Be YOU: Why It’s So Hard to Bring Your Full Self to Work

Lead with Levity

Michelle Harris talks with Dr. Heather Walker about leading with your authentic self. We talk about just what is an authentic leader and the importance of showing your full self at work.

Is being your true and full self at work hard? We learn at a very young age to ignore our impulses, to forget about the things that we’re passionate about, or to at least show more restraint.

Over time and with practice, a person can get pretty darn good at holding back their ideas and other aspects that make them special. It shows up especially during those transitions when we take on new roles and meet new people. How can we help ourselves and others bring everything that makes them/us special to work?

Episode Highlights:

  • Importance of building trust with your team
  • Challenges when stepping into a leadership role
  • Why is it important to be authentic as a leader?
  • What is the Authentic Leader Model and The Accelerator Program all about?
  • Signs you’re not an authentic leader
  • What to do when you doubt yourself as a leader?
  • Why being authentic is hard for new employees
  • Overcoming Leadership Imposter syndrome
  • Being aware and making sure you’re presenting yourself in the best way
  • Why having regular team meetings and team activities is a must

Listen to the full episode here!

Lead with Levity Podcast

To learn more about the Lead with Levity podcast or to find out more about Dr. Heather Walker, go to the Lead With Levity website!


Dr. Walker: Everyone, welcome back to the Lead with Levity podcast. I am so happy and grateful that you are here with us today. And on the line I have Michelle Harris, the c e o of the Boss Track. That is the Boss Track. Do not go to boss track.com people. You will wind up on a weird site. Let, actually, let me take that back.

Let me not poo. That site. I’m not gonna poop who their site. No. You’re just not going to get the kind of information that we’re talking about here on this podcast. You’re gonna get something completely different. Yes. Yes, you are. This is Michelle Harris, CEO of the Bosstrack. Michelle, how are you today?

Michelle: I’m wonderful. How are you today? 

Dr. Walker: I’m feeling good. Ripping and running. From meeting to meeting. To meeting. To meeting to meeting . Yes, . You know how that is. I do. Yes, yes, yes. You know it’s interesting when I used to work in the office [00:01:00] and I’d have back-to-back meetings. That usually looked like me, literally sort of fast walking, you know, sashing shuffling from, from conference room to conference room.

And now it looks like, all right, hold on. I’ve gotta get out of this link and I have to open up this other link real quick, , because the meeting will start right on time and you know, can I, can I squeeze in a bite or two in between the next session? We’ll, 

Michelle: Yep, completely get it. I’m, I am work from home as well, and it feels like I am clicking on one link and then another link and trying to keep track of where I need to be just sitting at my desk.

Dr. Walker: you know, what’s amazing to me is how much time I’ve saved from not commuting. And, and by that I mean I, I, I literally mean not commuting. I’m starting to schedule meetings that are face-to-face meetings now [00:02:00] face-to-face again, and I’m finding it really tricky because I’m so used to basically packing my schedule with, all right, I’m blocking off work time, I’m blocking off, you know, these meetings and I can have back to back meetings if I want, but when.

Meeting people face-to-face. Now there’s drive time. Mm-hmm. and there’s traffic and all of those things. And I’m, I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it kind of hard to transition back into that. Are, are you starting to have face-to-face meetings yet? 

Michelle: Yes. Yeah, I am. And you and I have the same problem.

I am not great at putting that travel ta time in my calendar. So I feel like I’m constantly looking at my calendar and saying, no, I need an hour before, I need an hour after to make sure I really need to get better. I, I did try time blocking as a time management system at one point, but I, it. It ended up being more time consuming than I was willing to [00:03:00] put into it.

But so I, I try, I try to be conscious of that, but yeah, I have the same problem. 

Dr. Walker: Yeah. It’s kind of like a project management software, right? Yes. Where you have to have someone there dedicated to making sure everything stays up to date and, you know, you’re, Kind of monitoring where your status is and all of that stuff.

I recently tried a program and they’re, they’re not paying me to say this people but I tried a program called Motion and it basically uses ai where you tell it, these are all my tasks, this is how long I think it’s gonna take, and then it magically puts it on your calendar. So it, it blocks the time for.

