“It strikes me that we have a problem when folks need to write books and blogs about being authentic and transparent, shouldn’t that just be: ‘Don’t bullshit, don’t pretend and be honest?’ Do we really need to be a brand, or get a coach in order to do that. Isn’t that just how we should be?”

I love this post ‘Bored of the brand by Bill Boorman. He is spot on: Be yourself.

Honesty over sugar-coating

This is not only important for a personal brand, but also for a company brand: If your purpose is “to make the owner richer”, then state it. Don’t hide behind world salvation and world peace if that’s not your thing. Your actions will betray you. Your decision-making will be perceived as incongruent. You will waste a lot of time and will become frustrated with your team.

Your team will become frustrated and will waste a lot of time second-guessing and debating instead of getting on with the task in hand. People will join your organisation under false pretense. They won’t perform as expected and you wonder why and blame your recruiting/HR team. But the only person you have to blame is yourself. So be honest with yourself, your team and the wider eco-system.

People actually prefer to be treated like adults and human beings – don’t try to sell to me, don’t try to trick me, don’t try to spin me – just be honest, give me the chance to make a decision, treat me like an adult, a self-determined individual, a citizen of your company and your country.

Democratic leadership

It is important to translate the values and behaviours into creating an environment that enables people to not only engage but participate: At HRTechWorld in Paris I met Tobias Wittwer from Haufe-umantis who told me about its democratic workplace. People who work for Haufe vote their leaders and also have the power to remove them from their position.

This is a great way to increase participation in a company: Every employee has a right to vote but also a responsibility to support his/her leader. If a leader doesn’t work out, at least the employee can do something about it, instead of just having the choice between obeying or resigning. By having the right to change things, people also have the responsibility to participate in building a healthy company. Or as Tobias puts it: “We are permanently developing the next operating system for a company.” This gives work a completely different meaning.

It puts freedom instead of privilege at the heart of the organisation. It leads to clearer, more open conversations and in the case of Haufe-umantis to people stepping down from positions because they know that they are better at other things. This can happen in a democratic company, because it is for the greater good, not about maintaining power and control. For me this displays trust and meaningful relationships and is one path on how to transform a company into an asset for the people that work there and hence to an honest appraisal on what a company stands for.

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