Published on Feb 10, 2022
What comes to your mind when you hear the word “vulnerability”? Some say it is a sign of weakness, while some believe it is putting your heart on your sleeve, and still, others believe they are incapable of feeling vulnerable at all. Vulnerability, on the other hand, is not a sign of weakness; rather, it is a sign of strength – especially at work.
Society has taught us that vulnerability equals weakness. But Brené Brown, research professor, bestselling author, and TED speaker says that the reverse is true.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change,” Brené says. You can’t really innovate without risk or uncertainty. If you’ve created a work culture where vulnerability isn’t okay, you’ve also created a culture where innovation and creativity aren’t okay.”
“People tend to think of vulnerability in a touchy-feely way, but that’s not what’s happening. It’s about sending a really clear signal that you have weaknesses, that you could use help. (Jeff Polzer, Harvard University Professor of Organizational Behaviour.)
Vulnerability is more about the receiver than the sender. Do they pick it up and reveal their own weaknesses, or do they cover up and pretend they don’t have any? It makes a huge difference in the outcome.
These are a few key rules of vulnerability for leaders:
Vulnerability should serve a purpose. It should assist us in getting from "here" to "there." What do you want to achieve when you and your teammates have shed layers with each other?
No one is perfect, people make mistakes. So one of the rules when it comes to vulnerability is to accept those mistakes, look at them head-on with no sugarcoating so that we can all do better next time.
A leader's team evaluates him or her. Our goal as leaders is to be the "roaming spark," encouraging everyone to have a sense of purpose. Be open-minded and always listen to your teammates, better yet, encourage them to bring you ideas and feedback.
There is a significant difference between being open and sharing every idea that comes to mind. Before you offer your comments, evaluate your audience and the usefulness of your input. Remember that vulnerability necessitates empathy. You're being cruel if you don't regard the other person's sentiments and provide them anything of worth.
So now that you know about vulnerability and the key rules of it, here are some of the ways you can embed vulnerability throughout your business.
If you're not used to shedding armor with coworkers, bosses, or clients, it's better to start small and with curiosity. Your first question might be as simple as “How’s everything going?” Pay special attention to the other person's emotions as you go further, and back off if you see you're making someone uncomfortable. You may want to avoid oversharing and inappropriate questions by learning to read the person with whom you're interacting.
Remember, the vulnerability stems from the leader. You are the one who sets an example for everyone to follow, so if you want your teammates to be comfortable enough to be open, be the first one to share.
As you build your relationship with your teammates around vulnerability, you are building a far deeper connection with them. It allows the whole team to completely trust one another, and that is what drives the innovation, creativity, and changes for not only the team but also your whole business.
Belonging cues are the little gestures and behaviors that people often overlook, yet they are the ones that signal how others care about and respect each other. By providing your teammates psychology safety, you are giving them the green light to become more open and share their vulnerabilities with you.
Not every problem can be solved as fast as lightning, and not every solution is successful. That's OK. Life is an educational experience. Recognize the issue, explain why it didn't work, and move on. Accept responsibility and avoid pointing fingers. When your people believe it's okay to make mistakes, they're more likely to recognize them and handle problems graciously. And, once again, it is by failing and learning together that trust is built.
Most of us see vulnerability as a condition to be hidden. But when it comes to creating cooperation, vulnerability is not a risk but a psychological requirement. Cooperation does not appear out of nowhere. It is a group muscle developed by a clear pattern of recurring interaction: a circle of individuals engaged in the difficult, often unpleasant, but ultimately rewarding process of being vulnerable together.