Which was great for me because if I block time and then I didn’t get to it or something like that, well it’s almost like it’s gone. It’s not like I’m gonna go back and say, oh, well I didn’t get to it. Let me move it to the next, you know, available time slot in my calendar. Now it’s like, no, the AI just magically moves it [00:04:00] for me if I don’t click that I did it, which was really, really cool.

So I think there’s some tools out there. Might even help you get back on track with, with time management you know, and, and figuring out your schedule. 

Michelle: Yeah. Did you say motion or motion? 

Dr. Walker: Motion with an m. Motion. Okay. Motion of the ocean. Yeah, 

Michelle: I’m moving around. I use, I use Notion and I was like, wow.

I did not know they had that capability. I was gonna go right in after our conversation and look for that, but and check it out. I use Notion to keep myself and I, I don’t get paid by them either, but that’s the on, that’s the way I stay organized. I have everything in, in notion 

Dr. Walker: we’ll both have to go back to our respective companies, our providers and say, Hey, we, we mentioned.

Yes, I would like, I would like my fair due. . Definitely. So, Michelle, thank you so much for joining me today. I am looking forward to learning a little bit more about the Boss Track. Can you tell me more about it? [00:05:00]

Michelle: Sure. We are a women’s leadership development company focused on providing training content and community for primarily new women leaders.

So women that are. Getting ready to step into their first leadership role or that are new managers. And, and trying to determine how do I make a, that transition from individual contributor to a leader. And sometimes that means. that we’re talking with people that have been leaders for 10, 15 years because they still feel like they’re struggling cause they never got that training or development from the company they’re with when they transition.

So we’re, we try to fill that role. We’re like, like we are very focused on new leaders. We don’t do executive training. Just primarily just that, that that. 

Dr. Walker: So we’re living in some really interesting [00:06:00] times right now, and I can only imagine the challenges that you’re helping people work through, especially when we are considering all of this wonderful technology that is allowing us to do hybrid work when we’re considering.

The, the changes that companies are going through to survive or to hunker down for, for the economy and what we’re seeing with what’s happening with the economy and everything. What would you consider to be some of the most challenging aspects of new leadership in this day and. 

Michelle: So I don’t think that the challenges really change from what they were before.

The the foundation that you need to have is building trust with your team, and that’s really the most important goal. And you actually, you work for your team and they, [00:07:00] you bring out the best in in them. So I would say number one, always, whether you are leading in person or leading remotely is starting to build trust with your team.

But but if I think about the challenges that I see people have when they step into a leadership role, they are really delegating which is whether it’s, they feel like their. already has too much on their plate and they don’t want to pass on information. Mm-hmm. , or they just feel like they can do it better themselves.

And or they can do it faster and they don’t take the time to move it on. Giving critical feedback is also a, a big challenge that people have. And how do, how do you give that feedback in a kind, empathetic way and. . That’s really not something that’s going to be different. It’s just the way you’re going to give it is is different [00:08:00] when you’re working remotely and hybrid.

Then also really making sure that everybody understands the priorities, and this is where I would say it. It’s important that you stay in touch with your team, and I know that can be very difficult with this new environment. Mm-hmm. But I, one of the things we talk about is making sure that you’re meeting regularly with your team and having that, those one-on-one meetings.

Having a team meeting where everybody gets together just. Everybody can get really wrapped up in the day-to-day, especially now when, when we’re all working remotely and we do have these meetings where we’re going from meeting to meeting to meeting, it’s easy to say, okay, well we have this one-on-one every week or every two weeks.

We can let this slide. But that becomes dangerous. And I think even more so when, when you’re working remotely and cuz that really keeps everybody on top. , [00:09:00] what are the priorities? What are the difficulties that people are having? And you as a leader can then coach and help your team move, move forward.

Dr. Walker: Yeah. Something I would also kind of add to that, what I’ve discovered and, and found to be true is those frequent touchpoints make it easier to provide feedback because you have a relationship. Mm-hmm. with that person. They see you. They, they don’t just see you. Yeah. When times are bad or when they’ve made a mistake or something’s wrong or there’s a crisis, they see you in the good times too, and they know that you’re there for them in, in both circumstances.

Right. Yeah, absolutely. 

