Is my Authentic Self hurting My Professional Brand?


Definition of 'Open Kimono': To reveal what is being planned or to share important information freely. Similar to ''open the books'' or an "open door policy." Opening the kimono means revealing the inner workings of a project, person or company to an outside party. Also referred to as "open (up) one's kimono".

After writing Step 3 in How to Have Career Coaching Conversations I decided that with all the talk about “personal brand and authenticity” I wanted to open my kimono and share with you my juxtaposed thoughts on how these two behavior’s co-exist for me in the workplace.

I have been called and described in the following ways: passionate, enthusiastic, energetic, straightforward “what you see is what you get”, honest, transparent. I have been known to have the courage (on a regular basis) to say what is on my mind. However, the flip side of this is that I have also been described on many occasions as: opinionated, aggressive, edgy, “bull in a china shop", tough, and a few things I can’t repeat in this blog. If I am too be truly honest I would have to say at different times all of the above is correct.  

In a recent conversation I had a with a senior leader at Knightsbridge he described me as both tough and passionate. When I mentioned that I wish I could curb my passion just a little he asked me why? Our conversation really started some serious thinking on my behalf about my brand in a workplace that requires me to be highly professional, with my combined value of being authentic.  There have been so many times in my career that I wanted to adopt the persona (and wish I had in some meetings) of calm. I would like to be a person who waits and measures their words in meetings, calmly reflects and patiently observes what is going on, or the person that finds it easy to agree with consensus. Instead I find myself voicing my opinion and disagreeing openly when I do not agree. 

So this brings me to my question, “How do you maintain a professional brand with colleagues and customers while being true to your authentic self?”



The following are some guidelines and principals that have served both my professional brand and authentic self well over the years:

·         Always seek to understand the opinions of other people

·         You don’t always have to have an opinion - sometimes it’s best to let it go

·         Be open to feedback at all times

·         Be kind and respectful when delivering your message

·         Be inclusive of all individuals in a meeting and especially those that have a different opinion than yours

·         Accept that sometimes, regardless of how righteous you think you are about a situation, you could be wrong

·         Be present in meetings and discussions and just listen to what is being said

·         Pick your battles – some fights are not worth having

·         Do not agree publically and complain to everyone privately

·         Have courage to voice your opinion when you think it is truly important