Navigating Change as an Authentic Leader

ANTONIETTE MENDOZA-TALOSIG

Author

Last February 23, we had a powerful webinar helmed by Coach Anda Goseco, ICF-PCC, and Jack Madrid of IBPAP (IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines, Inc.). The insightful conversation revolved around how leaders can navigate the volatile landscape our businesses operate in by means of practicing authenticity in the workplace.

The two main elements of the topic, authenticity and change, often elicit vulnerability — and we all know how this emotion can be negatively perceived in the workplace. Hence, there’s a natural tendency to shy away from discussing such. But lo and behold, close to 200 leaders were present in the webinar.

I believe the jam-packed audience paints a picture that describes today’s business environment: leaders are experiencing endless changes and they recognize the need for help on how to effectively go through these tough times.

If anything, the astounding number of people present last Thursday simply corroborates that this discussion is necessary. This is no surprise. Change after all is inevitable as each one of us will have to go through it. Beyond the aftereffects of the pandemic, change will still persist. So as leaders, how can we and our people persist and thrive as well?

We need to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

Here are 2 ways that can help leaders own change through authenticity.

1. Great leaders keep themselves anchored first

In navigating change, you must first ensure that you’re ready to get into battle before you can lead others — and that starts with understanding who you are.

Who are you?

As it is, change can be scary and discombobulating. It automatically pushes one outside their comfort zone. If you’re not careful, it can overwhelm you. However, you won’t be swept away if you’re anchored to something — and that’s where your core or who you are comes in.

Ask yourself, when push comes to shove, what personal values and beliefs do you cling to? When things get hazy and confusing, what keeps you focused and motivated? On the contrary, what triggers you? When difficult moment after difficult moment happens, what type of leader do you envision to be? Who are you?

These are vital to know because as Anda said, “Self-awareness is so important. If you’re not aware of what triggers you, your environment can swallow you up.”

Besides, what’s authentic leadership if you do not know yourself?

Who you shouldn’t be?

I won’t forget what Anda shared during the opening of her session, “Change is a process of learning, unlearning, and relearning.”

When change is introduced, all things that are new are what are often highlighted — new technologies, processes, and structures. But have you ever thought of treating change as a platform to also unlearn old habits and norms? Here’s an example.

I think one of the tendencies of leaders when dealing with overwhelming change is to immediately position themselves as people who must know everything. Leaders shouldn’t seem lost. Leaders must always know what to do. But these are old notions that don’t exemplify humility, much more authenticity.

As contradicting as it sounds, wise leaders are those who courageously admit they don’t know all the answers.

For you, what are some of the things that you think are keeping you from being your true self in the workplace?

2. Great leaders keep their team anchored

Navigating change will never be a cakewalk. However, it is less of a challenge when a workplace is anchored on high-trust relationships. In Great Place To Work’s over 30 years of research, we found that one of these crucial relationships is an employee’s relationship with management.

For leaders to be able to build trust and anchor their people during seasons of change, they must demonstrate credibility, respect, and fairness.

Below, I’ll discuss what each one entails through questions. While reading, I encourage you to exercise authenticity and build self-awareness by honestly reflecting if you practice such things.

Credibility

Our data shows that the timeless principle of leaders walking the talk warrants the employees’ trust. Leaders must display consistency in what they say and what they do. When commitments are followed through, management is deemed credible and trustworthy.

  • Do you keep them informed about important decisions and changes? When things are vague and ambiguous, do your employees know the source of the truth?
  • Do you have a clear view of where your organization is going and how to get there? Do your employees find clarity when talking to you about the situation?
  • Do you walk the talk? Do you not confuse the employees with what you say and what they observe you do?
Respect

Trust deepens when people feel their leaders show genuine concern for their well-being and that more importantly, they act on their concerns. And for this to happen, leaders must treat their workforce not just as mere numbers or employees but respect them as human beings.

  • Do you genuinely seek their suggestions and ideas? Do you ask to be perceived as collaborative but with fixed ideas and decisions already in mind?
  • Are you appreciative of your team and their contributions? Do you express your gratitude with sincerity?
  • When people make mistakes as they try new ways of working, do you count this as part of doing business? Are you not quick to blame and reprimand?
Fairness

Employees’ experience of inclusion improves when they, regardless of their demographic profile, are treated in a way that conveys their true value and worth to the organization. Impartiality in the workplace is also practiced by ensuring that everyone is equally heard — whether it’s to appeal a decision or to bring up an uncomfortable conversation.

The aforementioned is especially true when navigating the rocky waves of change. Jack hit the bull’s eye when he said, “Encourage stability through active communication and by making sure your people feel like they’re listened to.”

To have your employees’ trust during uncertain times, they should see and experience you as a fair leader.

  • Do your employees feel that they are treated fairly regardless of their age, gender, race, or whatever demographic profile defines them? Did you consider their difference and uniqueness as you planned these organizational changes?
  • People tend to form cliques when there is ambiguity in their attempt to get better clarity and direction. Are you aware of politicking and backstabbing in the organization? Do you address these boldly yet kindly?
  • And if someone feels unfairly treated, is there a platform where they can find a safe space to share their complaints and find justice?
The impact of authentic leadership

When looking at leadership qualities, authenticity is often not the first to come to mind. Priority and more weight are placed on hard skills such as analytical and technical capacities. However, what those skills do is present capabilities, but they do not necessarily build relationships that get workplaces through tough times like change.

