Vulnerability is a word that can strike fear in the hearts of many. Combine it with "in the workplace" and it can provoke even more terror. Being vulnerable is something that many of us associate with weakness — and most of us aren’t keen to be thought of as weak.
Here’s the thing: Vulnerability is the key to making you a better manager and, heck, even a better person. It is absolutely worth taking a test drive in the workplace. Let’s explore reasons why it’s worth the effort.
If you aren’t willing to open up to people, they likely aren’t willing to do the same for you. Putting your trust in someone on your team is crucial in order for you to gain theirs and provide the right environment for them to deliver their best work. No one wants to work for a robot. Think about it. If you worked for someone who never spoke of anything but work, who never mentioned having a pet or going to a baseball game on the weekend, would you be willing to share much of yourself with that person? Or feel comfortable enough to ask them much more than surface level questions? Likely not. In order to build a solid foundation with your team, you need to connect with them on a human level. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s a free for all — they don’t need to know your deepest and darkest secrets — but letting them know that you have both good days and bad can’t hurt. If you want to be the best guide possible for your team, it’s time to open the vault a bit.
You don’t have to be the only one who learns from your mistakes. If you are willing to admit when you’re wrong or when you don’t have an answer, your team will be brave enough to do so as well. And that’s how they’ll learn: Safely and alongside one another, instead of hiding or pretending when they aren’t clear on something. Sharing your thoughts and ideas can be a really scary thing. In order for your team to feel safe enough to put innovative thoughts out there, you need to be willing to risk looking silly yourself every now and again. Psychological safety is crucial for high-performing teams and it doesn’t occur on its own. It takes work like everything else.
As the great Brene Brown said: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” If you’re looking to create something new or solve problems, you need to be willing to get vulnerable. If you’re not, you’ll be doing the same old stuff without really getting anywhere. Our world evolves at a pace that many of us struggle to keep up with. Clients, customers and employees face challenges today that may not have even existed a year ago. In order for us to provide the solutions and support that they need, we need to explore new concepts and approaches regularly — even when it makes us uncomfortable to do so. Putting new ideas out there is vulnerable, but it’s also the way we get to better solutions.
Being open about what’s going on within the organization or the team is crucial. And if you’re not willing to be transparent about the highs and lows with your team, they won’t be willing to return the favor. Open dialogue can be tough, but it can also be the key to more effective teamwork. Setting the tone that feedback and open dialogue is a regular course of our work and not a scary out-of-the-ordinary occurrence make it much more effective. If we want to impact change, we need to be willing to be transparent about what is happening within the organization and the team itself.
Vulnerability is key to being a solid leader, but remember to be mindful of how you’re bringing your vulnerability to life at work. It’s about being real, not oversharing. Throwing all filters out the window isn’t what we’re talking about here — there is a line between being open and a free for all. Now, let down your walls down a little and watch the team grow.
Kelly is a human resources pro and leadership coach who helps people find and achieve what they want career-wise and beyond. Coaching, training, recruiting – if you name it in the world of HR, she's done it in a variety of industries. Her advice has been featured on The Muse, Career Contessa, Workology, among others. Learn more by scoping her out at www.kellypoulson.com.