Do you sometimes wonder where stress comes from? Does it build up over time and like a dam wall, suddenly bursts after a long rain? Unexpectedly, out of nowhere, with the tiniest most insignificant trigger which makes you lose it, or tips you over the edge, so to speak.
It is no wonder that stress is increasing in our lives. There are so many demands on us as humans; digital technology; political events; changes in our external world; all on top of what we are already coping with in our lives. We all lead busy lives; managing demands from family; keeping good friendships going; our work life; being great parents; and being great leaders for other people at work. Whatever it is for you; I genuinely understand it. I recently left my safe well-paid, secure corporate life to follow my greatest passion and purpose. I had strategically planned this for a number of years but nothing prepared me for the unexpected stress and pressures of going it alone.
Sometimes, these stresses push us to regulate or compromise who we are at a very deep level. We might sometimes keep quiet because we know if we are truthful and speak our mind, we might rock the boat. This can be with a friend, our partner or in our working life. We might do it once and it works. It doesn’t feel good, but we accept it because we did gain something by doing it. We might have avoided conflict or upheaval, although the conflict played itself out in our minds. Actually, we all want to move through life without too many disruptions and sometimes it is not worth voicing our opinions. It is better to choose our battles.
If this becomes normal for us, over time we compromise a tiny bit of ourselves every time we act this way, preferring to say nothing. In a worst case, we do this so often that it becomes our coping mechanism and we become pretenders; not really knowing who we are any more. We live from one holiday to the next, looking forward to the escape; where we can simply be, without doing all the time. Or we live for getting to the next destination, not really knowing how we got there when we arrive. It can also be living from promotion to promotion; until we realise that it is very lonely, empty, lacking purpose and meaning at the top. We start to have different personas in the various aspects of our lives; making changes for different interactions; and in a worst case, starting to wear a mask at work or for certain relationships.
Once we start living in this way, we forsake a deeper connection with other people and with ourselves. We live without a deep appreciation for the different people in our lives; we might even start to judge the differences between us. This discord between who we are at a deeper level and how we behave can become greater and greater. We compete to protect our vulnerabilities and to control situations, to ensure that our deeper fears and limiting self-beliefs are not exposed to other people. We lock ourselves in a state of doing; driven by ego, fear and our deepest limiting self-beliefs.
The opposite state is the state of being. This is where we become more conscious of these behaviours, thoughts and feelings. We actively want to: understand ourselves better; connect more with who we truly are, our values and purpose; know why we are here; and live our greatest potential and passion every day. We connect at a deeper level with other people when we understand ourselves better and we move to co-creating and forming partnerships that were unheard of before. Through this process of connecting with our true authenticity we gain POWER. This means we have: Presence or confidence; we Overcome our fears, we are a Whole integrated being – deeply connected to body, mind, heart and our intuition; we Effortlessly flow between the various aspects of our lives; and we Resonate with who we are and with other people in a very deep and meaningful way.
If, a few years ago, you had said to me, I am not really authentic, I think several expletives would have come to mind. With more years of experience, more maturity and a curiosity about what makes me tick, instead, I would now take adeep breath, steel myself and dive in to understand what exactly is meant by this word and what the intention is behind wanting to be more authentic. The age-old adage ‘If I need to change, what is in it for me?’ comes to mind. Therefore, an exploration into how exactly I define being authentic and my intention is necessary, before we react with an instantaneous ‘Leave me alone, I am who I am and quite happy as I am.’
The world is changing faster than we can imagine and the extreme pressure on us as humans is underestimated. I believe sometimes, we don’t want to own up to the effect this pressure is having on us, and our health. We don’t want to admit we are stressed and sometimes overwhelmed by the daily demands facing us. There are growing pressures arising from increased connectivity, the internet of things, changes in the political landscape in Britain and the USA, on top of our normal family and job challenges. I truly believe being more connected to who we are at a deeper level can provide us with escape from the mania of the everyday pressures and demands of always being switched on to our technology.
I like to refer to the current state we are in as the state of ‘doing’. This is where we are trying to protect ourselves from exposure and therefore control situations, not wanting to look bad, and being fearful of being exposed as a fraud or not knowing all the answers. Also, it is when we compete with other people because this has always been the way to success or getting ahead, right from those early school or university days.
