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Emma Littmoden

The Living Leader

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Living Leader Learnings: How can I stay true to myself at work?

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The challenge

A sales executive at a telecommunications company says:
 
"I’m doing well in my job, achieving and exceeding my targets regularly, which should leave me feeling good. But lately, I’m becoming more and more troubled by the fact that I seem to be two different people – one at home and one at work.
 
I’m starting to question why I can’t just be ‘myself’ at work and whether this means that I’m being manipulative with my clients. Do you think that it’s possible to be successful in a sales career, while also being true to yourself and your values?”
 
The solution
 
The Living Leader replies:
 
While a short answer would be ‘yes’, it would obviously over-simplify things. This is certainly the kind of question that many of us ask ourselves at various times in our working lives, whether we are in sales or not. We attempt to balance the conflicts that arise, but frequently without really thinking specifically about what our values are.
 
Put simply, values are really just the things that you care deeply about, the things that drive you each day. And sometimes, your priority values change as your circumstances move on. 
 
For example, early on in our careers, when many of us are striving to establish our independence and set up home, the value of ‘financial security’ may be absolutely critical. 
 
Years later, however, it may be much less important and values such as ‘making a contribution or difference’ may be uppermost in our minds. So our priorities and the corresponding values associated with them are not fixed.
 
Of course, some core values such as honesty or fairness may remain with us throughout our lives, no matter what our circumstances.
 
But it is vital is to know what our most critical values are and what personally drives us on every day. We also need to examine how they can help us to achieve our goals and where they may create conflict for us – either with ourselves, with others or in our careers, as appears to be the case with you.
 
What to do
 
So firstly, ask yourself if you have a clear picture of your four or five key values? Can you see where they may conflict with each other from time-to-time? This can be particularly relevant in the workplace. 
 
You mentioned that you sometimes question whether you are being manipulative. If your personal values are strongly challenged by the way in which your leadership encourages you to deal with clients, and you are complying with that, this may be the case. But it doesn’t need to be.
 
If you are true to yourself and bring the ‘real you’ to work, there is no reason to assume that your client relationships would suffer. In fact, the exact opposite could well to be the case. 
 
If you communicate on an authentic level, you are likely to ask sincere questions and listen fully to the responses, which will help you to understand more about them, their organisation, their specific needs and how your proposition can really work for them. 
 
You would be able to provide what they really require, which would surely be a win-win situation for everyone. 
 
So yes, I do believe that it is possible to have a successful sales career while being true to yourself and your values. But a significant factor in this will be whether you are comfortable with the relationship between your personal values and those being demonstrated by the leadership of your organisation.
 
Emma Littmoden is a partner at leadership programme provider, The Living Leader.
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Emma Littmoden

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