Michelle: I agree. Like, like I said, I think building that trust with your team is number one priority as a leader. And you’re not gonna do that if you’re not having those ti that time, especially when you’re working [00:10:00] remotely and not seeing somebody when you go to the lunch room or passing by in the hallway, you can’t have those like little light conversations like, How is your family, how how’s your, your dog doing?

What, you know, what did you do over the weekend? Having that time is even more important to, to build that relationship. I completely agree.

Dr. Walker: Hmm. Yes. Yes. And when you’re working to, to build trust and to make sure that you’re setting that foundation what would be a game changer if everyone kind of understood.

How to do that? Like what aspect of that would be a game changer if people understood it? That’s a great 

Michelle: question. I would say being your authentic self that is, Actually the core of everything that we build in our programs, we actually have an authentic leader model because being authentic is [00:11:00] hard.

You especially coming into a new role where you feel like you have to play a role, you fee, you’re not sure if you’re, if you need to be hard on people, if you need to like drive results or if you need to you know, Kind of step back and let everybody do what they need to do, and Building trust requires that authenticity because if you try to be somebody that you’re not, the people are your people, your team is going to know, know that they’re gonna recognize that they’re not gonna feel comfortable with you.

They’re going to going to feel like you’re hiding something. So I think really being authentic to yourself and then really that allows your team also to be authentic to who they are and grow in their roles 

Dr. Walker: in that. I’d like to dive a little bit more into that. So this being your Authentic Self program, I agree that it’s really important.

You wanna make sure that you’re showing the, the [00:12:00] true side of you, . And, and of course we all are multifaceted and how you behave. The you around your, your meemaw might be different than the you around a lover, for example, or in a professional setting. very different the way you present, but you are still you at the end of the day.

Yeah. And I’m just kind of curious about this program, like how do you teach people how to be themselves? 

Michelle: Well, I don’t think that you can actually teach it. I think you can encourage it, and that’s what we do. We talk, we talk about it. We bring visibility to. , we ask them questions. How, how are they acting?

How are they coming to the table in different situations? Our, all of our programs are very interactive. They have scenarios and situations that they put themselves in and you know, it really makes them think about things. And that’s, that’s really [00:13:00] how we approach it, is to continue to bring visibility and question.

Decision making and where they’re coming from when they’re thinking about certain things. Hmm. I’m not sure if that answers your question. I don’t

For actually teaching it, other than, you know, just to continue to, to bring visibility 

Dr. Walker: to it. So you, are you, and when we talk about being inauthentic, and, and being more authentic. It’s like we’re pulling away these layers that, that we’ve placed over our, our true selves, right? Mm-hmm. this layer of what it means to be a professional in this setting.

How I should look things, I should say, how I should behave. All the shoulds we’re, we’ve just got [00:14:00] layers and layers of shoulds and we, we start to pull all of that. How, so I, I wanna dive in a little bit more if you’ll indulge me, cuz we, I, I always want to try and share practical tips and things that our listeners can try and really just kind of take and chew on play with these ideas.

So are there, are there sort of. Signs, signals warning signs even that you are not fully being your authentic self in a certain situation. What, what signs would you tell someone to look for? 

Michelle: Mm-hmm. , that’s a, that’s a great question. I think really coming. I guess coming at something and feeling uncomfortable about it [00:15:00] yourself.

I think everybody has their inner inner voice and inner sense that when they’re not coming from a place of, of being themselves, that they just feel uncomfortable. They, you know, dis dislike what they’re doing. They feel. that they’re being judged, um mm-hmm. and that, that’s hard because I know that that can come from a lot of different places too.

But, but to be honest, I think a lot of people don’t even know who they are. So one of the exercises we do go through is to really sit down and we have a worksheet where people really. Say if they were going to be a leader that was true to who they were, what, what does that look like? I mean, going like, what, how would they talk?

How would they dress? What, what would, with what, what things would they say to people? And you know, really identifying that. And then, you know, once you start going [00:16:00] out into the world with what you’ve identified and if you feel that it’s not congruent, , you know, then, then you’re, you’re not being authentic to yourself.

And I mean, that, that also requires time and taking time for yourself each week to really kind of think about how you’re, you know, how you’re showing up. Which is another obviously hard thing to take that time to, to be aware. Mm. . 

Dr. Walker: It’s a really interesting thing. You know, there’s I think it’s called method acting, where you have these actors that, that they get so deep into their role that they take on the persona and, and they don’t just practice.

