30 Seconds with Karissa Thacker

The psychologist and author discusses her new book, “The Art of Authenticity.”

Most people relate authenticity to keeping it real, but as Karissa Thacker explains in her book “The Art of Authenticity” (Wiley, 2016), it is less about being yourself and more about everyday choices. Some choices, Thacker says, can lead to greater success in the workplace and, ultimately, more effective leadership.  

DT: What can you tell us about Strategic Performance Solutions Inc., a company you started 10 years ago?   
KT: It is a consulting firm that focuses on the people side of business. We help elevate the performance of people using industrial and organizational psychology—the scientific study of human behavior in the workplace. Utilizing positive psychology, we try and figure out what is working and build from there to help a team go from average to extraordinary. 

DT: You have a degree in management psychology. What exactly is that?
KT: I earned my doctorate in clinical psychology, but I never really practiced. Management psychology is a study of human dynamics, a field that really blossomed after World War II as corporations were growing.

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DT: What inspired you to write “The Art of Authenticity”?
KT: I went to a continuing education program at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health (in Stockbridge, Mass.), and it was there where I became interested in authenticity and how to bring out the whole of who you are. 

DT: What is the book about?
KT: It discusses how to think about authenticity in human nature. It is about choice, struggle and freedom. Authenticity involves transparency, but not being transparent all the time. In the workplace, it is not just doing what they tell you or being who you are, but rather navigating the path in between. 

DT: Is it a self-help book?
: It’s for people who want to figure out how to be themselves and be successful.

DT: Who has more difficulty leading/being authentic—men or women?

KT: I don’t think it’s about gender. Gender is not a meaningful distinction. Being one in a majority is significant; for instance, a man’s behavior will be impacted if he is seated in a room with nine other women. We tend to underestimate social situations. You need diversity in the workplace and need to teach people how to work together. 

DT: So who is buying your book?
KT: It’s for people who are trying to navigate the workplace in the 21st century. It is perfect for people in their 50s who are dealing with the younger generation. It is also a great gift for graduates. It is important to understand that repetitive work in the workplace is going away, so it’s imperative to really understand people and what humans are going to be bringing to business.

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DT: Your book is getting some stellar reviews. How does that make you feel? 
KT: To read reviews from people I don’t know, that the material is resonating with them feels great. That’s the opportunity of the 21st century—interacting with people you will never meet. 

DT: You are a former adjunct faculty member at the Lerner School of Business at UD. Do you think students-young adults are authentic or are able to become so? 
KT: Millennials tend to be more open and say what they think. I think they are coming into the workplace with higher expectations. My vision is that it will be a positive thing, as the workplace is becoming less hierarchical. 

DT: What’s the best advice you have received? 
KT: One of my former bosses told me that it is not everything that you have to do, but it is how you hold everything in your mind. The way you hold things in your mind in terms of the emotional tone and tenor is everything.

DT: How do you like to de-stress?
KT: I am an avid tennis player. It is physical and takes my mind off things. There’s only that ball and the score.

DT: Are you a native Delawarean?

KT: I am originally from SpringhillTenn. My spouse’s job with UBS Financial Services brought us here six years ago.

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DT: Now that you have spent some time in Delaware, what are some of your favorite spots?

KT: I love Peter Kate for shopping and dining at Eclipse Bistro. I also enjoy the reclining seats at Regal Brandywine Town Center, and I am excited about the new history museum on Market Street.

DT: What’s next for you?

KT: In 2017, I am doing a six-month leadership development course for high-potential leaders with the Wholebeing Institute, an educational organization focusing on research-based courses that help people live life to its fullest. The course will include practical learning about leadership through two immersion weekends, group learning, projects in the students’ organization and online webinar type learning.

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