Why Authenticity Matters

In my post Trust is the Goal I quoted Graham Dietz: “Trustworthiness consists of three main characteristics: technical competence to perform a task reliably (ability), having benign motives (benevolence), and acting according to acceptable ethical principles such as fairness and honesty (integrity).”

It’s a great definition however I believe there is (at least) one more key component in earning TRUST, to beget Team and Client LOYALTY – and thereby a sustainable business model.  That component is AUTHENTICITY.

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘authentic’ as “of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine”.  Fine.  However, I’m more excited to read on and discover the following: “(In existentialist philosophy) relating to or denoting an emotionally appropriate, significant, purposive, and responsible mode of human life.”  Now, imagine either one of those definitions applied to YOUR business by your Team and/or your Clients – which one would you prefer, to be written on your headstone?  Well I’m no existentialist however I’d definitely prefer to have created an enterprise known for being ‘significant and purposive’, as opposed to merely ‘of undisputed origin’ and ‘genuine’.  Those last remind me of the many high-end, old established firms that proudly boast “Established in 1875” and yet beyond being old, and maybe a little aloof, what do they actually stand for?

Union Square Cafe, NYC (photo: USHG)
Union Square Cafe, NYC (photo: USHG)

Ten years ago, I journeyed to the Disney Institute in Florida to study service and leadership excellence, in the company of a dozen or so of Scotland’s finest tourism professionals.  Subsequently, we had a ‘class reunion’ (in all senses), at a customer service conference in Glasgow, where the keynote speaker was legendary New York restaurateur Danny Meyer.  Fascinatingly, this hugely successful leader told us that people did not visit his restaurants for the food!  Rather, they flocked (and still do) to his brand of HOSPITALITY – “when you feel that they are on your side”. That evening, our Disney class took Mr Meyer to dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s Amaryllis restaurant, then the only Michelin-starred Glasgow eatery and deemed worthy to showcase the best of Scottish hospitality to our esteemed guest.  Sadly, after an evening of stilted service which felt like a war of attrition between staff and guests, Danny Meyer turned to me and said, quietly, “I don’t think they’re on our side.”

Not long afterwards, Amaryllis closed.  With typical frankness, Gordon Ramsay summed up what went wrong: “I got a bit frustrated when I went to Amaryllis before Christmas and the manager and one of the chefs were getting irritated by customer demands,” he says. “One had dietary requirements and the other wanted a bowl of ice on the table. I pulled them both aside and I said, ‘The minute you start thinking you are more f***ing important than the customer, it’s time to change your job.’”

AUTHENTICITY then, is not just about the renown of the brand, or the longevity of the business.  Nor is it only about ability coupled with benign, ethical motivation.  Ultimately it is about how you make people feel.  Somehow, you have to make meaning – for your Team and for the people who buy from you.  That meaning must come from WHY you do what you do – your PURPOSE – and it is by communicating the WHY in everything you do that you make it AUTHENTIC.  And the exciting thing – no – the sensational thing about that, is that, to quote Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it!”

In our next posts we will hear more from Simon Sinek, and look at the essence of WHY – how to find it, how to be AUTHENTIC to it and WHY it works!

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