Success by Accident: The Kintsugi Path to Soulful Success (part 2)

By on April 10, 2016

shutterstock_2110224-smallLast month you learned three of the three keys to which artist and entrepreneur Morty Bachar his ability to go from pottery beginner to building 23 successful pottery teaching studios across the country and growing Lakesidepottery.com to over 8000 unique visitors per day in just a few years. His story, however, also illustrates one of the best kept secrets to achieving success on your own terms: radical authenticity. Over more than two decades of helping leaders, entrepreneurs and individuals to thrive in their lives and work, I have come to believe that this skill is at the heart of any person’s ability to achieve personal and business success that energizes rather than depletes them.

Morty gave a great example of this in our interview. Before he and his wife, Patty Storms, got married, they consciously sat down to tell each other who they really were. This included not only their hopes and dreams, but their secrets, flaws, and regrets. Why? To create a place where they could feel safe to be completely authentic and honest not only with each other, but with themselves.

This approach might seem radical in a society that commonly advocates the “fake it ‘til you make it” approach to achieving success that teaches people to hide their flaws (at least until they have managed to overcome them), but it demonstrates a wisdom that all too few leaders possess: the knowledge that hiding your flaws weakens rather than strengthens you over time.

Trying to hide mistakes and flaws is particularly dangerous for those in leadership positions. For starters, you’re not fooling anyone – except possibly yourself. While your employees would love it if you were infallible and never made mistakes, at a certain level they know this is not realistic. It’s not the fact that you have weaknesses that frustrates them, however, it’s the fact that you dismiss or defend against any attempts they might make to enlighten you about it.

Morty and Patty’s practice of radical authenticity mirrors the following habits of the most effective, beloved, and truly inspirational leaders:

• Listening: They don’t just listen to respond, they listen to truly understand. Hint: this type of listening tends to require that you let the other person do most of the talking. If your lips are moving, it is a pretty safe bet that you are not listening. Don’t just listen with your ears. Learn to listen with your eyes as well. Research shows that 70% of communication is done through body language and tone. If you are only paying attention to their words – and your own – you are missing the majority of the message.

• Curiosity: Use any talking time you have to ask questions instead. Most leaders are impatient with this part of the process. If you are listening to their body language and tone as well as their words, it will be obvious whether or not they feel understood and that a solution they can buy into has been identified.

• Awareness & Responsibility: Let the feedback and frustrations of others truly seep into your awareness. Resist the urge to deflect responsibility back to them. Radical authenticity is not possible in a vacuum. You can’t practice it effectively on your own. You need to have others in your life that you are willing to listen to, especially when they are telling you something you don’t really want to hear.

• Action & Follow-Through: All of the above must ultimately end up with a commitment to some type of action and the willingness to follow through on that commitment. Your efforts, and results, will be inconsistent. As a leader your attempts and failures all feel very public. This is where radical authenticity is truly a saving grace. When you openly state what you are trying to do, admit when you have fallen short, and re-commit to try again, you set an example for your team and are more likely to earn both their support and their respect.
So what is the payoff of all of this authenticity? Authenticity ultimately fuels business (and personal) success in several ways:

• It frees up energy. Most people aren’t conscious of how much energy they waste trying to keep their secrets both from others and themselves. The little games that you play trying to appear more competent than you really are, trying to hide the fact that you feel like a fraud (even though you may be very accomplished), avoiding conflict, or ignoring all of the big and little ways that you are not acting in integrity with your own values and principles take a toll on your energy, confidence and self-esteem.

• It is a pre-requisite for good strategy. Think of it this way. If you want to get from point A to point B, the time, budget and itinerary you plan will be much different depending on whether you are driving a car or riding a bicycle. Imagine how frustrating it would be if you were making the trip under the delusion that you were driving a car when you were actually on a bicycle. Your inability to see what kind of vehicle you were actually in would make it impossible to understand – and to effectively address – your failure to hit your travel targets each day.

• It is essential to innovation. It is a myth that innovation comes from a flash of insight out of nowhere. All innovation comes out of trying to address a problem, gap or weakness. Where there is an unwillingness to acknowledge problems, weaknesses and gaps there can be no innovation because the essential spark that drives all innovation is missing.

If all of this authenticity feels a bit daunting, remember that it is not only about weaknesses. Being authentic also requires recognizing your strengths. Morty and other enlightened leaders are also able to acknowledge their strengths openly without needing to be apologetic. This true confidence comes from being at peace with all of who they are. When you accept that you have both strengths and weaknesses and can evaluate both objectively you are in a better position to design a strategy to get from where you are to where you want to go.

Click to read part 1

About Andrea Jacques

Andrea Jacques is the founder of Kyosei Consulting and the author of Wabi-Sabi Wisdom: Inspiration for an Authentic Life (available on Amazon.com). She has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of people and businesses worldwide, five of which were in Japan. A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work helps individuals and organizations build thriving, purpose-driven cultures where employees know their work truly matters. Learn about career and entrepreneur coaching programs (and download some free tools for meaningful work and living your purpose) at www.kyoseicoaching.com or their workplace transformation programs at www.kyoseiconsulting.com