On February 23, I will launch my first book, Genuine Kindness: Achieving Results through Trust and Understanding. I wrote this both to share the insights I’ve gained over thirty years as an HR consultant and as a guide for leaders to motivate and empower their teams with compassion, honesty, and receptivity. When I founded TGC in 2013, I began to partner directly with organizations to help individuals and teams embody and inspire engagement, productivity, and mutual respect in the workplace. As a complement to this book, I am excited to share that I’ve developed a training module for executives and managers: Leading Through Genuine Kindness.

I have defined four cornerstone conditions of genuine kindness in the workplace: self-awareness and willingness, responding vs. reacting, authenticity, and accountability. As we approach the book release date, I’m previewing each of these conditions. Today, I’ll examine the value of authenticity.

Too often, individuals “code switch” to accommodate office decorum or don a “game face” to exhibit confidence. We forget what true authenticity means. Who do we want to be at work for others, as well as ourselves? I have found that leaders mistakenly believe achievement requires repression, manipulation, or duplicity. Competition seems to inspire caginess in characters from movies about top earners and executives; in my experience, such evasiveness inhibits the general welfare of a business. Authenticity requires honesty and the courage to be transparent with our coworkers and teams. This transparency leads to clarity of purpose.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizations most likely to persevere had leaders who responded thoughtfully and openly to the crisis with curiosity and compassion. It was vital for these leaders to also directly acknowledge the difficulties at play. In a blog I posted in April 2020, I extolled the genuine kindness exhibited by former Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson, who led the hospitality giant through an unprecedented public health disaster that decimated his industry. At that time, Sorenson was undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer – sadly, he passed away the following year – a towering personal battle layered upon the 75 percent loss in hotel business at the outset of the pandemic. With his head newly bald from chemotherapy, Sorenson stood before a camera and spoke to his employees in March 2020. He spoke directly to his workforce with candor, humility, and encouragement. Without sugarcoating the challenge, he reassured workers that nothing was more important to him than steering his organization through the worst crisis it had ever faced.

Sorenson’s inspirational speech garnered an overwhelmingly positive response. As Carmine Gallo of Forbes wrote, “What, exactly, did Sorenson do that elicited such an outpouring of favorable comments? In short, Sorenson lowered the shield. He was candid, vulnerable, humble, emotional and hopeful.” In short, Sorenson did not bluff. His transparency made his hopefulness more believable and more likely to inspire.

Sorensen may represent an unusually dramatic example of authenticity, but even with smaller challenges, we can bring to bear some of his compassionate directness in the workplace. In Genuine Kindness, I discuss how leadership can use authenticity as a tool to motivate, engage, build trust, and inspire high performance.

Stay tuned for a final preview of the book before its February 23 release!