World-renowned trust expert Charles Feltman states that the definition of trust is choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person's actions.
The evidence clearly shows that leaders who make themselves vulnerable build a stronger team culture at work. According to best-selling author Brene Brown:
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity. It is the path to finding more meaning and fulfillment in our lives.”
Leaders who make themselves vulnerable model that it is OK for their people to do the same. In letting other people see parts of us that may be fragile, we put great trust in others to not hurt us or take advantage of us. There is a natural risk that comes with vulnerability.
Vulnerability is not just pouring emotions out. And it is certainly not about blaming others, being disrespectful, or saying whatever we want.
Vulnerability is about owning our own emotions and having the courage to expose to others how we are really feeling.
When someone has the courage to make themselves vulnerable, we have a tremendous responsibility to acknowledge what they are saying. This is never more true than for leaders.
Vulnerability met with silence is a killer, especially in the workplace. It is a sure-fire way to destroy trust, hurt morale, and crush motivation.
People can often be uncomfortable when another person makes themselves vulnerable in their presence. It can lead to not knowing what to say in response. Even though it may be difficult, we must always respond. If it's too tough for you to respond then try these nine simple words:
“Thank you for sharing your honest thoughts with me.”
If we cannot bring ourselves to engage in deeper conversation with the person, then at minimum, using those nine words at least acknowledges the vulnerability shown by the other person.
If you are a leader reading this, how do you respond when the people you lead make themselves vulnerable?
To what extent do you acknowledge the person's vulnerability?
Do you meet their vulnerability with silence or do you invest more deeply in understanding their perspective?
How are you modeling vulnerability yourself?
Important questions to reflect on as you think about your impact.
Thanks for reading.
KAUST Faculty, Pedagogical Coach. Presenter & Workshop Leader.IB Educator. #RunYourLife podcast host.