They like become that person. They do everything that they can to become that person. And there have been these cases where actors. Felt like they lost their sense of self and their identity and they had a hard time even figuring out who am I after , after we’re done shooting this [00:17:00] film or whatever. And, and I was thinking that as well, that if a lot of people have taken on not just identities, but.

They’ve, they’ve taken on the expectations of others for so long that it could be really, really hard to know, yeah, what do I really think about this? Right? And is this really something that, that makes sense for me? And is this really me? or am I really doing this for someone else? Am I doing this for clout?

Am I doing this? Yeah. For for attention, for a sense of belonging. Why am I doing this? Am I doing it because it brings me joy? Mm-hmm. and happiness and, and I feel free and it feels natural. Or is it, is it something that almost feels forced and there’s all this pressure associated. 

Michelle: [00:18:00] Yeah. Yeah, I agree. I think there, there’s two things to that.

One is another. I mean, there are times when not you don’t play a role, but you know, to get to the next level, there are certain ways to think about things or maybe you need to dress a little differently to come across as professional. So I, I think there are times when. You need to start looking at kind of things a little differently for yourself, but how to make it work for you.

Because there’s always a way that, you know, gives you comfort that will give you that level of comfort, even though, you know, cuz I mean, we all wanna wear. T-shirts and yoga pants. But, you know, in some situations that can come across as unprofessional. And, you know, if you’re a manager and you wanna be considered a fair director and then you know, executive, you know, there are people that still kind of [00:19:00] evaluate appearances like that.

And there are times that you ha have to kind of play that, that role. But I think you also have to know. That, getting back to knowing who you are, you have to know when you’re doing that and know that you’re making that choice. And the other thing that I was gonna say is one of the other important things that.

You need to do is really ask for feedback. So in those one-on-one meetings, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your team. Like, how are you doing? What, what can you do better? What, what maybe made you feel uncomfortable this week? Cuz I think you can get, get a lot of valuable information from those conversations as well, whether, you know, what are the answers you’re getting and how does that make you feel?

And does that make you feel? Who you are or you know, are you presenting yourself in a way that you feel 

Dr. Walker: uncomfortable with? Right. Exactly. Exactly. What would you say is a way that [00:20:00] someone as their. Stepping into this new leadership role. It can be really exciting. Yeah, it can be really scary. . It can be all the things, like, all the things I, I remember my first leadership role.

I, I got really excited, like, well, I, I was very scared, I’m not gonna lie. I was very, very scared, . I thought, I don’t have. All of the information that I need to have, like I, I felt like I have information, but I didn’t have the experience and I had people on my team who were older than me and I just didn’t necessarily have the confidence.

So I felt like I had to fake it until I made it, and. That can be a really scary road to walk on. It can feel a little bit isolating. Mm-hmm. . So how do you, how do you have fun? Like what advice do you have to new leaders so that you can, they can have fun along the way. They’re not paralyzed by [00:21:00] imposter syndrome or feeling like they’re on an island, or like they have to have it all together.

Michelle: Well, I, I do recommend having your we have a podcast called Her Hype Squad with Boss Track. Mm-hmm. . And we named it that because I believe every new leader, every leader, every woman in business needs to have a hype squad. So one of those if you’re feeling down and unsure of yourself, you know, having those, that group of women or group of.

Peers that you can call up go have coffee with, have a zoom, zoom call with if you’re remote and just talk about how you’re feeling. And, you know, having a pact with that group that anytime anybody’s feeling down that they’re going to be there cheerleader and bring. The, all the, the good things and help them through those times.

We, I also [00:22:00] recommend, you know, having power poses if you feel down, and I mean that can be fun because you can feel a little goofy doing it sometimes, but really stretching your body and just, you know, Throwing your arms up in the air and yelling. Yes. I mean, at times, I mean, it just gets your blood flowing and again, can make you feel goofy and laugh.

And, and also, you know, having that those songs that can boost up your confidence, make you dance at your desk and, and make you feel better and get you past it. Cuz it’s not anything you’re gonna. away from, especially as a new leader, and you’re going to have those times where you just are unsure of.

