Let's say you are at a meeting, presenting at a conference, or in a job interview. The conventional advice, 'just be yourself' sounds plausible. It's built on the idea that it's vital to be authentic.
But which you are we talking about?
Is it the grumpy you, the frustrated you, or that part of you that's resentful because your boss turned down your idea? Clearly not.
We have many versions of us. If we are in front of others we must select the version of us that's most appropriate for the occasion. That's in our interests, but it's also in the interests of our colleagues at the meeting, our audience at the presentation or the job recruiters.
Is presenting our best selves less than authentic?
Only if it's false.
Is it an act? In a sense, because it's only a selection from the various versions of us. But it's still us.
And there's something else.
We can use the act to practise cultivating the professional us. We can use it as a benchmark, so we can remind ourselves of the professionalism we showed at the meeting, the conference and the interview and strive to keep being that best version of us.
Just being ourselves has a big downside.
Like the person who throws out tactless personal criticism and says, 'I'm just being honest'.
Or the one who won't change other unsociable behaviour, 'because that's just the way I am'.
Want to be authentic, build rapport with your audience, but still you?
Give away a bit about yourself. Be human. An academic whose work I follow, wrote recently that when he goes through automatic doors he likes to imagine that he is opening them with his mind.
Silly? A bit child-like? Fair enough.
Do you like him more? I do.
Interested in a workshop on emotional Intelligence for your team? (It's about thriving at work.)
What about a workshop on employee engagement? (For your leaders and your teams)
Choosing to be courageous liberates us to achieve more.
Courage should be an everyday event - not necessarily worthy of a bravery award, or even something others would notice. It may be something personal to you.
I'm sometimes down at our local country school for an hour on Fridays, to help with writing and speaking skills. One week I was working with a nine-year old lad who had been 'volunteered' for the district's pubic speaking competiton. There would be competitors from several schools and an audience of about 100. He was speaking so quietly that only the front row could have heard him. His teacher asked if I could help him project a bit more.
But there was a more important barrier to success: He didn't want to do it. He was telling his teacher that he wouldn't be able to go. I was sure he was terrified.
The next week, he rushed up to me. 'I did it! I went in the competition!'
Did he win? That's irrelevant.
He had felt the fear and done it anyway. That's courage. That's success and a foundation for more risks and more success.
In business, courage is facing up to challenging conversations with colleagues,a supplier or client.
It's developing a new product or service and seeing how it goes.
Courage is applying for promotion or quitting our current career for something more challenging.
It's willingly taking on a new project or enrolling in a study course, knowing that we could fail.
It's taking the intiative at parties or networking events - introducing ourselves and starting conversations.
It's saying, 'I'll do that' when your team needs someone to speak at a public meeting or to the media.
With courage, we take more opportunitiies. We fail more often, but overall, the result is more resilience, more confidence and a more satisfying life