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New Research Shows That Authentic Leadership Can Save You From the Great Resignation

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Three small steps to help you use authenticity as your strategy to improve engagement and retain your talent.


It seems just about every day your news feed has a new article talking about the (admittedly catchy) "Great Resignation."


And geez, so sorry about adding yet another.


I'm guessing just about every leader out there is on the spectrum between, "What am I gonna do to survive this?!" and "I think I might be in that data too 😳."


But there's new information that suggests you can hold your horses on the freak-out session and that we're just experiencing the same shiznat, different decade.


Gallup recently released an analysis that shows that people that are engaged (i.e. happy and dig their work) are really not any more likely to leave than they were in pre-pandemic times. They looked at data from September 2019 and 29% of engaged workers were looking at potential new jobs, whereas in March 2021, they're looking about 30% of the time.


In contrast, there are 4-5 percentage points more employees that are unengaged looking to bail.


In fact, they found that it takes more than a 20% pay raise for people that are engaged to make a move these days. Alternatively, it often takes no increase in pay or perks to move the unengaged.


So what does this all mean?


It means that all the stuff you knew was important before - leadership, culture - is simply more important than ever. The companies that double-down and make tangible effort to differentiate based on "the fluff" are going to win the fight.


If you're like, "Oh Lord, this is the definition of insanity! How do I not get caught in doing the same things I did in the past relative to training and development and expect the same outcomes?"


While ensuring your leaders have the 101 curriculum they need to transition or grow from individual rock star to leadership superstar, you have got to try new things. It'll be critical to modernize your culture just like you modernize your products.


In another recent study, "The Importance of Authenticity in the Workplace," their data shows that people who feel they can be authentic at work are 60% more engaged than those that don't. They also found that people 71% more confident and 46% happier overall.


In another study, Microsoft's Work Trend Index, they found that leaders were largely ignorant to the extent of the burnout and dissatisfaction felt by their teams. Then then stated that authenticity is the thing that will re-catalyze productivity and wellbeing in this new, wacky working world we've entered.


So where do you even start? I mean, authenticity probably feels oh-so-good on your soul, but how in the heck do you change your culture to be one that doesn't just allow authenticity, but one that leans into it help you survive the talent war you're facing?


Here are three steps that can help you make this pivot immediately and keep your team and dream alive!


1. Do a "rigmarole" audit.


Meet with your team and talk through the things that are getting their way and that don't feel "on mission." Have them freely brainstorm and list these items and with as much detail as possible. For example, you might find things like the fact that your team spends 20% of their time updating internal PowerPoint presentations. Or maybe they often spend time writing status emails that you then edit and send on to your boss.


Then work together to see what can you do to reduce these unnecessary and inauthentic tasks? For example, you might set a policy that all internal presentations (at least up to your level) have to be in two colors, no fancy fonts, graphs, and infographics. Or in the case of the status updates, you could suggest a skip-level meeting with your boss and direct reports once a month where they can share, 3-D, what is going on with the project.


You of course won't be able to wipe out all the BS work; there will always be some level of rigmarole, especially if you work for a larger company. But just think what engagement scores would look like if you got rid of 10% of this work in the next six months. Start somewhere. Keep iterating, Keep inspiring.


2. Practice using humility as a connection speed-pass


Purposefully using humility is one of the most effective tools to increasing trust and creating connection with others. But humility has to be a bit unexpected and a bit brave. When you're willing to expose something of yourself, when people least expect it, that's a core building block of being an authentic leader.


Pick a place or time when humility wouldn't be expected. This is of course different for everyone; it depends on your role in an organization and how humble you are already.


When I was the CEO at my prior company, I was often pretty humble. And, I was always looking to raise the bar. An example of a time I practiced humility was the time we were doing a massive set of reorganizations throughout the parent company. The Corporate Communications army was amassed and leaders everywhere were sending out the standard communication.


You know the one - the leader's headshot at the top, lots of fancy words, etc.


Except me. Instead of succumbing to the "norm", I knew that my team needed something more real in this situation. So, instead of the standard communication, I sent out an email without my picture (they all knew what I looked like!) and I wrote much of the communication myself. Although I was an executive, I knew there were times when my team needed me. Like, really me.


Think about places where you can avail a fault of yours (e.g. the opening at a Town Hall, a team meeting) or where you can act a heck of a lot more human (e.g. do the dirty work at a company gathering, do something that most leaders have their assistant's take care of.)


Your humility will be the sticky, gooey "fly trap" you need to keep your best talent by your side.


3. Post on you.


People are using LinkedIn more and more like the conference you rarely get to attend. It's a place that goes well beyond finding a new job. Look, it's basically a public dating app for work.


Although there's no swiping, let me tell you, people are checking. you. out.


I know I'm not the only one that has my authenticity radar turned on high when scrolling through LinkedIn. Anyone engaging out there knows it's easy to tell which leaders are on there to provoke and which leaders are on there to promote (or their comms/social media people are on there for them).


If you think people aren't checking you out, judging you, and determining who they want to work for - at least in part - based on what they see on LinkedIn, you craaaaazy.


Focus less on what other leaders out there might think of you and more on inspiring and creating followership with the talented people you want to retain or attract.


Share vulnerable stories. Post interesting articles and give your non-business-buzzword take on what you read. Share an inspirational quote. Engage with others' post like the caring, fun-loving human that you are IRL.


At the end of the day, authenticity isn't simply a permission; it's a power. Authenticity is not something you just happen into either. Especially in the workplace, leading authentically often means that you're less focused on how things have always been done and more focused on what you want from others.


Buck the norm. Push aside the BS. Brave the messy.


And trust me, you'll be rewarded in standing on the sidelines while everyone else fights the war.


Erin Hatzikostas is an internationally-recognized leader on the impact of authenticity in the workplace and the founder of b Authentic inc, where she helps people and companies win by using authenticity as their secret weapon to success.

Erin is the bestselling author of You Do You(ish), a TEDx speaker, coach-sultant, and the co-host of an offbeat career and leadership podcast, b Cause with Erin & Nicole. Erin's talks have reached hundreds of thousands of people, and her thought leadership has been featured on ABC and CBS and been published in Business Insider, Fast Company, Well+Good, among several others.

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