fighting the recession and listening to an angel sing

There’s an old vaudeville line, “sincerity…?  Once you can fake THAT you’re all set!” 

The same can be said of authenticity. People – your customers – don’t believe the line. They know the real thing, and they know snow jobs. They see the hypocrisy of word-crafted “Mission and Vision” statements that invariably laud the value of the individual employee and then see the back-slapping smugness of senior management having made the ‘tough’ decision to impoverish people by layoffs.  They see it in companies who ‘greenwash’  their regular services in the transparent hope of bringing in a few suckers. They see it in the whoring up companies attempt with being hip to blogs and texting.

Think of the current fascination with the YouTube singing sensation of Susan Boyle.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luRmM1J1sfg   

In the week or so since a somewhat frumpy 47 year-old by the name of Susan Boyle, from central scotland, stood up on a British talent show — and created a standing ovation and the sputtering accolades from the judges — 35 MILLION people have watched, and rewatched that 7-minute YouTube video.  There are Susan-B fan clubs, and there are wonderful editorials about why This-Woman-at-This-Time has touched us so profoundly. 

. http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-04-20/the-beauty-of-susan-boyle/

By all the standards we use to predict success or failure – Boyle’s fame is like a bolt of Zeussian lightning sent to make us humble. Boyle isn’t thin, she isn’t toned, she is far from beautiful, and her dress and regional accent reminds us of a hardscrabble existence of someone who is – essentially – an invisible person in our world.

But, to use a current faddish expression, “she is what she is.” She is, in all senses of the word, authentic.

And sadly, most of the companies in the world that surround us — aren’t. 

A zillion years ago when I started a career in management consulting, a grizzled old timer (someone younger than I am now, I must say) called me aside and said “sometimes, sometimes, business is real simple.  People know the real thing. You want to give advice to companies that want to make their mark on the world  – tell them this – tell them to mean whatever it is they’re saying – and to say what they mean.”  At the time, of course, I was a newly minted Master of the Universe and I thought of this as so much dribble from a man I was certain was waaaaay past retirement age.

The guy was a lot more right that he was wrong.  People want to trust others, and they want to trust who they do business with. And they’ll let you know they believe you by a simle metric – they give you money and they come back. Again and again.

Authenticity.  

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