I define authenticity as a state of ‘being’. Where we are, firstly, more conscious about who we are; what the drivers of our behaviour are; and what are our values and beliefs. It is when we can clearly differentiate who we are from our minds and the head noise we so easily wrap ourselves in every day. Secondly, we desire to connect with other people in a different way. We forge deeper connections with other people, giving us the ability to suspend judgement, unconditionally accept differences and be less afraid to show our vulnerabilities. We are more inclined to rely on each other’s strengths, to accept each other unconditionally and to create partnerships we had not dreamed possible before. It is when we willingly engage in purpose-driven collaboration with a desire to add to the social economy and make the world a better place. I refer to this as the sweet spot, where consciousness and connectedness collide in “The Authenticity Dilemma Resolved®”my first book.
Real authenticity starts with taking small steps to understanding ourselves better and making incremental gains to achieve a deeper knowledge of who we are and what is at our core, as well as our values, purpose, ethics and unconscious biases. Only when we understand ourselves better can we connect more meaningfully with other people in a business context and in our personal lives. In this new state of ‘being’ we can avoid people pressing our buttons continuously distancing ourselves from the emotion of it and consciously choosing the reaction we want to display instead. In this state, we can live in true congruence with our intention and purpose, connect more deeply with other people and suspend the judgements we have built up through years of conditioning.
My intention for us all in being more authentic is to: live happier lives; be less stressed and under less pressure; living and enjoying time spent with other people; and making the most of every day in the here and now.
Generally, when we think about organisational change, we think about a process, even if subconsciously and mostly, we think about a change process led from the top down. This is normally either a change process initiated by a new company strategy or a new leadership team, or a necessity due to a tactical response to external influences. Often, as leaders, we don’t stop to think of the inherent change challenge facing us as human beings, who are naturally resistant to change. Of course, we need to have a purpose driving the change because a change without a purpose makes absolutely no sense, like a football team without a coach. From my experience, as a Chief Financial Officer leading Human Resources, Strategy and Cultural Change, I know how challenging it is to introduce a new modern working environment, including the launch of new corporate values, creating an integrative culture and relocating three diverse businesses to a new campus, all within one large project. However, at the time, I thought it would be easy to convince the leaders of the benefits of this project. I did not anticipate the surprising response that followed.
The Inherent Change Challenge
Many people do not like change. Even the most adaptable of the species sometimes have negative reactions to change. Even if the outcomes are positive for some people, they simply don’t embrace the process of change. In this situation, we can only move forward with everyone’s buy in for a successful change journey when we analyse these negative reactions to find their source. In my earlier example, it took me six months to reach inside what I now term ‘the can of worms’ to find the core issue. Although we made articulate arguments for the change, conducted numerous briefings and communicated in different ways; several leaders were still reticent. The process of convincing them of the benefits of a new modern working environment was extremely slow. This was despite pointing out the various positive aspects for them as individuals and their teams. I was surprised to realise that many of the leaders didn’t embrace the change because they were scared of losing control or looking bad. I learnt that it is best to tip out ‘the can of worms’ to clearly understand the underlying fears and negative thoughts in the minds of leaders.
We can challenge the traditional thinking process and create a new paradigm, where authenticity at the core of a change journey, can be the differentiator; putting people and the human elements at the heart of the change to unlock its success. Discussing the fears around the change with enough emotional safety, which allows people to openly share, can effectively accelerate the change journey through a softer approach. We can be more effective by showing a bit of humanity and recognising people’s fears as fact, instead of simply burying it or getting impatient with the people who don’t get it fast enough. Or instead, in a worst-case scenario we can leave them behind and by so doing, drive them to become disengaged, disgruntled employees who, in time will impact the bottom line for instance, through mistakes, poor attitude or increased sick days. Then adversely we blame them, when in fact, we never spent the time focusing on the human aspect because it is too soft, or we don’t really understand, or we are afraid of it.
Unfortunately, many strategic or organisational change processes fail, costing organisations wasted profit and time by ignoring or not acknowledging the fears that might exist around the change. However, some fears may be helpful and can point to an adjustment required in the journey of change or an adaptation of the strategy. Traditionally, we are driving these processes top down and therefore, it might be too late in the process to amend or adjust, setting the course for failure from the start. .
