Author: Heather Lowey
The Value of Vulnerability in the Workplace
Lisa began by sharing how she pumps herself up before a big presentation… car singing. Lizzo has some severe competition coming her way! While we all got a kick out of this visual, this was the first indication of vulnerability with Lisa’s discussion. She recently had two of her co-workers in the car with her prior to a big event. Although she normally keeps her Lizzo singing and pump up car dancing to herself, Lisa chose to be vulnerable and give them a taste of her routine. They were either appalled or impressed. It really could go either way.
Through Lisa’s background in marketing, public relations, advertising, and being a mother of SIX… She has learned one very important lesson. Words mean different things to different people. Vulnerability is one such word. Lisa took us through first what vulnerability is not to her. Then what it is, as well as three key points to take away for our own vulnerability in the workplace.
WHAT IS VULNERABILITY
“Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, but the first thing I look for in you.”
– Brene Brown
Vulnerability is defined as “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” Often people look at vulnerability as weakness or helplessness.
Lisa, however, disagrees. It takes strength to ask for what you want. To admit fault. Vulnerability is about being human. Furthermore, it’s courageous to be human and frankly should be applauded. Admitting you need help or having a creative idea and sharing it are both important pieces of being vulnerable.
Courageous conversations are a key piece to Lisa’s leadership style. She has taken constructive criticism out of the vernacular. Instead she fosters an environment of being open to listen. Additionally, it’s important to be willing to change your mind after hearing someone out.
Lastly, she encouraged everyone to stop deflecting. When you receive a compliment, take it as such and do not immediately downplay the words. Let’s face it, when you have on cool shoes, no one cares what they cost or where they are from. Live in the compliment!
How often in leadership are we taught to give the good to the team? Then conversely as the leader take on all the bad. The problem with this is it doesn’t show trust in our people. Trust in their ability to rise to the occasion and be a part of the solution. People need to feel valued and this is achieved through empathy and connection.
In addition, being seen as human while in a leadership role builds a space of trust and respect. Lisa shared the heart wrenching story of her cousin’s suicide and subsequent organ donation at the state of the business presentation to all employees at the Well Done Marketing annual meeting. Afterward, one of the employees shared with her how meaningful this speech was for him as he had suffered a suicide in his network of friends as well. They now have a bond in this story which cannot be broken. A connection through her vulnerability, even as a leader.
There are three ways to get accountability. First is demanding accountability which will likely be viewed as the “dad voice.” Not necessarily sustainable as it is fear based. Second is encouraging accountability which comes from a space of empathy. While this is a great step, accountability can be taken a step further. Finally, is vulnerable accountability. Giving someone the opportunity to explain themselves in a situation and approaching it through a lens of understanding and compassion.
In Lisa’s company, she views disagreement as a gift. There is a vast difference between disagreeing through attacking the person and disagreeing over a process or product. Disagreements can move us to a creative flow and help us to be stronger. As a leader, it is important to allow people to grow with a disagreement versus trying to swoop in and solve everything. This swoop in can hinder the creative process.
Lisa reminded us the importance of something as simple as taking a moment to calm down. We all stood and took three deep breaths. While so simple, you could feel any tension in the room melting away. She encouraged everyone when they are feeling angry or stressed to put the three deep breath practice into play.
She also shared her kids “shower rule. “Any time they are in a texting war with someone, she encourages them to stop, take a shower, and then if they are still mad, send the text.
Part of this break needs to involve asking ourselves, what is my role? Why am I angry? Is it worth it to escalate? With this conversation, what is the worst that can happen? Immediately putting us at choice in the situation of what to do and how to react. We can also decide what our feelings will be with various outcomes. If the answer is no to our request, then we at least know and can move on to other choices. If the request is ignored, we may be hurt and decide to move forward differently. The importance though is the pause to reflect and ask ourselves the questions.
THREE KEY TAKE-AWAYS FOR VULNERABILITY
First, practice vulnerability. Becoming vulnerable does not happen overnight. Actively sharing and being human with people takes practice. Prepare. Think about the outcome you want. There is a difference between oversharing and vulnerability as well. In fact, vulnerability overshared is drama. Get out of that situation. The energy you put out is the energy you receive back.
Second, courageous conversation. Communicate in person. In this day and age of technology with email and social media, it’s incredibly easy to fall into the trap of not discussing a topic with someone face-to-face. Without in-person communication, you lose the body language and other cues of the intent of the message. There is also the timeliness factor of a courageous conversation. Do not let things fester more than 24 hours. Also be okay saying, “we aren’t going to solve this right now so let’s continue to work together.”
Finally, don’t give up. You can create the vulnerable environment. Do not wait for the other person. Vulnerability can be contagious. Involve your team, your co-workers, even your clients in the process. People are twice as likely to go to their superiors if they feel safe and trusted. Allow yourself to flourish in this vulnerable space.
Being vulnerable is being human. It’s okay to bring it to the office.
Want to connect with Lisa? Find her @lisavielee or @welldonemarketing