Remember that time when you had to tell your colleague that they are wrong? Or that time when you had to stand in front of a crowd and speak your mind? This uneasy feeling is called Vulnerability and I believe that teams with effective skills to deal with it will dominate the market in the coming decade. Let me explain why.
Wait, what is Vulnerability again?
Vulnerability is the feeling of being exposed to hurt, disappointment, shame or ridicule. It’s an everyday experience if you’re alive at all. But some people are better equipped to deal with it than others.
How does it feel?
It’s crushing. Vulnerability is not easy for even the world’s greatest leaders.
Why does it feel so hard?
Each time you are in a vulnerable situation you risk being a fool, a loser or (my favourite,) a time waster. It’s often so hard that many people choose safety and stick to unremarkable options like continuing status-quo or copying what a competitor did or what they learnt in college.
Why is this a problem?
If your people are hiding away their best ideas inside themselves, your company is headed to one place: Mediocrity. But if you’re telling me “no, my team is doing ok”, I’d like to show you a few examples.
Looking the part
Picture a teacher. I think someone like this pops in your head?
Perfect makeup, perfect hair, perfect dressing, modern and glasses. This is the stereotype from advertising and a few idiots on Tinder. But great teachers often don’t match this stereotype, like my friend Renuka Devi.
Her last victory was gaining the trust of a group of rebellious orphans and leading them to clean up a pond. She created a safe space for them to trust others and use their energy towards achieving something and taste accomplishment. But if talent like her focused more on looking the part, we’d never hear this story.
I have an idea
Somewhere in a boardroom in 2014, someone had the guts to propose “Let’s use plus size models for our clothing line. Also let’s not photoshop them”. This was definitely “not the way things run in this business” and I’d be surprised if no one asked “Who the fuck hired you?”. But still they tried this ‘radical’ idea and apparently, “while other retailers continue to shutter stores, Aerie has already revealed plans to open between 60 and 70 new stores in the coming year. “
Many teams have theoretically correct but wrong ways to deal with vulnerability.
- Saying “You’re welcome to suggest ideas” but then not answering why no idea is actually implemented.
- Diverting the discussion with “…that’s not your job” or “…you’re free to fix it if you have time” or “you don’t respect what someone did for you”
- Saying “Let’s discuss another time” but then not following up with a meeting.
- Saying “Show me proof” and not following that up with “here’s how to find proof”
- Not saying “I don’t understand. Say more” enough
- Make it easier to dodge the question than accept a mistake
These are just a few ways. Brene Brown goes into more detail in Dare to Lead.
Why Vulnerability matters now
In the 21st century, jumping off the cliff is the new normal for teams. And any such leap must ultimately come from a single employee who puts forward a crazy idea. Like Patagonia, a clothing brand, suing for protection of nature. And that move created many more loyal customers.
Understanding Vulnerability creates a safe space for ideas to flourish and people to grow. That, in turn, creates products that inspire and connect to customers.
You can’t innovate with broken people
A safe space removes a lot of background noise in people’s heads. They can focus on creating value instead of how to dress to get heard.
It’s pretty easy to fix things
I hope I have convinced you to examine and remove issues with Vulnerability in your team. The good news is it’s not super hard. You can start by hanging this poster in your workplace. 🙂
I take inspiration from these ideas while building https://bountyhiring.com