Connect with Your Vulnerability


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Flaws and Weaknesses Trump Polish and Poise
Leaders want their teams to see them at their best–nice clothes, nice haircuts and nice presentations. But employees don’t need to see perfect, they need to see real. When you have bad news or need to admit to a mistake, how tempting is it to diminish its importance or avoid discussing it completely? While opening up to others may seem like a bad idea or even a sign of weakness, it’s actually a courageous act. Check out a new way to view your vulnerability and see some of the surprising people who have shared parts of themselves that you wouldn't expect.

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  • Connect with Your Vulnerability

    1. 1. CONNECT WITH YOUR VULNERABILITY Reap rewards from exposing your weaknesses, mistakes and insecurities. ​Slide Doc byJeri Dube ​ ​ @jeriteed
    2. 2. 2| A New Perspective – vulnerability as a communications tool for leaders 03 table of contents Vulnerability at Work – benefits of showing flaws and weaknesses 09 Historic Displays – leaders who braved vulnerability16 Stepping Up to Vulnerability – enlarge your life25 Acknowledgements – recognizing those who inspired and contributed to this slide doc 27
    3. 3. A New Perspective Piercedveneer Isn’tvulnerabilityabad thing? Whatdoesitmeanto showyourvulnerability? Admission:Vulnerabilityis uncomfortable Anewwaytolookat vulnerability
    4. 4. 4| Pierced Veneer ​Long before I ever thought about vulnerability as a part of a leader’s communication toolkit, I wrote a flash fiction piece that tapped into an employee’s desire to connect with her company’s top executive. ​In the story, fate brings an ambitious but unrecognized saleswoman face to face with her CEO in an elevator. His attitude of superiority makes her so unsure of herself that she can’t figure out how to engage this master of the universe in a conversation during the ride. Desperate to break through his icy polish and poise, she plants a passionate kiss on his lips just before the doors open on his floor. ​While this fictional woman’s approach was far to the left of appropriate, her feelings are common. Employees want a view of their leaders that often remains hidden—the human side. ​Two and half years ago when she had joined a Big Four Accounting Firm, Margo Hackel heard a top leader strike the right balance between professionalism and humanity for the first time in her career. And she had been working with Fortune 50 companies for more than 10 years. ​When a leader connects with his people, he engages them. One brief but meaningful encounter can do wonders for an employee’s motivation. ​This slide doc makes a case that publically revealing vulnerability is a worthwhile and worthy business practice. And if done correctly, it can help you avoid inappropriate elevator encounters!
    5. 5. 5| Isn’t “vulnerability” a bad thing? ​“Yes, I really mean communicate your vulnerability.” ​When I mentioned the idea of making vulnerability a part of leaders’ communication repertoire, especially when addressing their teams, a fellow communications professional wasn’t sure he heard me right. ​He was astounded that I wanted to advise executives to leave themselves open to harm as a way to communicate with employees. He then proceeded to read me the definition below (omitting #4.) ​It took me a while to explain that I didn’t want leaders to make themselves vulnerable, but rather leverage the vulnerability that every human experiences. And by sharing at this level—revealing a personal weakness, admitting ignorance or apologizing for a mistake—better connect with their team. ​While I was initially taken aback that my colleague didn’t immediately recognize what I was asking leaders to do, I now understand why we surprised each other. Revealing vulnerability is a paradox: Yes, it can expose you to harm, but it’s actually a display of strength and a powerful means of expression.
    6. 6. 6| Showing your Vulnerability It’s as much about intent as content. What it isn’t What it is A sign of weakness. The courage to admit weaknesses, mistakes or ignorance. A heroic win over the impulse not to address it at all. A way to manipulate others’ emotions. A guileless admission that lets people see you or your situation more clearly. A dramatic display of emotion. A sincere sharing that may or may not be emotion-filled. Sincerity, rather than intensity, is what matters. An attitude or perhaps veneer of humility. A revelation of something that most people don’t know about you and that isn’t obvious from appearances.
    7. 7. 7| Revealing Vulnerability is uncomfortable ​Just because something’s uncomfortable doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. ​Researcher, psychologist and vulnerability/connection expert Brené Brown says: ​Vulnerability is the combination of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. ​So, of course revealing it is uncomfortable. The fact that it is hard and maybe even painful is why communicating with vulnerability isn’t a sign of weakness. Taking on an emotionally difficult task takes courage and self-confidence.
