2017 launches South Africans into a year in which the presidential race is on. We will be inundated by political speak. Already spokesmen and women for the contending factions have begun pointing out all the shortcomings of their expected opponents.
Political speak is a language all of its own. Experience has taught most of us to not simply believe and accept all we are told! When promises of epic proportions are proclaimed behind the mikes, no sound amplification can lend them credentials! Those of us who have the stamina to endure political speeches till the final words often conclude: ‘Don’t trust that person!’
Now this is interesting: we transfer the verdict about the unreliable message to the messenger!
If you are the bringer of a message that is all blown out of proportion or designed to conceal the facts, in the judgement of a critical listener you go down the drain along with your speech.
In other words: you have lost your personal authenticity. You lose your personal honour when you take the stand for a dishonourable message.
This is many degrees worse than being caught out in a little white lie – such as ‘the dog ate my homework’ – or calling in ‘sick’ with a croaking voice when you don’t feel up to work on a ‘babbelas’ Monday.Losing your authenticity in the eyes of others is a blot on your personal integrity.
Let’s leave for now the arena of politics and turn to our business environment.
Business is a different world. Yet – similar to the antics of political followers – consumer behaviour doesn’t follow rational rules. People may be lured into shopping around, but the discerning consumers prefer to do business with people they can trust.
As business owners we can do a lot to attract the customers that we want for our business – and we can do this by being an authentic re-presenter of our business: standing up for what our business has to offer and doing so with enthusiasm and commitment. Our representation is authentic when we come across as trustworthy for the quality and the characteristics of our product or service.
Let me give you an example of someone who didn’t get it right, when I was there to see it.
On a lovely overcast, cool afternoon on our beachfront, I’m strolling up and down Hobie Beach pier. My brother, on holiday from Belgium, is with me and we decide to stay on the beachfront and eat a snack. All of us probably know what is available at this prime tourist spot.
We opt for a pleasant seating arrangement next to the ocean and eventually we can place an order with a tired-looking waitress. With African time on our hands, I have plenty of opportunity to observe what goes on in the dynamics of this business. All seems to be up to one waitress who struggles to cope.
However, standing slumped in the background – close to the entrance to the till or just outside the premises – a man smokes cigarette upon cigarette. He stares into the distance or studies the ground under his feet. In short, his facial expression is one of utter boredom and disinterest in what goes on around him. He seems to be the most unlikely person to be the manager or owner of that business. He is completely detached, with no communication with his staff and no eye contact with any customer.
I’m intrigued when I notice a few times that kitchen staff coming to the serving counter turn to him with questions. He is then in fact ‘in charge’! But not a smile or a gesture gives away that he gives a damn about what’s going on. His whole demeanor says: ‘I couldn’t care less…’
I begin to feel sorry for a man who is obviously so unhappy manning this business. Maybe he was having a very bad day? I hope he feels better by now.
But nothing can stop me from having the impression that on this particular day all the man’s performance is the opposite of authentically representing his business. The location is perfect and the food is excellent value for money!
We learn from this bad example that being authentic goes way beyond the words that come out of our mouths. It includes the way we stand, our posture, our moves and our style of interaction. If this person would have had the non-verbals right, basically all he’d need to say is ‘welcome’ or ‘good afternoon’ or ‘thank you’.
Often we don’t realise that others see us the way we don’t see ourselves. We are not aware of how we come across. We can all improve so much, once we have a better awareness. Plus there are many tips and techniques!
This is the kind of coaching I offer in the Authentic Speech workshops. It’s one of those coaching interventions, using visual and audio feedback, where – with a little bit of input – you can generate a big output.
Wishing all of us the big output for this new year!