Your organization is facing many tough decisions: how to return to the office, how to best respond to systemic racial injustice in society and many others. How can we incorporate authenticity and build trust when making these decisions?

In this discussion, a Last 8% Conversation, we talk to Pete Elmgren, SVP of Global Business Development at SAP Concur, about his path in navigating these decisions, and how he overcame some of the obstacles of doing it authentically. Click here to watch the full webinar.

What are the challenges you and the organizations are facing in our current time?

Returning to the office certainly. Everybody’s in a different situation of course when it comes to the pandemic – whether you have the house to yourself or whether both parents in your household are working at home with small children, it’s a really difficult situation. And obviously with the racial injustice we are seeing and that people are just starting to wake up to around Black Lives Matter, it is so important that we take action and not just talk about it.

What is the importance of communication during tough situations?

We’ve got to make sure we get concerns out on the table for everybody to express their feelings, thoughts and ideas continually, not just once, but over and over. We need to have empathy for people who have different opinions and understand that people are doing the best they can do with their level of understanding and learning.

For instance, returning to the office: obviously on a global basis, there’s different markets that may be a bit ahead of us and some behind us, so we’ve decided to wait until the fall to look at coming back. The reality is we probably won’t even look into coming back until the new year. Obviously, it has been disheartening to see that trend go back up again recently.

Most of us have the intention to be authentic, what gets in the way of authenticity?

I couldn’t express enough how important authenticity is around the office. It means being genuine and being yourself, which is at the heart of building trust. Without trust, things move too slowly and we cannot adapt.

But there is fear. There’s something in the back of our minds or deep down inside that and I think that’s what holds people back. At times, it’s held me back from being authentic or being the person that I knew I should be and is then coupled with external factors that heighten the senses. People are afraid of how they will be viewed by others, how it will affect their career trajectory, promotions, pay, those kinds of things and that is a big part of it.

We wonder: am I going to be viewed as too aggressive, am I viewed as too nice, am I viewed as not being collaborative? In a specific environment, I think all those things come into play with people. Right now, we worry about potentially losing our jobs. Those are the things that I hear over and over and I think those types of worries are at the core of it. That’s what we have to address and get out on the table and really help people understand to not be fearful, and that they can take charge of their emotions.

What sort of things do you do to help you increase your authenticity?

On the internal side of it, just accept that I don’t have all the answers. This really helps. But around the emotional side I have to be intentional and take a step back and really set time aside for myself.  As we started out with the pandemic and we’re on all of these zoom or team meetings all the time, it was overwhelming. I had to really focus more on meditation, so I would set time aside 20 minutes to really get my mind back in the mindset of calmness. I had to focus on time set aside for doing something physical like working out, going for walks, and now have one on one meetings where I’m walking while I’m talking.

What would identify as the contributors to being your best?

I think that sleep is really important. Some of you may be having trouble sleeping because of everything that’s going on. Can you go back and understand the fear that you are feeling? It is really important to understand yourself. Why are you not sleeping well?

I think getting into routines is really important. Whether it is a morning routine like the Last 8% Morning, or working out, whether it’s a yoga, or just meditating, there’s a whole bunch of tools for you to utilize. But understand yourself before, and so you can really take effective sleep and other aspects as well.

What else can help people be their authentic self?

I think culture is huge – it drives behaviors across an organization. It influences how you interact with others on your team, how you interact with your customers, your partners, whoever it may be. You’ve got to lead by example and set the tone around the culture.

It is important to create a safe environment. You’ve got to reward people who are trying to innovate. People from different races, genders, sexual orientations, backgrounds, whatever it may be, you want to have a multicultural, diverse set of thoughts and ideas across your business because that’s only going to make you better. As our world becomes smaller and smaller, it’s important to have that type of diversity, and driving that authenticity, brings this out across the organization. And that’s what really gets this churning in a positive way. But it starts with trust.

Has there been a leader from whom you learned a lot about authenticity?

It was my dad. Growing up around him and the way that he treated his employees, and his patients and a whole host of others that he interacted with. I just I learned through experience from him I tried to spend time with him at the office, at the hospital, or times where he was at just observing and that really helped me kind of set that foundation in terms of how to treat people and be authentic and really have those conversations that are sometimes really tough. The importance of being genuine, being authentic at the heart of it and how that builds trust makes all the difference. That’s something I really learned a lot from growing up throughout my formative years and it helps me to this day.

More than Anything: Really Look at Yourself.

It is important that you do a self-evaluation and ask: how can I be more present? How can I show up and be the best I can every single day? It’s not easy. But that is what it means to be a leader, whether you are a formal leader or not. Use the tools that are available to you, whether that’s meditation, getting into routines or whatever it may be. This is what will help you be the best you can be, more consistently bringing authenticity into your life. It can really make a difference.

Want to continue learning about bringing authenticity into your life? Check out these tools and resources.

  • Authenticity in a Time of Uncertainty Webinar: Get motivating stories and insights from Dr. JP Pawliw-Fry, co-founder of IHHP and NY Times best-selling author, and Pete Elmgren, in this on-demand webinar.
  • Last 8% Morning Podcast: Dr. JP Pawliw-Fry personally guides you through a routine which integrates Movement (walking) + Mindfulness + Mental training exercises