    8. 8. 8| Anew way to look at “vulnerability” ​When you intentionally reveal vulnerability, you are reaching out to connect. ​After having studied it for years, Dr. Brené Brown has concluded that: ​Vulnerability is the origin point for innovation, adaptability, accountability, and visionary leadership. ​Dr. Brown’s research shows that ―we try to ward off disappointment with a shield of cynicism, disarm shame by numbing ourselves against joy, and circumvent grief by shutting off our willingness to love.‖ She teaches us to become aware of these patterns so we see how much we “sacrifice in the name of self-defense.” ​She asserts that you will gain if you have the courage to drop the shields that protect you from feeling vulnerable. And that gain is huge because it opens you up to the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to your life.
    9. 9. Vulnerability at Work Enrichyourenvironment Teaming Scientificsupport Commonsense BradSmith LaurenDixon
    10. 10. 10| When you make yourself Vulnerable you enrich your environment with… ​Exposing your vulnerability keeps you real in the eyes of those who work for you. It demonstrates you trust them. On the flip side, when you don’t keep it real, people recognize it as a façade. They know that you’re not telling them everything. And your lack of trust makes them mistrustful. If you can talk about when you weren’t at your best and then how you worked through that period, you inspire your people. It helps them get through their own hard times and motivates them to work harder for you. And contrary to what many think, showing your warts makes you more likeable. Nobody likes someone who’s perfect because everyone knows that’s not real. ​When you admit to your team that you’ve made a mistake, it sends a huge message. “IT’S OKAY TO MESS UP.” ​When employees see that sometimes failure is an option, they aren’t afraid to try something new. And by the way, making a mistake is one of the ways humans learn best. ​So if you want to nurture a learning environment, showing your vulnerabilities is as useful as encouraging experimentation and providing feedback.
    11. 11. 11| Your vulnerability can make or break your team ​Certified master coach Keith Rosen asserts that the performance level of your team depends on creating an environment where you and everyone else are comfortable showing vulnerability. ​Think how powerful your team can be if they are deeply connected because they understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures as well as passions and fears. ​“The most powerful leaders are the ones who are willing to risk losing face in front of their team in order to encourage an atmosphere where their people would be willing to take the same risks themselves.” ​Keith Rosen – named one of five most influential coaches by Inc. Magazine and Fast Company
    12. 12. 12| Supporting Evidence from Science ​Self DeterminationTheory ​Daniel Pink writes about the many studies performed by a global network of scientists organized and established by University of Rochester professors Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan. They found that human beings ―have an innate drive to be autonomous, self- determined and connected to one another. When that drive is liberated, nourished and encouraged people achieve more and live richer lives.‖ Vulnerability is one way you can release that innate drive. It’s the part that feeds connection! Vulnerabilityiswhat feedsconnectionand compassion. ​Studies of Compassion ​In a study out of Wharton, Sigal Barsade and co-author Olivia O’Neill uncovered that units in a long-term care facility with higher levels of compassionate love had less burnout and absenteeism. When the work culture promoted compassionate love employees were more engaged, better at teaming and more satisfied. ​Although the initial work was in a health care facility, the researches followed up with a study that included seven different industries and more than 3,000 employees. The conclusion from the second project was that ―a culture of compassionate love positively correlated with job satisfaction, commitment to the company and accountability for performance.‖ ​There’s a natural link between vulnerability and compassion. Vulnerability must be present wherever there’s compassionate love.
    13. 13. 13| Common Sense ​Intent ​Keith Rosen cautions people about being sincere with their vulnerability. ​He says, ―Your display of vulnerability must be genuine and authentic or you will risk losing the trust that may have already been present.‖ ​Inauthentic vulnerability or rather giving the appearance of being vulnerable is simply manipulation. ​Relevance ​One year at a kickoff, a new sales leader let down his armor and became very emotional about an employee who was fighting a losing battle with cancer. In the audience of about 2,000 people, probably 30 knew who the leader was talking about and so most people didn’t understand this display of vulnerability. It’s not that they were cold and heartless, they just weren’t sure why this was part of the presentation. ​The sales leader wasn’t wrong to share his sadness and worry. He just didn’t choose the right audience. Had he gathered the team who worked closely with this sick colleague, it would have been a very powerful and emotional moment. Alwaysknowyourreason forsharingvulnerability anditsrelevancetoyour audience.
