While there’s probably nothing more cliché than declaring the power and importance of “being yourself,” there are some real dangers in business in not being yourself. Here are a few dire circumstances that will be encountered if the “real you” is somehow obscured from your community, clients, and competitors (I speak from experience):

  • You will lose clients/customers.
  • You will lose money.
  • You will lose employees.
  • You will attract weird employees and clients/customers who are not a good fit for your organization.
  • You will be miserable and wonder what you are doing and why you are doing it.

So what does “being yourself” mean as an organization? It means not pretending to be other than you are. It means not offering more than you can or something different than you feel comfortable with. It means not pretending to be more (or less) professional than you are. It means not pretending to know more (or less) than you know. It means not hiding your size, your age, or your circumstances. It means owning what you do know and what you can offer.

Being yourself means owning what you do know and what you can offer. Tweet This Quote

“Being yourself” means owning your organization’s particular style, circumstances, sense of humor, eccentricities, oddities and conventions. What you see is what you get. You can always sign yourself up for a job that will stretch your capacity beyond what it may have handled in the past, but don’t hide your personality in the process.

And if you own your organization’s unique personality and have confidence in what people (customers, clients, competitors, employees) see, then you can build on that rather than spend your time and energy holding together a facade.

Authentic Attracts

dojo4 is a small software design and development agency. We work best solving hard problems and building tools that can be used by real humans. But often people walking by our storefront office pop their heads in to ask what we are. From an outward appearance, people think our office is a café or a co-working space, a clubhouse or a daycare (no joke).

You can always sign up for a job that will stretch your capacity, but don’t hide your personality in the process. Tweet This Quote

We pride ourselves on building sturdy, well-thought-through code and compellingly applied design. We are lucky to have long-term and high-value contracts with several established clients. But looking into our office, you may see kids and dogs, bikes and bike equipment, a lot of random people working out of the office (who may or may not actually work for the company), communal meals, and snacks and alcoholic drinks being consumed. You’ll likely hear the excellent, curated tunes being played by our illustrious resident DJ, Joel, but you may also hear the Goldberg Variations or Slayer or Hall & Oates. Sometimes, you may not see anyone at all because we’re all working from home or out on bike rides or spending time with our families.

This type of agency does not appeal to all clients or potential hires, particularly those who want or need a lot of formality and process. We don’t really do formality or process, in a conventional sense. But that’s great because it means we don’t attract people that we can’t make happy. It means that if people are confused and confounded by our appearance, they will go away; if they are intrigued and feel comfortable, then they will stay. That doesn’t mean we will only work with same-minded people, but it does mean we are likely to get along with the people that choose to work with us.

We can be more impactful when we don’t waste energy being something we are not. Tweet This Quote

The Benefits of Being Myself

When I first got into this business, I was embarrassed that I didn’t know more than I did. My career had been in documentary film, not software design and development. How was I supposed to inspire confidence in clients and co-workers who knew more about this stuff than I did (which wasn’t that hard)? I actually knew so little that I had to give up pretending very early on and just own who I was: a smart, competent, inquisitive person who could be very helpful and supportive, but did not know squat about software.

This turned out to be a fantastic advantage! And this reality has offered real value to clients and colleagues:

  • It’s allowed people to feel comfortable with what they do not know themselves, and thus more at ease with the work we’re doing together.
  • Because I’ve had to ask a lot of questions, it’s allowed important elements of projects and relationships to surface, and thus strengthened those projects and relationships.
  • My eclectic background outside of software has allowed other people to feel comfortable sharing their diverse experiences, making our connections more human and our work together more robust.

Our uniqueness, our individuality, our foibles, our peculiarities, our orthodoxy or lack thereof, and our honesty can be our greatest offerings. As such, they deserve our heartfelt allegiance and worthwhile investment. These qualities – the qualities that reflect who we “really are” – allow us to attract our greatest allies, our most valuable clients and customers, and our most loyal colleagues.

The qualities that reflect who we really are allow us to attract our greatest allies. Tweet This Quote

In this way, we can be more impactful because we can think more clearly instead of wasting energy being something we are not. Hiding or underplaying ourselves is stingy (it means we aren’t sharing our inherent wealth) and will create relationships based on false assumptions. When we embody “who we really are,” we forge the strongest relationships, solve the hardest problems, and have the most fun.

About the author

Corey Kohn

Corey Kohn

Corey is the COO of dojo4, a creative software design, development and media team in Boulder, Colorado.

  • Rachel Wilcox

    Wow, this was incredibly eye-opening and interesting to read. Being a women studying business, this topic pertains to me a lot but I had never really thought about the importance of being yourself in the work place. Particularly, I found it extremely interesting when you said being yourself means not offering more than you can. I had always kind of thought as a businessperson, you were supposed to offer as much as you can and show everything you can do, but I do agree, you’re not being yourself if you’re offering more than you can. Also, if you offer more than you can, you’re making yourself uncomfortable and not putting yourself in the best position possible. I also really liked the part when you talked about how you can always sign up for a job that’s going to push yourself, but don’t hide your personality in the process. This was really interesting because you’re right, you can sign up for any job that’s going to push you. But, this can alter how you see your job and the people around you if you’re under a lot of stress and not letting your true colors fly. I think being yourself calls for a relaxed and comfortable work environment that allows you to do the best work you possibly can, and receive the best outcomes! If everyone is themselves inside the work place, I believe this is the only way to make everyone you work with truly your “family,” have the most ideas and possibilities, and ultimately work best together. In a class I’m in at school, we did an activity where we had to come up with ideas on what a simple mattress could be, other than its typical use. We only found the best and most useful ideas when the entire class engaged in the conversation and was not afraid to say their ideas and be themselves.This just goes to show even more about the importance of everyone being themselves when they’re working together, and even beyond! This article has really opened my eyes to this importance of being yourself. And as you’ve shown, it can clearly pay off with clients too in a manner where they respect you more and feel more comfortable, and I can totally see why! If I was a client, I’d certainly feel more comfortable with someone who’s their self around me and is honest about what they know or don’t know. Thanks for sharing this, it was incredible to read! 🙂

  • Julia Severson

    I found this article really interesting because usually when I think about people in business I think about a sea of people who are all the same, with a fake persona just trying to make money. It made me reflect on business guest speakers i’ve heard in the past. It’s true that the ones who were more “authentic” stuck with me most. I was able to connect most with people who had unique characteristics and set themselves apart from others. I also found this interesting because I had never thought about how being yourself can open up doors of creativity. I had not considered how for an entrepreneur, creativity is vital and being able to come forward with your own personality with your own ideas is crucial to success and standing apart from others. In conclusion I thought it was interesting to connect personality and creativity to business, a link that I normally wouldn’t make.