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Be the Real Deal: Audacious Authenticity in an Age of Contrived Reality

Real Deal

Tamara Rebick is the Founder and Chief Experience Officer (CXO) of CORIPHERY Holistic Consulting Solutions, a boutique consulting firm that delivers strategic solutions to the non-profit, education and community/social sectors. An eternal optimist, she advocates for organizational wellness and is passionate about challenging the status quo through “respectful disruption”. Tamara consults and advises on strategies connected to participant engagement, organizational capacity-building, and culture design.

Tamara Cyndi Greenglass: What does it mean to have audacious authenticity?

Tamara Rebrick: I really have come to define it as an applied value, which means that it's this value that when you're applying it to your behavior it guides decision-making, particularly in terms of how you, your brand, your product, and how it is being experienced. What I mean by that specifically is as a manager, for instance, there are specific skills and capacities that one person has, or there are defaults that we're sort of used to falling back on. We think, "Well, we're doing what is expected of us." We're not necessarily thinking about how doing the minimum is being experienced by our direct reports, by our clients, by the consumer.

The idea of audacious authenticity is that it's a value and an idea that you can actually apply to real life situations and use it as a compass to try to anchor yourself in consistent, honest interactions. It helps make experiences that various people have with you or with your brand much more reliable, and you accelerate an element of integrity when you're building those relationships. So audacious authenticity, when you think about it, refers to a willingness to be bold and to take risks. Audacious, by definition, if you go back to the Latin of the word, it comes from daring. Authenticity is about being genuine, reliable, trustworthy, and concrete.

CG: Can you give me an example of being audaciously authentic?

TR: When we talk about concrete examples to try to appreciate how one can be not only authentic but audaciously authentic, there are a couple of examples. In his book, “Change by Design,” Tim Brown shares a case study about Shimano, which is a bicycle manufacturing company. They were an industry leader in high performance bikes, and their sales were really going down. They engaged IDEO in a process of design thinking to reimagine, and by using an authentic perspective of empathy (which is really the engine for audacious authenticity), they really got into the shoes of their target market, including those they had not yet been able to connect with.

They realized that a huge market segment that was not engaging with their product was actually intimidated by the idea of elite cycling, and they came up with an entire campaign called Coasting. They brought back a retro design of bikes, as well as a variety of leisure bikes, where the focus was on the experience. It goes back to this idea of the experience of an interaction, because that's what leads to trust, buy-in, loyalty and affinity. So their tagline, "First one there is a rotten egg," became this great example of audacious authenticity and all of a sudden their sales rocketed up. Things improved dramatically, and it was this great 'aha moment' of, "Okay, we are being authentic and saying not everybody is going to be a high-performance athlete."

That brings me to a second example, specifically for the Gen Zers. This idea of saying, "Hang on, the perfectionist image is actually not of value or importance anymore. Being real to myself is what's important." That's why Gen Zers are not on Facebook. They don't feel like publicly sharing that way. Gen Zers are on Snapchat because they're private and communication is more individual. There's that private aspect. So again, how do we want to privately present ourselves and what is the experience that we're offering to others through being this audacious self?

CG: Many of us, regardless of our generational cohort, have multiple identities online on different platforms. Does that strike you as not authentic? Should you not be authentically yourself, the same, everywhere? Why is that okay?

TR: What I would say to begin with is — being authentic does not always mean being the same. It means being consistent in how you create that interactive experience with yourself, your brand, your persona, your product. I like Instagram because of its convenience in that I can take a picture, post something and it automatically uploads to Facebook because Facebook owns Instagram. There are platforms that will push one social media message through all of the different options.

However, if I want to authentically communicate through LinkedIn, there is a tone of business and professionalism that is different than how I would communicate with a different group. I have different clients in different populations that I work with that interact with and follow me on different platforms for that very generational reason. The way that I like to think about it concretely is it's a lot like dressing the part. If I'm going to meet a particular client and there's a particular experience I'm showing, I will dress the part in one way.

CG: Let's get into your seven core competencies.

TR: There are seven core competencies that I truly believe anchor audacious authenticity, starting with the idea of  diversity of thought. If one does not expose themselves to a multitude of different perspectives, it will be incredibly difficult to be able to relate to different people, whether they are colleagues, professionals, friends, family, clients, or consumers. It'll be very difficult to genuinely offer a relatable experience, so diversity of thought and really going outside of your own core beliefs allows you to make a contribution in a different way. Building on diversity of thought is the core competency of  empathy, understanding choices and how they are building blocks for further growth. The next core competency is this idea of  risk judgment. How much are you willing to put yourself out there. Are you willing to be honest with yourself and to be honest externally? What happens when your actions don't play out as they are intended, and how are you willing to embrace that discomfort of risk? Building upon that is the concept of  self-awareness. The measure of self-awareness means how accurately can I assess when my expectations are realistic and how accurately am I in-tune with how I am presenting and how I am being experienced by others?

Once you have elements of risk judgment and self-awareness, then there is the core competency of  transparency — how would we model and demonstrate honesty? Not oversharing (that's really important). Transparency is not about oversharing, but transparency is being honest about the good and the bad and how we are striving to improve the bad. In order to be transparent, you also need to be  vulnerable and be comfortable being vulnerable. So how do we allow ourselves the space to be imperfect and not feel dejected by it? The final piece, which is really the icing on top, is  tenacity, the commitment and the rigor to intentionally be mindful of these core competencies, testing them, practicing them, and learning. I love the expression that I use frequently,  failing forward. Make your fails epic and learn from them.

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