    14. 14. 14| Brad Smith shows his vulnerability ​Intuit is consistently ranked as one of the 100 best places to work. ​In a LinkedIn article Brad Smith writes, ―Deep down inside, each of us is painfully aware of the chinks in our own armor… and having the strength to express this common truth makes your teams feel better about both you, and themselves. ​Showing vulnerability does not undercut a leader’s capacity to inspire teams, but rather it enhances it. Role modeling that life is an experiment, openly admitting and learning from your own shortcomings and mistakes creates an environment for others to do the same. It is one of the ways we move forward and grow as individuals, and as teams.‖ ​When you show your vulnerability, you sacrifice a little bit of pride for the good of your team. It’s not only brave, it’s unselfish. CEO and President
    15. 15. 15| Lauren Dixon shows her vulnerability ​Dixon Schwabl has been recognized as one of the Top 25 Best Small Companies To Work For In America by the Great Place to Work Institute for the past nine years. ​When it comes to having the tough conversations Lauren does it sooner rather than later. And when she does, it’s with complete transparency so that no one gets the chance to fill in any blanks. ​Last summer Lauren’s firm had to let go of several leaders, when even after months of coaching they still didn’t align with the company’s core values. On the day these people left, Lauren brought the entire company together to explain and admit that hiring this misaligned crew had been a mistake. ​In her crisis communications work, Lauren tells her media relations clients that the more transparent you are with bad news, the faster the story dies. This holds equally true when dealing with with employees. CEO ​Her candidness and speed paid off when only days later, the atmosphere throughout the building was cleansed. Everyone was energized and much happier.
    16. 16. Historic Displays of Vulnerability SojournerTruth WoodrowWilson GeorgePatton Richard Nixon JesseJackson SteveJobs JohnMcCain GloriaSteinem
    17. 17. 17| Sojourner Truth ​Sojourner Truth, an advocate for equal rights for all women and men, was born into slavery 95 miles north of New York City as Isabella Baumfree. She escaped from her owner in her late twenties, a year before New York State emancipated all slaves. ​At the May 29, 1851 Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, she spoke extemporaneously. In the excerpt below, which gave the Ain’t I a Woman speech its name, she shares some of the indignities and hardships she endured as a slave and a 19th century American black woman. ​That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man—when I could get it—and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?
    18. 18. 18| Woodrow Wilson ​In his 1917 War Message to the Congress, President Wilson admits his initial instinct, to stay out of the war in Europe, was incorrect. Here are two excerpts: ​When I addressed the Congress on the 26th of February last, I thought that it would suffice to assert our neutral rights with arms, our right to use the seas against unlawful interference, our right to keep our people safe against unlawful violence. But armed neutrality, it now appears, is impractical. ​…Armed neutrality is ineffectual enough at best; in such circumstances and in the face of such pretensions it is worse than ineffectual: it is likely only to produce what it was meant to prevent; it is practically certain to draw us into the war without either the rights or the effectiveness of belligerence. There is one choice we cannot make, we are incapable of making: we will not choose the path of submission and suffer the most sacred rights of our nation and our people to be ignored or violated. The wrongs against which we now array ourselves are no common wrongs; they cut to the very roots of human life.
    19. 19. 19| George S. Patton Jr. ​Some consider General Patton’s speech to the third army the best motivational speech of all time. In this excerpt, Patton doesn’t reveal a hidden part of himself, but he tells of a time when he didn’t say the right thing and he got on a soldier’s nerves. ​One of the bravest men I saw in the African campaign was on a telegraph pole in the midst of furious fire while we were moving toward Tunis. I stopped and asked him what the hell he was doing up there. He answered, 'Fixing the wire, sir.' 'Isn't it a little unhealthy up there right now?' I asked. 'Yes sir, but this goddamn wire has got to be fixed.' I asked, 'Don't those planes strafing the road bother you?' And he answered, 'No sir, but you sure as hell do.' ​Now, there was a real soldier. A real man. A man who devoted all he had to his duty, no matter how great the odds, no matter how seemingly insignificant his duty appeared at the time.
    20. 20. 20| Richard M. Nixon ​Most people don’t consider Richard Nixon the show-your-vulnerability type of guy, but in 1952 when he was accused of misappropriating campaign funds, he let it all hang out to the 60 million Americans who watched him on TV. In what’s known as the Checkers Speech, Nixon painstakingly reviewed his complete financial picture–the money he made, what he owed, everything. He left it up to the Republican National Committee whether or not he should continue as Eisenhower’s running mate. ​Nixon’s candidness, as shown through this excerpt, led to a huge outpouring of support from the public and the Republicans kept him on the winning ticket. ​I have made an average of approximately $1,500 a year from nonpolitical speaking engagements and lectures. And then, fortunately, we've inherited a little money. Pat sold her interest in her father's estate for $3,000 and I inherited $1,500 from my grandfather. ​We live rather modestly. For four years, we lived in an apartment in Park Fairfax, in Alexandria, Virginia. The rent was $80 a month. And we saved for the time that we could buy a house. ​Now, that was what we took in. What did we do with this money? What do we have today to show for it? This will surprise you, Because it is so little, I suppose, as standards generally go, of people in public life. First of all, we've got a house in Washington, which cost $41,000 and on which we owe $20,000. We have a house in Whittier, California, which cost $13,000 and on which we owe $3,000.
