Be Authentic

You’re sitting in a big meeting discussing an issue, and consensus is nowhere to be found. There are two camps and you’re in neither. And the big kahuna has marked her territory – you know where she stands. Frustrated by the lack of consensus she looks you in the eye and asks, “What do you think?” What do you do? Do you tell her what you really think or do you tell her what she wants to hear? More and more, it’s the latter. We’ve become too conflict averse. We’re so conditioned to avoid conflict we don’t even consider saying what we think. We go right to what they want to hear. Sad.

I argue it’s best to be authentic at all costs – tell them what you think and why. This approach does not minimize stress in the short term, like the next several days after the meeting. But it’s the least stressful over the long haul. First, once the kahuna calms herself and thinks about what you said, she’ll be happy you gave her the truth. You educated her. Even if she does not end up agreeing with your thinking, you gave her a broader perspective, a more complete view of the situation. She’s smart. She’ll see what you did for her. She’ll come around. Second, and more importantly, you’ve been true to yourself – no internal stress whatsoever. You’ve been authentic. You’ve been you.

You’re most effective when you’re you. You’re comfortable, you’re genuine, and you’re believable. And you’re stressed as hell when you pretend. Not believable. Faking doesn’t feel good, and it’s hard. It’s like wearing shoes that are two sizes too small – they’re not yours, and they hurt. You’re hobbled by them. People see the wincing as you shuffle through your day. They see the tension in your body. They know something is not right and they judge your words accordingly. Bad.

It takes big balls to be authentic. There are negative consequences. Some get pissed when you tell it like it is. So be it. And clear, focused thinking can be threatening. So be it. But the positives outweigh the negatives. Your organization is better for your thinking, and, most importantly you get to be you. Priceless.

3 Responses to “Be Authentic”

  • Nick:


    Another great article.

    You must have a camera in my office because over the last 6 months you’ve written a couple of articles like this one that are not pure DFMA/manufacturing subjects, but have been incredibly timely in that they are very current to the struggles of the week.

    Ever consider adding executive coach to your resume?

  • Steven Estergreen:

    Lots of times more than authenticity or truth is needed to achieve our goals. It takes skill to tell the truth in a way that increases rather than decreases how much truth is heard. And, when different people on the team have different goals, it can really get tough – although I haven’t seen any bullets in the conference rooms.

    I recently attended a class presented by a company named Vital Smarts that gave a lot of tools for addressing those situations, which they call “Crucial Conversations” – defined as when stakes are high, opinions differ, and emotions run strong. Just about any conversation that involves changing another’s behavior fits the bill, whether trying to get your daughter to clean her room, getting your design engineers to learn and use DFMA, or getting management to allow the engineers time to learn minimalist design (aka DFMA) even if it seems to them that it will slow down the design of the next product. It’s that last situation for which I’m hoping this group can give me some practical (meaning that it came from practicing/doing rather than from sitting around thinking about it) advice.

  • Mike:

    As you say, raising the level of Engineering’s DFMA competency and getting company leadership to buy into it are the keys to success. Engineering has to think it’s a good idea to raise their own game in the area of DFMA competency and company management must think it’s a good way to make money. The message:

    The savings are real and significant.
    There is a formalize process to get it done.

    To start, you must educate on the magnitude of the savings and the methods to achieve them. Here are the two tricky formulas:

    (material cost of your highest volume product) X (yearly volume) X 25% – this is an easy target.
    (material cost of your highest volume product) X (yearly volume) X 50% – this is the entitlement.

    The methods – Systematic DFMA Deployment
    A systematic, milestone-based process
    Standardized metrics and deliverables
    Data-driven approach
    Defined tools and business processes
    Integrates nicely with product develoment, Lean, Six Sigma.

    The education must happen at a high level – a level that can influence the engineering community – CEO, SVP of Engineering/Technology, SVP of Programs. To make it feel good to engineering, the message is: Engineering is the only organization smart enough to pull this off (to achieve these types of savings). And we’re going to give you, engineering, the tools, time, training, and teacher to make it happen (the four Ts).

    The education must find someone with a problem who sees Systematic DFMA Deployment as a way to solve it, or it must find a person with an initiative who sees Systematic DFMA Deployment as a way to execute it.

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Mike Shipulski Mike Shipulski
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