Use the words ‘authenticity’ and ‘transparency’ in a business meeting and you may find that an air of boredom sets in as staff steel themselves for, what they believe will be, yet another pep talk which has little to do with them and how they do their job.

So how can you explain the importance of authenticity and transparency and what do these words actually mean when we include them in our business thinking?

For me authenticity is about being yourself whether you are the CEO or the most junior member of staff. You won’t know all the answers so why pretend that you do? Create a culture where it is ok for people to speak up. If you walk around with bravado you will be intimidating others and you will, eventually, trip up. In the end that will cost you money because people will make mistakes as they are too afraid to ask for help.

Look at the way you recruit people. Do you really care about the people you recruit or have you simply decided they need to fit a certain role, act in a certain way and do their job ‘your way or the highway’?

Picking the wrong person will have an impact on your business quite apart from the cost of recruitment. If the interviewees are not encouraged to be authentic about who they really are then how will you know if they will fit? How will you know how to bring out their best and play to their strengths? One of the companies I worked with was particularly strong on this point. Since they recruited internationally, they knew that by offering someone a job they would be moving their family and their life across to the other side of the world. They wanted to be sure that the person would be happy and thrive in their role, as well as considering the needs of the family, because the consequences were far-reaching outside the workplace.

Transparency is an easy thing for companies to write in their mission statements but do they mean it? For me transparency is about being open about who they are as a business. So if they are claiming to be ethical then they need to be open about what they do and how they do it. This could be anything from where they source their material through to the treatment of workers outside of the UK.

The internet used responsibly has meant that there is no hiding place any longer for companies who choose to use sweat shops in the Far East or elsewhere. A smart phone and access to Wi-Fi means images from these places can be on YouTube within seconds of them being taken. How will your customers feel about you then?

A culture where a workforce feels valued will encourage staff to stay and to work with you as well as for you. Customers who feel you will do what you say, and you are who you claim to be, will keep coming back. Authenticity and transparency aren’t just words. They add value too, as long as you mean them.

As featured in Authenticity Rules