"When we allow ourselves to exist truly and fully, we sting the world with our vision and challenge it with our own ways of being." - Thomas Moore
I remember being at one of my first interview lunches as a law student and the host was going on and on about ancient Greek literature. Let me be clear this was not a topic of much discussion at the Murphy house growing up.
Maybe Greek diners but not Greek literature.
And I remember thinking, what could I add value to these types of conversations that must happen all of the time at the law firms (which we all know don't), and what if they find out that I don't belong here. So began my journey to fit in and not stand out in hopes of having a successful career - whether it was wearing the law firm uniform of black suit with a white shirt and pearls or nodding to a strategy that I may have had doubts about.
This strategy did not serve me well and only when I realized that the best leaders I saw, and wanted to be, were unabashedly themselves (okay, maybe a smoother version of themselves) did I change course.
I dumped the suit and pearls and stopped hiding. Instead, I embraced leather jackets and statement necklaces. I opened up about myself and shared my thought leadership.
This course correction improved my career trajectory dramatically and I want the same for you.
I know many of you struggle with being yourself. Below are 3 tips for being more authentic, moving forward in your career, and feeling more comfortable in your skin.
Dump the False Narrative: Clients and Organizations Aren't Looking for People to Fit In.
Many of us have created this false narrative that it is "safer" to fit in rather than rock the boat. Look around at your organizations and see who has the most significant impact and rising.
I bet most of them bring their authentic selves to the office and by looking at problems through that lens. Organizations and clients are looking for people who are innovative and creative problem solvers. They are not looking for people who only nod or buy into "we have always done it that way."
You need to recognize this false narrative when it pops up in your head and tell yourself that this narrative is not helping you give value to your clients. Think about what you would do or say if you weren't afraid. And I challenge you to provide that to your clients - after all, they are paying you for your ideas.
Know and Give Your Value.
You need to know and believe the actual value you can bring to an organization and clients if you are your authentic self. When you believe it, you can achieve it. By the way, the research has shown that people who are themselves are happier and more engaged at work. It takes a lot of energy to hide yourself constantly. And companies are looking for that diversity of thought.
I know this can be tough if you have not been doing it. Start with one place you know if you were more yourself you could add value and start slowly and consistently being more authentic and giving your ideas. Once you see that you can do this and are successful, you will begin to re-program your brain to take this approach more.
It is helpful to write out some goals for yourself in this regard - whether it is speaking up at a meeting or opening up with a more personal story at your next networking event.
I have listened to many "leaders" and "lawyers" speak, and I can tell when they are not authentic and just playing a role. And let me be clear: I do not feel connected to them or want to follow them.
No one accomplishes anything in this world without others and if you want to be an authentic leader who influences people, you need to let people know who you are because when they know you, they will feel more connected to you and trust you more. Share who you are and your vision and people will want to follow you.
Moreover, by creating an inclusive environment, you will improve employee retention, effectiveness, and engagement. You will be opening up diversity of thought and innovation.
And here is the big hint: if you want to motivate people to improve - be open about what you need to do and how you tackled it.
Being yourself is good for you, your colleagues, and your clients and organizations. Remember, there is only one you. Don't hide all that goodness.
Want more tips on how you can advance in your career? Download Sheila's 10 Tips for In-House Counsel Struggling to Advance where she shares her time-tested tips for in-house counsel to release fear, jump-start your career, and propel towards promotion.