    21. 21. 21| Jesse Jackson ​This excerpt from Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition keynote at the 1984 Democratic National Convention is a not-so-direct response to charges that he was anti-Semitic. Had he been more concrete, the reaction by the Jewish community may have been stronger than it was. But his apology helped ―somewhat‖ according to the New York Times article, Jews Cautiously Hail Talk by Jackson, published two days later. ​If, in my low moments, in word, deed or attitude, through some error of temper, taste or tone, I have caused anyone discomfort, created pain, or revived someone’s fears, that was not my truest self. If there were occasions when my grape turned into a raisin, and my joy-bell lost its resonance, please forgive me. Charge it to my head, and not my heart. My head — so limited in its finitude; my heart which is boundless in its love for the human family. I am not a perfect servant. I am a public servant, doing my best against the odds. As I develop and serve, be patient. God is not finished with me yet.
    22. 22. 22| Steve Jobs ​In his commencement address to the 2005 Stanford graduating class, technology icon Steve Jobs talked about his youth, his success and his cancer diagnosis. This excerpt covers the time when the Apple board fired him. ​The impulse to share so openly came from within him. Jobs wrote this talk, which is considered one of the top ten graduation speeches ever given, by himself. ​I was lucky—I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents’ garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4,000 employees. We had just released our finest creation—the Macintosh—a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.
    23. 23. 23| John McCain ​At the peak of political success, in his acceptance speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention, McCain talked about his youthful arrogance and the time in his life when he was most vulnerable. On an October morning, in the Gulf of Tonkin, I prepared for my 23rd mission over North Vietnam. I hadn't any worry I wouldn't come back safe and sound. I thought I was tougher than anyone. I was pretty independent then, too. I liked to bend a few rules and pick a few fights for the fun of it. But I did it for my own pleasure, my own pride. I didn't think there was a cause that was more important than me. Then I found myself falling toward the middle of a small lake in the city of Hanoi, with two broken arms, a broken leg, and an angry crowd waiting to greet me. I was dumped in a dark cell and left to die. I didn't feel so tough anymore. When they discovered my father was an admiral, they took me to a hospital. They couldn't set my bones properly, so they just slapped a cast on me. And when I didn't get better and was down to about a hundred pounds, they put me in a cell with two other Americans. I couldn't do anything. I couldn't even feed myself. They did it for me. I was beginning to learn the limits of my selfish independence. Those men saved my life.
    24. 24. 24| Gloria Steinem ​For a segment on PBS’s Makers, feminist Gloria Steinem talked about early reactions to the women’s movement and the indignities she endured as a young attractive reporter. She also mentions that she had an abortion. ​ The predominant reaction to the women's movement was ridicule. It took us a long time to be taken seriously enough to be opposed. When it came to assignments, as a freelance writer, I was assigned things about fashion, and food, and makeup, and babies, or, the low point of my life, textured stockings. When I delivered the articles to my editor at the Sunday Times Magazine, he generally gave me a choice, like, either I could go to a hotel room with him in the afternoon or mail his letters on the way out. Needless to say, I mailed the letters, but I just assumed you had to put up with this. I don't think I understood the need for a movement until I went to cover an abortion hearing. I had had an abortion when I first graduated from college and had never told anyone.
    25. 25. Step Up to Vulnerability
    26. 26. 26| Enlarge your life. ​The flash fiction story I mentioned at the beginning of this slide doc was prompted by a line from Walt Whitman: ​Of life immense in passion, pulse and power. ​This phrase makes as much sense in the context of showing your vulnerability as in the story I wrote. If you want to enlarge your life by connecting to people, sharing what makes you vulnerable is what you have to do. Vulnerability can put you and your team on a path toward passion, pulse and power—in the best sense of all these words. ​And the title of the poem that is source of this line, One’s Self I Sing, is significant too. When you speak openly about yourself without hiding what you’re afraid for others to know, you are connecting with your audience. You are leading with courage. You are singing out your true self. Singoutyourtrueself andconnect.
    27. 27. Acknowledgements
    28. 28. 28| Interviews Research Laurie Allan Lauren Dixon Dee Ann Gosda Margo Hackel Bob Whipple Mark Yanow Brené Brown SigalBarsade& Olivia O’Neill Steve Jobs John McCain Richard Nixon Daniel Pink Kevin Rosen Gloria Steinem Brad Smith Sojourner Truth Woodrow Wilson Thefollowingpeoplesharedtheirstoriesandinsightseither directlyorthroughtheirpublishedwork.Ithankthemfortheir candor,braveryandwisdom. Special thanks to Duarte for the slide doc templates.