Coach | Author | Speaker Christoph Spiessens Coaching Solutions Ltd.
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How L&D authenticity drives engagement

30th Aug 2019
Coach | Author | Speaker Christoph Spiessens Coaching Solutions Ltd.
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colleagues laughing in training session

Trainers are natural performers, but in order to really connect with learners, we need to let go of some of that and learn to be more authentic. 

I believe there’s a tremendous opportunity for L&D professionals to step up and help employees set themselves free.

Free from what, you ask? Free from being unhappy, unfulfilled or stuck. How can we do that? By showing up more authentically. Without filters.

Let me explain.

Just like us, the vast majority of people we train or coach, whether they are a junior staff member or senior executive, are under constant pressure to deliver – at work and in life.

The incessant stream of what goals, strategies and success should look like through a myriad of perfection filters on social media, for example, only adds to that pressure.

On many levels, consciously or not, destructive feelings of fear and self-doubt are instilled in people every day.

It gets worse, however. The real risk is that people stop being who they really are because they believe the expectation is to become like other, seemingly more successful people.

They may fear that being real is risky, frowned upon or inferior.

That’s where L&D can make a difference. I believe that authenticity can be a powerful success tool and if we, facilitators, all show up more authentically in our own work, we can share this tool with our audiences.

Seeing authenticity in action can inspire participants to realign with their true self, values and goals.

The benefits of authenticity

Here’s why authenticity drives engagement during training and coaching sessions:

  • It promotes facilitator credibility: people notice when you communicate from the heart without holding back and without filters. They will listen better and retain more of the information you are sharing. You’ll be seen as an authentic expert in your field.

  • It inspires two-way communication: your authenticity will lower the barriers between you and your audience, encouraging participants to share more. You don’t need icebreakers. Shine, and the ice will melt.

  • It causes a positive ripple effect: more participants will feel encouraged to join the conversation when they know it’s safe to do so.

Here’s why authenticity benefits employee engagement in the office afterwards:

  • Your open and honest approach will inspire the people you train to become the best version of themselves. They have seen how being authentic has helped you. Now they’ll want to try it too.

  • It drives team collaboration: when staff members know how to communicate authentically, the feeling of trust, safety and belonging inspires better collaboration.

  • Authenticity can help remind employees just how valuable they are to the success of the company they work for; that they matter. This promotes a renewed appreciation towards the role, the business and its customers which, in turn, drives productivity and quality.

So, how can you show up more authentically? These tips still work wonders for me.

Stop performing, start connecting

The (often self-imposed) pressure to get through a course curriculum or achieve set coaching goals can make you go into a directive mode, which is rarely helpful - not for you and certainly not for your delegates.

Don’t be a training robot. Remember, an arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. Slow down and facilitate a two-way conversation instead.

Few things are as infectious as seeing someone who’s in their element. It’s inspirational authenticity at its best.

True connection allows you to identify hidden agendas and will help you deliver your training and coaching support in the areas of development that are most relevant.

When your support is relevant, it becomes a personalised learning experience. People will feel you care.

Be vulnerable

Share personal anecdotes of how you overcome challenges. Admit when you don’t know the answer to a question straight away.

Pretending your life is perfect (out of fear of being perceived as a trainer/coach who fails to practice what they preach) is exhausting and bad for your own self-esteem.

Participants are not interested in filters. They understand you go through life experiences of your own. They accept that you don’t have all the answers. What they are interested in is how you improve yourself as a result of dealing with those challenges; how you go about finding answers.

Be selfish

(Yes, you read that right.) By selfish I mean respecting yourself, your craft and valuing your time. Decide to enjoy yourself today. When you do, you’ll be in your element.

Few things are as infectious as seeing someone who’s in their element. It’s inspirational authenticity at its best.

When you make joy your baseline, you will see options, solutions and opportunities. This healthy take on selfishness will demonstrate to your audience that you can turn an ordinary day into an extraordinary day – by choice.

I encourage you to be more authentic in your L&D work – to perform less and connect more. Show people how being authentic sets you free. Let us remind them that joy doesn’t require filters by removing our own L&D filters first.  

Interested in this topic? Read Authenticity: How to be genuine when you present.

Replies (4)

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By richard little
27th Sep 2017 11:19

When you write that you 'believe that authenticity can be a powerful success tool', you breach the only requirement of authenticity: that it be not instrumentalised. It is definitively inauthentic to claim to be authentic or to use authenticity as a means to an end. Rather than 'being selfish ... respecting yourself', which sounds like some idiocy from Ayn Rand, we might aspire to achieve transparency before students or members who, like us, are citizens of a democracy, and who are presumed rational members of a public sphere. This is Kant's non-instrumental principle, via Adorno (The Jargon of Authenticity, 1964), Richard Rorty and, of course, Habermas (Knowledge and Human Interests, 1968).
Learning and development, especially 'leadership development' is infested with this conceit about authenticity.

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Replying to richard little:
By Christoph Spiessens
06th Oct 2017 17:14

When you know that you are living and working in total alignment with your values/style/skillset etc., you are most certainly being authentic. What's inauthentic about that? And this way of living and working brings out the best in you and the work that you do, so in that regard authenticity is certainly a tool for success.

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By SueDadswell
27th Sep 2017 12:09

I think it may have been Groucho Marx that said something along the lines of that the one thing that matters is sincerity, and if you can fake that, you've got it made.

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By joannimollins
13th Oct 2017 12:08

Really liked the way you described it...

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