The best imitation of myself

  • Ashley Howden
  • 9 May 2017

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In my last blog post, ‘It’s called Human Resources, Not Robot Resources’, I stated that I make no distinction between a personal identity and a professional one. In response someone asked me, ‘Surely you need to exhibit different behaviours in the workplace than would be appropriate in a personal setting?’ Well, I thought the answer deserved a post of its own.

I don’t disagree with the sentiment. And while I think it’s true to some extent (after all, we’re likely to shift modes a little from the office meeting room to the family BBQ), I’ve found it far healthier to align my attitude, behaviour and values in all environments. Here’s why…

Imposter syndrome

I suffer constantly from imposter syndrome. It all started 20 years ago, back when I was an emotionally immature, hopelessly-equipped leader of teams and companies. In fact, I’m so aware of my limitations and the gaps in my knowledge, that it would be exhausting to try and cover them up. I find it much easier to be transparent. In the event of an emergency, I simply break the glass and rely up upon the Ben Folds’ lyrics, 'I do the best imitation of myself’

Because I’ve found life so much easier to navigate when there is only one version of how I approach my problems – business or personal.  

I want the people I work with to discover for themselves that if I’m kind and nurturing to friends in other parts of my life, then I’m likely to give them the same due. Similarly, I find it just as healthy to admit my failures and shortcomings to a colleague, as I do confiding in one of my siblings. Reducing the delta between my professional and personal lives over the years has helped rid me of much of the confusion I had earlier in my career. I’m no longer concerned about someone in a business context becoming cognisant of one of my weaknesses; because I’ve probably already disclosed it openly.

Vulnerability is key

I believe that inherent vulnerability (a pre-requisite of being comfortable enough to resist the creation of a work ‘mask’ away from the ‘true self’) is a massive benefit in business. Aside from being able to openly discuss with work friends where you see their opportunities to improve, it also helps strip away the hubris from interactions with clients and suppliers. Basically, it enables all relationships to have far more solid foundations.

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It’s difficult to think someone is a complete sh*twit, if they’re entirely upfront about their struggles when trying to convince you to buy one of their products or services. Or, for that matter, if they’re interested in having your company assist them by purchasing a product or service from you. This honest approach means that deals are only completed if there’s clearly identified value on both sides. How refreshing if that was always the case in business! And, frankly, wouldn’t personal relationships be easier if we shelved our egos and managed to ‘adult’ our way through a conversation – taking into account how the other party might be feeling, rather than leaping ahead to what we want.

I’ll happily admit that I’ve not quite nailed any of this yet. I still have to be diligent in bringing all of my failings and flaws, as well as skills and attributes, to the front line in business. I’m also working to attempt to bring some of the rigour and candour of my business dealings back into my personal endeavours and relationships. But in either instance, and in any environment or context, I genuinely try and remain the same person, with the same values and the same nature.

I guess I’ve just discovered that the best imitation of myself is no imitation at all.


Connect with Ash Howden, CEO of KJR - LinkedIn or Twitter

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