This past week I worked with two fantastic teams. They were as different as their missions and I know they will do great work. As one of the teams was creating their ground rules, we had an interesting discussion about vulnerability. One leader said that he gets really uncomfortable when people he doesn’t know well share something that he considers overly personal. I understand and I know that there are actually a lot of people who feel this way. This is based in part on personality but also on many other variables.
I shared with them that I think there are some universally positive behaviors with regards to vulnerability at work. And I don’t think vulnerability needs to involve sharing information we consider overly private. There is an expectation that leaders are more open and transparent these days. This is likely due to the availability of information, social media and the fact that we human beings tend to “fill in” and “make up” what we want to know but don’t. In general, it’s better to have accurate information come from the source (you) than through a third party.
When I consider behaviors that demonstrate vulnerability, are highly effective, and almost universally positive, here are my top three:
“I am sorry you felt bad.” (A fake apology)
“I am sorry I told _____ that I did not trust you to follow through. I should have discussed my concerns directly with you and I will next time.” (A real apology)
The truth is we are all seen, heard and known at work. How much we are trusted and understood is up to us. Most of the time when we think we are doing a good job not showing our vulnerability, we are at our most vulnerable. When we apologize, own our mistakes and share how we feel, we are more effective and connected. When these behaviors are more common, I also believe workplaces are happier and healthier and that it more than a bonus.
Welcome to Moira's blog. I write a (mostly) monthly post about the work of building better work places: people strategies, systems, teams and leaders.