I once had a mentor tell me I needed to be more vulnerable at work. So, of course, at my next team meeting, I bravely stood up and shared a personal issue that I was going through. The team seemed to respond well and even opened up about their own struggles.
I rushed back to my mentor to share the good news, only to be met with the response of "So when will you do it again?"
I responded with a confused look, saying, "But I thought I just did vulnerability."
My misunderstanding wasn't that vulnerability was important - I knew it was crucial for team success. However, I didn't realize (or didn't want to!) the importance of ongoing openness.
While it may seem challenging to encourage vulnerability in everyday interactions, the benefits are worth the effort.
Trust. Rushing into vulnerability without establishing trust can backfire, leading to a lack of psychological safety and inhibiting team members from opening up.
Time. Vulnerability requires individuals to expose their weaknesses, fears, and failures. Pushing team members to share too much too soon can overwhelm and create discomfort. Allow the time needed for each person to feel safe and respected as they share their vulnerabilities at their own pace.
Learning. Embracing vulnerability means accepting and learning from mistakes. However, rushing past these valuable learning opportunities can lead to repeated errors and missed growth potential. Take the time to reflect, analyze, and apply lessons learned from vulnerabilities exposed, promoting a culture of continuous improvement.
Celebrate. As vulnerability becomes a norm within the team, it's important to celebrate individual and collective progress. Recognize and appreciate team members' willingness to be vulnerable and the positive impact it has on the team's dynamics. This encourages ongoing openness and reinforces the value of vulnerability in achieving team goals.
Rituals. Incorporate small rituals that encourage vulnerability. This could include regular check-ins where team members share personal updates or reflections, creating opportunities for deeper connections beyond work-related tasks. Additionally, daily activities that focus on problem-solving and other work-related tasks can foster vulnerability.
While vulnerability is an essential ingredient for successful leadership teams, a slow and intentional approach is key. Rushing the process may result in superficial understanding or dismissive responses. Leaders must create an environment where everyone feels genuinely heard and understood, ultimately driving greater success and fulfillment for the entire team.