core values

How to be Authentic in the Virtual Workplace by Building Self Awareness

The most common advice you’ve received from your childhood onward is probably to “be yourself”. This enduring instruction portrays authenticity as the key to successful social interactions, meaningful relationships, and a generally happy life. It may sound like the most natural thing in the world to do; however, it can actually be fairly difficult to become attuned to who we really are as unique individuals. Our personal and professional commitments, plus, the countless voices, images, and opinions that we see and hear every day through by mass media can prevent us from taking a moment to discover our authentic selves. However, authenticity is especially important in the workplace. Acting as our authentic selves enables our team members to perceive us as trustworthy and will ultimately lead to an increase in a team’s productivity as a whole.

Authenticity is defined is being aware of one’s core values and acting in alignment to those values. Now that we understand the meaning and importance of authenticity, especially in the workplace, the question remains: how do we discover our authentic selves? First off, the foundation of authenticity is self awareness. We become self aware when we accept every part of ourselves; our strengths, skills, and positive attributes, along with the areas of our lives we feel could use improvement. Self-awareness can be most effectively achieved when we take a moment, or a few, for ourselves.

It can be difficult to find the appropriate time to self reflect when we are the midst of contributing to business on a daily basis. It can be easy to become caught in the motions at work; you might be unconsciously performing a particular task in the same way, possibly due to the force of habit or because the pace of your business compels you to be efficient. However, it is worthwhile to create an opportunity for yourself to pause and objectively observe your work in pursuit of self awareness or the knowledge of how you can do more than just “be” in our business but strategize to take it to the next level. How does one create this opportunity?

Firstly, unplug yourself, literally, from your surroundings. Turn off your phone and set your Communicator to “Busy” or “Do Not Disturb”. Remove yourself from distractions so that you are fully able to concentrate on yourself. If you are having difficulty disengaging from the outside world: try this: close your eyes and listen to the sound of your breathing. Pay close attention to each breath. This should help you become fully present in the moment so that you are able to begin the process of self reflection. We have a series of questions that will guide you through your self reflection, which can also be considered a self evaluation.

Once you are removed from all distractions and your mind is clear, take a mental inventory of your strengths, skills, and attributes, or write them down, if this is more your style. For example, you may say “I am an attentive listener “I am well organized and always meet my deadlines; or “I am trustworthy”. If you have trouble listing your positive traits, imagine yourself as your best friend or a respected colleague, and compose the list from their point of view.

Next, reflect on the areas of your life that could stand to be improved. For example, in a virtual environment, it is very important to be a good listener, due to the fact the visual cues are often unavailable in the virtual workplace. If, as a virtual worker, you feel your listening skills could be improved, create an action plan for how you will improve them. Your action plan might go something like this: “The next time I am in a virtual meeting, I will not judge the words of my colleagues. I will pay close attention to their tone, choice of words, rhythm of speech, and the pauses in their speech. If I am unclear about what is being said, I will ask questions. Listening goes beyond hearing what someone is saying; I must discover what is underneath what they are saying in order to become an empathetic listener. I must ask myself: what is the core of their message? Lastly, if I have an issue with something someone has said or have sensed something in their speech, I will take it up with them privately after the meeting”.

In addition to being empathetic listeners, effective virtual workers need to have a certain comfort level with technology.  If you feel you could stand to be more technologically savvy, create an action plan for this area of your life as well. Say to yourself “I have a coworker who knows a lot about technology; I will ask them to coach me” or “I will take courses about computers at my community college”. Remember to be honest when evaluating yourself.

Lastly, self evaluations should also include a consideration of your values, principles, and beliefs, to give yourself a better idea of who you are at your core. Ask yourself: What do I value and why? (Examples include: honesty, integrity, reliability, compassion, and empathy, etc.) Then, ask yourself: how do I manifest my values, principles, and beliefs in my everyday life? Is there a way my behaviour can be more closely aligned with what I value? If my core values are honesty and reliability, how to I demonstrate to others that I am honest and reliable on a regular basis?

As mentioned above, authenticity is especially important in the workplace. If a virtual team member is not being their genuine or authentic self, other team members will pick up on this. As a result, the inauthentic team member will not be perceived as trustworthy. Team members may become reluctant to share pertinent information with an individual they don’t believe they can trust, will be less likely to be open about what’s going on and will probably communicate more frequently with a trustworthy team member instead. An inauthentic team member will potentially be kept out of the loop, and this situation will negatively affect the productivity of the entire team. For these reasons, it is important for each and every member of a virtual team to show up as their most authentic self.

Next week’s blog post will focus on the portion of self evaluation that can be difficult to come to terms with: the list of areas in our lives that we feel could stand to be improved. We will explain how to accept our so called “shadow selves” with the aim of becoming completely self aware.

By : Amir Ahmed /April 23, 2014 /Blog /0 Comment Read More
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    Virtual Team Builders is a training and consulting company that caters to corporations and teams who depend on effective virtual collaboration to succeed. Our training is targeted towards the unique challenges faced by teams operating in a virtual environment; challenges that are present whether members work 90 feet apart or 3000 miles apart.