The Journey to Authenticity

Recently I became aware of an acquaintance saying something unfair about me. I called him to discuss it. He immediately acknowledged the mistake, took responsibility and apologized. We had a nice talk and soon after had a great lunch conversation. Now we’re friends. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our interactions were this honest and productive?

I’ve cracked the code: We are all on a journey to authenticity. Do your best and assume others are, too. Be honest, genuine and comfortable in your own skin. People don’t mind bad news or tough situations as long as you communicate directly, clearly and openly.

Managing a hedge fund is hard work, harder than ever. In challenging times like these, objectives that may seem less important can get overlooked. But relationship management is imperative.

Manage relationships with communication

1.     Communicate with people the way they want. Some like email. Others prefer texting or talking. In a prior generation, people would call to see if they could visit. Now we text to find out if we can call. Pay attention to how the other person likes to communicate and accommodate them

2.     Don’t put anything in writing you don’t want posted or shared. You remember the cliché of not writing anything you didn’t want to see on the front page of The New York Times. How much more so now. Digital communication is instant, permanent, global and ubiquitous. Think of what you teach your kids and apply it to your business. If you mention someone in writing, imagine they are copied on the message. Inevitably, invariably they will somehow end up seeing it. Messages get forwarded carelessly. People hit Reply All thoughtlessly. Nothing is secure or private anymore. I know an attorney who moved firms. The moment she walked out of her old office building, she checked her private iPhone, which was kept separate from her work BlackBerry. The phone had been remotely wiped clean by her former employer, though she had never granted them access to it

3.     Maintain constructive relationships with your portfolio companies. Being close to them gives you the opportunity to have influence. Investing is hard enough. Don’t make it harder by antagonizing the people with whom you’ve entrusted your capital. Having a good relationship doesn’t mean you always agree. Just the opposite. If you have open lines of honest communication, you can convey ideas and constructive feedback. Acrimonious relationships inhibit communication and a lack of communication is dangerous

4.     Express gratitude and empathize with the other person’s perspective. Dr. Brené Brown writes that gratitude is not an attitude; it is a practice. Think of the other person and let them know you understand their position and appreciate what they do for you

5.     Don’t overestimate the time other people are focused on you. Believe it or not, your investors have other things to do, including other funds and the rest of their jobs and even personal lives. What a concept

6.     Avoid arrogance. It will kill you. Even the arrogant people who succeed are brought down by their hubris. The rules do apply to you. They apply to everyone. Get over yourself and treat others with dignity, respect and fairness. They’re your equal. Believe me now or later but you’ll be seeing them on your way down or at rock bottom. Start treating people nicely

7.     Treat job candidates with respect. Everyone you interact with goes back into the world with an impression of your firm. From the CEO of a portfolio company to the guy who delivers your hamburger, each interaction is an opportunity to make a positive impression on someone. They will tell others about your company. Over time, you’ll have a reputation. Many businesses fail to realize this and mistreat job applicants who by definition are interested in your firm and work in your industry. Pay to retain excellent recruiters who are relationship-oriented and not transactional. They find the finest professionals

8.     Ask for favors. You don’t want ask people for help but doing so lets you experience the benefit of other people’s wisdom and the blessing of their kindness

9.     Be specific with criticism. When you have to admonish an employee, it can be awkward but it’s necessary for them and the firm. Make sure your feedback is current and productive. Don’t let your frustration build up over time. When you’re unhappy about something, sit down with the person in a timely way with specifics. They will be nervous so speak slowly in a kind tone

10. Don’t get down. Don’t let yourself go to lowest common denominator of the most negative thing someone says to you that day. Some people say unkind things. Don’t let it get to you

Be authentic

We are all on a journey to authenticity. It’s a process that never ends. Stop pretending and aspiring to be perfect. No one is. Do your best. Most people are. Communicate directly, clearly and openly. By being genuine, you’ll be true to yourself and transform your relationships.