January 2005
A Relationship Story
Authentic Relationships Are Good Business…Machiavelli Was Wrong!

I’ve been fascinated in my consulting experience observing the power of authenticity. There are a lot of very slick people who are in fact successful in our dynamic market, but I believe there is an increasing demand for anti-slick authenticity. I’ll admit that when I asked you to answer questions recently, I did have a premise I was trying to test – that authenticity, integrity, and ethics mattered more to people in their work lives than the conventional machiavellian-wisdom of our society would suggest. I do truly believe the look in people’s eyes matters a whole lot to a lot of people.

The questions again (and thanks to the 125+ who responded): (1) Think of the person or people you like best in your work life. Why do you like them? (2) What do you not like about your work life? (3) Describe the ideal work environment. A key thing to note: answers were limited to 10 words each, so people had to focus, and hopefully their most prominent thoughts came through. Also, while the sample was admittedly not representative of the population, it is a relatively credible reflection of our work-oriented relationships. It’s not totally scientific, but it’s still pretty cool. Some of the key results:

People love to be challenged and to have the ability to grow – 55% identify growth and challenge as part of the ideal work environment. Interesting…they don’t complain about their pay – only an amazing 2% mentioned it as an item they “don’t like about my work life”.

However, while people did not complain about their pay, “feelings issues” mattered a lot. 64% complain about things that hurt them personally – Personal-life sacrifices, conflicts of values, bureaucracy wasting their time. Interesting…far fewer complained about not liking things they have to do – only 26%.

Also, people love to enjoy themselves at work. 55% include fun and cooperation in “what we like about others”. Interesting…even more – 60% – identified fun and cooperation as elements of the ideal work environment.

Integrity, ethics, and trust were included by 52% as part of “what we like about others”. Interesting…this was more than the 48% who included intelligence, work ethic, and results as reasons why they like others.

While challenge and growth are extremely important to most of us, we clearly desire a fulfilling, enjoyable, and high-integrity work life. Success doesn’t seem to be enough. I believe the answers also indicate that integrity, ethics, and trust – the keys to authenticity – are more part of our person-to-person relationships than our connections with companies, environments, or jobs. In fact, more than twice as many people mentioned integrity in people they like (52%) than included it in their description of the ideal work environment (22%).

I have observed the power of authenticity and openness that exists in some companies while not at others, as well as the significant positive differences in company effectiveness and individual fulfillment that result. This power has been clearly demonstrated also in our own firm’s experience with the coaching of Vance Caesar. The potential for our firm’s success and the personal fulfillment of our people appears to be more authentic and real with each passing day.

If you’re worried that this focus on authenticity doesn’t reflect the attitudes of some people you could do business with, you’re probably right. However, ask yourself if you are someone for whom authenticity really matters…and then ask yourself if you want to, or really need to do business with inauthentic, unethical, or low-integrity people.

I would welcome your thoughts about these results and my observations. I have adapted this story into an interactive speech entitled “Authentic Relationships Are Good Business – Machiavelli Was Wrong!”, and I would welcome ideas on potential groups or companies who may find the subject interesting. If you would like to see the complete results of the survey, just respond with an email and I’ll send the data along to you. Thanks again to all who provided their input. It is very much appreciated.

Links: The Vance Caesar Group www.vancecaesar.com


Jeff Black
Principal Consultant
McDermott & Bull Executive Search