Prerequisite for Authentic Change Leading Authentically
People need a basis of trust and emotional safety to be able to openly discuss their fears. This requires an organisational culture that celebrates authenticity and diversity. It also requires leaders who live and lead authentically: people who are real; can be trusted; and unconditionally respect difference. This is a place where fears can be acknowledged without judgement, where true diversity of thought is cultivated and appreciated, allowing true inclusion to follow.
Authentic Change: People, Purpose, Connectedness and Collaboration
The authentic change journey is about two dimensions, consciousness or awareness and connectedness. It focuses on the individual and their context within a team. Authentic change always starts by clarifying the ‘Why’ and ‘What’ questions. Why are we doing it and what is the purpose? However, the focus of authentic change is, more importantly, on the human dimension of purpose and dealing with any underlying fears. It is about creating an awareness and sense of purpose for individuals and must include clarity about their role in the change journey. For example, how they/their teams contribute to the success (reaching the destination); where they fit in; and what is in it for them, including what future opportunities are created or which risks are averted?
A deep assessment of why the change might be perceived negatively is invaluable at an early stage of the journey. This includes finding the reasons for any underlying fears, e.g. a loss of control, a strategic direction not fully understood or a leader who no longer knows what is expected of him or her. In a worst case, it can be a leader not believing in the strategy, but being too afraid to share this opinion for fear of damaging their career progression. Helping individuals to understand and respect these fears, acknowledging that they are not alone, will be helpful to the change process. Common fears experienced during organisational change can be:
not knowing how to lead in a new environment;
the unknown and what will be expected of an individual;
or that a new strategy will fail and inadvertently cause individual exposure.
To be truly authentic the change journey must also focus on connectedness; a collective and collaborative approach with the shared motto, ‘we are all in it together’. Individual leaders move away from controlling the process, competing and minimising individual exposure and instead form a deeper connection with other people, understanding that everyone is part of the same journey. Leaders give more attention to all the different perspectives on an individual level and thus build a culture of authentic change at an organisational level. Instead of convincing everyone about the change from the top down, leaders engage with people and get them to feel that they are at the heart of the journey. Connectedness also has the ability to bond the leaders, building on each other’s strengths (early adopters) and complementing each other’s weaknesses (laggers) throughout the journey.
‘You and I are in the change process together. We might feel differently about it. However, what can we achieve together?’
This is a powerful way to create authentic advocates and change champions for successful change; people who are able to convince other people. This journey highlights the opportunities to be gained from peer-to-peer learning from the outset. Focusing on collaboration around the challenges to be faced by the individuals involved can help to overcome their underlying fears and enthuse and inspire other people in the team, creating purpose and meaning for everyone. On the flip-side, fearful leaders subconsciously transport negativity about the change to their teams.
The authentic change journey is not simply a change programme about the elements or facts of the change but is about the human beings involved. It focuses on how they are feeling and uses this knowledge to positively impact the change and drive it more efficiently in an engaging and empowering way for all involved.
Leaders have more Presence or confidence – through a better understanding of the purpose behind the change and how they relate to and feel about it.
Overcoming fear – leaders have the opportunity to learn from other people, overcoming their own fears and embracing the positivity of the frontrunners in the process.
The Whole integrated approach focusses on the human being in the process, the elements of change and the overall purpose; both individually and collectively.
Effortless flow – individuals flow through the various elements of the change curve with greater clarity and ease because they understand their feelings and fears and know they are not alone.
Leaders Resonate with what the organisation needs to achieve, their purpose and where they fit into the change journey, allowing them to positively impact and influence other people in the organisation.
Authentic change is a journey, not a sprint. When we can deal with change in a more humane way, allowing people to be their authentic selves, to share their fears and help alleviate fears in a more constructive way, it will lead to more efficient organisational change and provide new meaning to true partnership between organisations and their people. Then, perhaps more strategies can be implemented successfully as opposed to being ‘eaten by culture for breakfast’ as Peter Drucker states.
If you were to ask Mr Trump if he thinks he is authentic you would probably receive an overbearing response, such as; ‘Of course, I am authentic.’
But to answer this question properly, we need to define what we actually mean by authentic.
