“If you want a culture of creativity and innovation, where sensible risks are embraced on both a market and individual level, start by developing the ability of managers to cultivate an openness to vulnerability in their teams” – Peter Sheahan, Change Labs
What a scary word – vulnerable. It is so quickly associated with being exposed, being scared, being weak. It is certainly never a word you hear in a business setting. Yet, being and encouraging vulnerability is crucial to the success of so many aspects of the high performers. Let me explain.
Inspired recently by the incredible work of Brene Brown, an acclaimed researcher on vulnerability, I have been asking myself where vulnerability shows up in my work and in the workplace in general. Much of my coaching is one to one with CEOs and executives who are looking for ways to shift their perspectives to innovate, to find deeper motivation and drive for one more financial turn, or to ensure they are sustainable and present as their businesses either soar or go through challenges.
What seems to be consistent with each of these client scenarios is a need to delve deeper into the self and understand individual drivers and needs. In order to really change anything about ourselves and our situation we must first see ourselves as we are. That requires vulnerability. That requires us to be honest with ourselves and bare our strengths and challenges so we can really see what is standing in our way of authentic change.
To be able to lead with effectiveness we must also be able to inspire. Inspiration comes to people when they connect to what they see and want to mirror that behaviour themselves. If a leader is guarded and strong and radiates the perception that they know everything and never make mistakes, that is then the perspective that is filtered down through a business. It creates an environment where failure is not an option, and therefore learning is stunted.
Innovation, however, is inspired when people feel empowered to try new things, to take risks and to put forward their bravest idea – this requires vulnerability, and baring all in a business setting. This is not an easy feat at times. It can make us feel exposed and fearful of what others might think. There are many reasons to squash vulnerability, especially at work, but in doing so we are also limiting ourselves in reaching our full potential and for leaders, limiting the potential of our businesses and teams. Isn’t it ironic that we are often inspired by the vulnerability we see in others but despise it in ourselves? Vulnerability will only be acceptable in business if it is experienced through and demonstrated by the leadership of that business.
For vulnerability to become acceptable we must align with the belief that we are how we behave, not what we do or what we create. Companies and families that create this culture experience large opportunities for growth, connectedness and innovation.
True high performance, the type that elevates us to another level, demands we show up as ourselves and be seen for who we are. We are then at liberty to offer the best, most authentic versions of ourselves to our work, to our family and to ourselves. Anything becomes possible.
If you’d like to find out more, join the conversation in our next open workshop.