If employees feel their leaders espouse credibility, respectfulness, and fairness it’s a tell-tale sign that they trust that management is well able to bring them through change and eventually onto the shore.

Anda also shared that in her many years of experience in coaching senior executives, authentic leadership has brought higher engagement rates and financial returns to the business.

The value of bringing one’s authentic self to work is heightened when the risks are known.

Without leading from our core, there is a tendency to make rash decisions out of fear or panic. When you’re not genuine with your people, an apathetic work environment is created. And we know that when people are indifferent to their job and workplace, it costs the business in all sorts of ways — especially money- and productivity-wise. When we fail to actively and clearly communicate with our teams, people talk within themselves and cliques form — eventually destroying whatever camaraderie is left.

Authenticity is not just good to have, it’s a necessity for building a high-trust workplace that thrives when difficult change transpires. And it must start with us leaders.

This reminds me of a quote I like by John C. Maxwell.

The pessimist complains about the wind.
The optimist expects it to change.
The leader adjusts the sail. – John Maxwell

Wise and caring leaders are first to adapt through transitions by adjusting their communication and leadership styles — they adjust the sail.

Encore!

Recap all of what I’ve said above and more in the replay of the Great Means More: Navigating Change as an Authentic Leader webinar.

ANTONIETTE MENDOZA-TALOSIG

Author

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces™ in Asia by surveying over 1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting over 4.7 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2021 or early 2022.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying 2.1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting 5.9 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Bahrain, Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2022 or early 2023.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000+) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

For All™ Methodology

Great Place To Work, the global authority on workplace culture, determined the Philippines Best Workplaces™ 2023 List by conducting annual workforce studies through our Trust Index Survey™ and Culture Management platform Emprising®, representing the voices of over 450,000 employees across the Philippines.

Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a great place to work For All™, meaning that the company empowers all individuals to reach their full human potential. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees report about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. We analyze these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce makeup, and what’s typical in their industry and region. The remainder of the evaluation is an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of the company’s values, people’s ability to contribute new ideas, and the effectiveness of their leaders to ensure they’re consistently experienced.

To ensure surveys truly represent all employees, we require enough people in each organization to respond that results are accurate to a 95% confidence level and 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news, and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

For All™ Methodology

Great Place to Work, the global authority on workplace culture, determined the Philippines Best Workplaces™ 2022 List by conducting annual workforce studies through our Trust Index Survey™ and Culture Management platform Emprising®, representing the voices of over 130,000 employees across the Philippines.

Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a great place to work For All™, meaning that the company empowers all individuals to reach their full human potential. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees report about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. We analyze these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce makeup, and what’s typical in their industry and region. The remainder of the evaluation is an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of the company’s values, people’s ability to contribute new ideas, and the effectiveness of their leaders to ensure they’re consistently experienced.

To ensure surveys truly represent all employees, we require enough people in each organization to respond that results are accurate to a 95% confidence level and 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news, and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

Categories:
These organizations’ assessment is based 100% on employee responses to the Trust Index survey.

  • Small 10-99 Employees

For larger organizations with more than 100 employees, we also use our Culture Audit™ tool, asking organizations to share with us their practices, policies, and programs to create a great workplace For All™ and evaluate the approach they take.

  • Medium 100-999 Employees
  • Large 1000+ Employees

Why do you say in one place your national list scoring is based on 85%/15% and in another place that it is 75%/25%?

We are explaining two different things:
1.  The criteria we evaluate

  •  85% concerned with Trust and Maximizing Human Potential and
  • 15% concerned with everything else

2.  Where the data comes from

  • 100% Trust Index for organizations with less than 100 employees
  • 75% based on the Trust Index survey analytics and 25% based on responses to the Culture Audit for organizations with more than 100 employees.
For All™ Methodology

Great Place To Work, the global authority on workplace culture, determined the Philippines Best Workplaces™ 2023 List by conducting annual workforce studies through our Trust Index Survey™ and Culture Management platform Emprising®, representing the voices of over 450,000 employees across the Philippines.

Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a great place to work For All™, meaning that the company empowers all individuals to reach their full human potential. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees report about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. We analyze these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce makeup, and what’s typical in their industry and region. The remainder of the evaluation is an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of the company’s values, people’s ability to contribute new ideas, and the effectiveness of their leaders to ensure they’re consistently experienced.

To ensure surveys truly represent all employees, we require enough people in each organization to respond that results are accurate to a 95% confidence level and 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news, and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

Categories:
These organizations’ assessment is based 100% on employee responses to the Trust Index survey.

  • Small 10-99 Employees

For larger organizations with more than 100 employees, we also use our Culture Audit™ tool, asking organizations to share with us their practices, policies, and programs to create a great workplace For All™ and evaluate the approach they take.

  • Medium 100-999 Employees
  • Large 1000+ Employees