This question completely captured my attention a few years ago, when authenticity was launched as one of the new company values at the organisation where I was working as the Chief Financial Officer. It was a global multi-national organisation, where I spent more than 16 years of my life, mostly as a senior executive board director. I was captivated and inspired by this new quest and the subsequent research into the topic, which I wrote a book about to define clearly for myself and other people interested in the topic about what authenticity truly meant. The result was an unexpected journey to the birth of the Authenticity Power Model® and my first published book, The Authenticity Dilemma Resolved®.
The definition I concluded with was as follows. Authenticity equals consciousness plus connectedness (emotional and social intelligence) where consciousness and connectedness collide, and intuition and purpose-driven collaboration permeates what we do, everywhere, with everyone, all the time.
But what is consciousness? Consciousness is a deep understanding and awareness of ourselves; what drives us; what motivates us; and an understanding of our behaviours, thoughts, values and what is at our core. In other words, it is what defines us as a person. A part of understanding what is at our core is to understand our purpose and what makes our hearts sing. It appears that Mr Trump is doing what makes his heart sing. One example is his passion for dismantling Obamacare and making a difference to the US medical system.
Core to self-awareness and the understanding of our behaviours is to know when we are being triggered; meaning when we experience an emotional response to an external factor in our lives. For example, it appears that often Mr Trump is triggered by the media. The question is whether he recognises and identifies this trigger as his emotional response.
After many years in corporate life, I recognised that when we have repeated emotional responses to something or someone, it normally indicates that a personal value is being crossed or one of our limiting self-beliefs is showing up. We might not be aware of this happening. But if we trace the emotion back to the value or the limiting belief, it becomes more understandable. The question is, whether Mr Trump is self-aware enough to recognise when his buttons are being pushed?
The next part of the definition is connectedness, which is even more interesting in regard to Mr Trump. A prerequisite for connecting to other people, is to have a deep understanding of ourselves first. Without self-awareness, we cannot start the journey to have connected relationships or purpose-driven collaboration with other people. For deeper, meaningful relationships to occur several crucial ingredients need to be in place, including:
trust fostered through an unconditional respect for difference;
not being afraid to show vulnerability (after all, it is a sign of strength); and
learning to suspend judgement of other people.
I am not quite sure that an unconditional respect for difference is being demonstrated by building a wall between the US and Mexico and using every opportunity possible to discredit the former US president in social media. I am on thin ice here, because I truly believe that deeper connected relationships are only forged when we learn to suspend judgement.
The last element of connectedness is purpose-driven collaboration. We are only able to create new purpose-driven relationships and partnerships once we are able to do away with ego-driven, competitive behaviour based on fear and limiting self-beliefs.
When we live a more connected and conscious life, we are able to unlock our authentic POWER, anacronym for:
Whole integrated being;
Effortless flow; and
I walk my talk and therefore, I suggest leaving the final assessment to answer this question to you, the reader. I have an opinion. However, I will focus on my own authentic growth journey, learning to suspend judgement and unconditionally respecting difference, when I believe there is injustice, unfairness or mistreatment involved.
f you are interested in taking your Authenticity Pulse®, please visit the link below.
When I went to my last full medical check-up in 2015, I was walking 10,000 steps a day, eating very healthily and feeling on top of my game. However, on the annual anniversary of the check-up in 2016, my angst increased because I had done hardly any exercise during the last year, spending too much time in the office and delivering a challenging cultural change project. I had also started writing my first book and had changed my daily work regime.
However, I had made a few small health changes and I underestimated their beneficial power. I had started to meditate and use a daily gratitude journal after the first check-up.
In the evening, I close the day by capturing additional thoughts of gratitude in my daily journal. I focus on at least ten things I am grateful for throughout the day. When I encounter a challenging conversation or incident, I write it down and express my gratitude for the learning, growth and development resulting from it. Sometimes, I skip the journaling at the weekend and after two days I feel a dark, grumpiness settling over me. After writing in my journal I play a recorded meditation, which I normally fall asleep to.
Gone are the days of using Kalms (a natural sleep remedy) to switch my mind off and force me into a dreamy place. It is almost as if the journal provides the necessary closure to the day and allows a more peaceful sleep to take hold of my body.
