’t perfect in the beginning. I was so critical (and nervous) initially that I didn’t know how to use all of the platforms. Then I realised that as long as I took the principles and processes I knew about facilitation and applied them, everyone was very forgiving when I took a few extra minutes to sort out a technical issue. It didn’t have to be seamless. People accepted that it was just the reality of our new way of working.

I think 2020 has shown me, I can be a little more me. I can share a little more of myself with the world. I wrote about a lot more personal things last year and shared some more insights into my world. That was scary and liberating at the same time. My most popular posts were with my dogs or in my garden, not when I wrote about leadership or communications techniques.

2020 showed that people want to get to know you, they want to know your dog’s names and what books your reading. They are ok if the kitchen is a mess, there are papers all over your desk, and your lighting is terrible. It’s ok if your internet falls out or you make a mistake. COVID showed us we are human, and perfection is no longer necessary. Your skills, experience and humanity are more important.

I challenge you to think about how you can be more authentic at work, how can you be more you and less your ‘work’ persona.

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