What you’re, what you’re doing, what you’re thinking, whether you’re approaching things right. And I mean, even 30 year, every, every step along the way you’re taking on something new. And you know, and nobody’s immune to imposter syndrome. I mean, Oprah [00:23:00] Winfrey and Michelle Obama have talked about having imposter syndrome.

So if they’re talking about it, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s a normal thing. So it’s just being prepared. When you’re faced with those times to, to know what to do, what’s 

Dr. Walker: your power song? 

Michelle: Do you have a power song? Oh my gosh, my power song. I mean, I have so many, but unstoppable Is, is definitely one. Oh my, yeah, I think that that’s a big one for me.

Dr. Walker: Unstoppable. Mm-hmm. . Awesome. Awesome. Yeah. You know, it’s, it’s one of those things. It, it’s funny, there’s actual research that connects the power posing to feelings of confidence. Cuz it, it’s primal, right? Yeah. You’ve got your body language. When, when you’re looking at animals, the animals that have that they’re shrinking.

They’re making themselves smaller. PR from a primal perspective, they’re not considered to be the leader in that group. Mm-hmm. . So it’s funny that you bring that up because [00:24:00] yeah, body language has a lot, a lot to do with it. I’m sorry, hold on one moment, Michelle. My husband of course, set a timer that’s going off and he, it’s not turning it off and I don’t wanna get picked.

Well that was rude. , I’m gonna have to have a conversation with him cuz he knew that I had a podcast. So yes, the, the, what I was saying about body language, it’s so primal. Mm-hmm. . And as a leader, it’s really important to look at your body language too, because that is a, a visible sign to other people.[00:25:00]

Yes. How confident you. and people can kind of pick out who’s the leader in the room based on their body language, which I find fascinating. 

Michelle: Yeah, it’s interesting. I’m not an expert in body language, but we do talk about body language because there are basics that everybody should know and it’s. , you know, definitely shoulders back keeping your arms open, making sure you’re not closing yourself off to other people walking in a certain way.

So we, we do talk, we do talk about that because I, I do think it’s important to start as a, as a new leader, to be aware and make sure you’re presenting yourself in, in the best way. But I do wanna mention too, since we’re talking about fun things it, I, one of the most important things. Not most important things, but an important thing is to make sure you’re having regular team meetings.

And I think a big part of those team meetings is our team building activities. And that’s another fun way. It’s not necessarily getting you past , you know, a break in confidence. But it’s a really good way to build [00:26:00] that trust with your team and have them build trust with each other. And I’m not talking about just like, you know, trust falls and all that, but there are so many team building activities you can do and, and to get your team to have a lot of fun and laugh together.

Cause I think, you know, those bonding moments are so important and everybody should find those times to have fun at work because you, I mean, you. Spending so much time at work and, and you know, as a leader it’s really your responsibility to make sure you’re providing tho those outlets to everyone. So, and I’ve, I’ve had a lot of questions cuz people don’t think you can do team building as effectively when you’re working remotely, but there are so many team building activities If you, if you go online that you can do virtually and they can be a 

Dr. Walker: lot of fun.

Oh yeah. For. . We’ve had, we’ve talked to some really interesting leaders on this podcast who have done some out-of-the-box things. Hmm. And, and [00:27:00] some not so out of the box things. I think at the end of the day, you have to have a heart for it. And when you have a heart for it, you’re gonna find a way to make it happen.

And people are gonna feel that they’re gonna, they’re going to know that you care. And and that’s going to make all the difference. Thank you. This has been a really good conversation. If anyone is interested in learning more about the Boss Track, where should they go? 

Michelle: Well, they can go to our website, which is www.thebosstrack.com.

They can go to our Instagram page, which is at the Boss Track. They can find us on LinkedIn. Like I said, we have a podcast called Her Hype Squad with Boss. and that’s on apple, Spotify, and everywhere else you find a podcast. And then we have a newsletter where we provide some fun, interesting, lighthearted things along with leadership [00:28:00] videos, articles that we found important and helpful to new leaders.

So really any of those ways you can find us, we’re always here. And very access. 

Dr. Walker: Nice. Awesome. Michelle, thank you for joining us today, and I look forward to checking out all of those resources. Great. 

Michelle: I look forward to talking to you again soon. This has been a wonderful conversation. I appreciate the time.

Thank you. 


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