The cultural change project, I managed in my corporate role and several other coincidences, led me to research the concept of authenticity and I started writing my first book, The Authenticity Dilemma Resolved®, published in November 2016, London.However, because I was in a very demanding corporate role as Chief Financial Officer, I had to make the time to write my book. I decided to go to bed earlier in the evening and get up every morning at 5am.
After my ritual meditation, I wrote for 60 to 90 minutes and then got ready and drove to work, which was luckily only a ten-minute car journey away. I managed this new ritual of early to bed and early to rise extremely well. The result was at least seven and a half hours sleep per night, which before had only been a dream.
I absolutely aced the second medical check-up, especially the breathing rhythm test. My body condition was better with no exercise than it had been previously with 10,000 steps a day. The daily meditation and journaling regime and the consistent hours of sleep, had created an unexpected beneficial change, I had not anticipated.
Sometimes, we are surprised to find better well being in the most unexpected places. Small incremental change can have a big impact over time.
This article is co-written by Talita Ferreira and Anders Liu-Lindberg
week we explored the history of Finance Transformation. We identified that
something is missing in the transformation. What’s missing is the
transformation of how we lead the finance function. We can transform systems,
processes, and individuals all we want, but if we don’t transform the leaders
too, we will never realise the full potential of the transformation. The way
leaders lead in Finance must be transformed, and it will not be an easy journey
In fact, it might be the hardest part of the
transformation. However, it need not be complex. We’ll introduce you to a model
of how to transform leadership in the finance function. Before we do that
though, we’ll dig deeper into why the current leadership model is
The world is changing but has our leadership
Traditionally, as finance leaders, we have
embraced the more analytical right brain activities, the trusted analysis;
after all the numbers don’t lie. However, we mentioned in our first article
that there are new skills that are required like creativity, emotional
intelligence and cognitive flexibility to cope with the challenges of the
future and that creativity, collaboration, persuasion, time management and
adaptability are the skills that companies are hiring for.
We know that there are already five different
generations of employees in the workplace that want and need to be inspired differently.
It is our job as leaders to inspire, engage and bring out the best in every individual that works for us, no matter
how different they are to us or how difficult that might seem.
But where are we today and what do we see?
are normally very focused on themselves; on their careers and their
achievements. We observe a lot of ego-based behaviours; wanting to be right or
looking who was to blame when something goes wrong, instead of just taking
responsibility as the leader and attempting to do better next time.
we are driven by our limiting self-beliefs, which we so carefully hidden from
the world. We might not feel like we can do a new job effectively, or that we
always have the right answers but instead of asking for help or brainstorming
with other people, we try to hide the feelings or control situations because we
don’t want to be caught out.
we have a very competitive nature as finance leaders and want to make sure we
can control or plan for every possible scenario – again that we won’t look bad
or stand out. We call this state of behaviours “the state of doing”. It can
sometimes create this feeling that something is missing, and we live from one
holiday to the next. Or we are held back from truly connecting with our
business partners and creating relationships based on mutual trust.
Is that really a way to lead?
these behaviors are particularly good for leading in todays world and while we
likely can’t change our natural tendencies we can certainly manage them in a
better way. We need our fuel for leading to come from a different place. We
need to be motivated by something else.
don’t change we will fail in our leadership and the performance of our teams
will suffer. The team will lack engagement as do most teams today and value
will be left on the table. That’s why we must dig deeper into how to lead the
finance function into the future. Next week we’ll introduce you to the “state
of being” model that’ll show us a new path for leading the finance function.
Are you with us so far? Do you believe in the case for change or you think we’re fine the way things are now? We truly encourage discussion on this topic that’s so important for the future of Finance!
Finance Inspired 4 Success powered by Authentic Change Solutions
Talita Ferreira left the corporate sector after more than 20 years to promote what she believes is missing in leadership today: authenticity. In this article, she explains how it can unleash the potential of leaders and what role the Sustainable Development Goals can play in business.
We need a world where companies are a place for individuals to grow and develop. Where profits are the outcome of passionate people pursuing purpose and amazing partnerships to ensure we are all working for the common greater good, sustaining our planet for the generations to come.
But how do we achieve this in a world that is over-commercialized, over-commoditized and where financial analysts and shareholders drive companies to pursue ROI (Return on Investment) and EBITDA (Earnings before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) without thinking about the significant long-term impacts on society, the environment, and the world at large?
Hopefully, we can start to lead the way. Firstly, through pursuing real authenticity everywhere and with everyone. Secondly, through consumers becoming responsible leaders in every aspect of their lives. Finally, by starting to measure business by its contribution to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals and not merely by the profit imperative.
Real authenticity: After spending two decades in corporate life and observing thousands of leaders, I have concluded that real authenticity can only emerge through equal amounts of emotional and social intelligence, being conscious and connected in equal measure.
Consciousness is a deep understanding and awareness of ourselves, what drives us and what motivates us. This aspect includes our behaviors, our set of core values, our passions, and, at the heart of everything, our own individual purpose in this world. Without this deeper understanding of ourselves, it is not possible to connect to other people in a more meaningful way.
“Connectedness is what leads us to a higher level of purpose-driven collaboration and true partnership, which elevates us above the ego and fear-based, competitive, control-related behaviors that have become so familiar to us in everyday life.”Connectedness is what leads us to a higher level of purpose-driven collaboration and true partnership.”
For deeper, meaningful relationships to occur, several crucial ingredients need to be in place, including:
trust fostered through an unconditional respect for difference;
not being afraid to show your vulnerability and realizing that it is rather a strength;
learning to suspend judgment of other people; and
being brave enough to face your deeper fears.
For too long, we have brought a different version of ourselves to our work than the one living at home with our loved ones. In the current business paradigm, we want to move away from the silo orientation and the command and control hierarchies holding us back from true partnership and from creating something truly greater than ourselves. When we resonate more deeply with ourselves, other people, and our passions, we start to understand the interconnectedness of all things far better; we want to do more for our planet and further our purpose within the world. This connectedness and integration in all aspects of our lives should be fostered within organizations to reduce the impact of stress and increase well-being.
Responsible leaders are passionate and pursue their own and a greater purpose every day. They relish connecting to other people without ego and judgment, with a desire for true inclusion and a greater awareness of the planet. This type of inclusive leader steps back and allows other people to grow into this space. This leader is not afraid to follow and co-create.
As responsible leaders, we become more globally aware of the call to action. We focus on the simple and tiny things we can do to create positive change every day. For example, choosing to buy food or consumables based on their packaging, or choosing to buy products based on the social impact a brand is making, or buying a refillable glass water bottle and carrying it absolutely everywhere to reduce our plastic footprint. Responsible leaders set aside individual glory and think about the greater good: to drive social change; to eliminate inequalities; and to create partnerships unheard of before. They focus on creating the best possible outcomes together. Living as a truly responsible leader in all aspects of our lives might mean that we need to give up some aspects of life as we know it, like privilege and status.”The Sustainable Development Goals should form the new DNA of an organization, encapsulated in every product detail and measured throughout every process.”
Measuring business: Business doing good is not simply supporting social activities or sustainability in the narrow sense. It should include employees working in organizations in the best way suited to them as individuals, to ensure that they excel, grow, and develop, with a high level of motivation. Businesses should be a place for individuals to meet and pursue their individual authenticity (as defined above) and their individual and collective purposes.
As consumers and investors, we should move to measuring companies by their profits and the current sustainability indexes to the extent of an 80% measurement. The other 20% should measure how well they are performing against the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and which partnerships they are forming to pursue these goals. They should form the new DNA of an organization, encapsulated in every product detail and measured throughout every process. Companies that do this will be seen more positively by customers who are striving to be responsible leaders. Wouldn’t it be great if the most successful companies in an industry truly partnered and combined forces to pursue the 17 goals and take action on climate issues or inequality together?
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals should bring together governments, leaders, and business to stand together and work together for our future in a uniquely authentic way. It is time we extended the triple bottom line paradigm of profit, people, and planet to include passion, purpose, and partnership. My hope is that a higher connection to true authenticity and purpose brings us closer to our connection with the planet. We are here for a greater good, to sustain the planet, fulfill our own purpose, and to give back. And we can only achieve this by living in true connectedness and partnership with other responsible and authentic leaders.
Talita Ferreira is a thought leader and change maker who is passionate about living in true authenticity, purpose-driven collaboration, and harnessing diversity of thought. She is the founder and CEO of Authentic Change Solutions.