Vulnerability is uncertainty. It’s risk and it’s exposure. More simply put, vulnerability is feeling, living, and being authentic.
For us to be our true selves and to create authentic connections, we have to exhibit some form of vulnerability. It helps us to be who we are and to grow.
As an adult, this has been a challenge to accept and also to incorporate consciously into my daily life. As a younger athlete, I spewed vulnerability. Every day, my sport required me to show up, be open and honest with coaches, give my all, to work and try unconditionally, and lay everything out on the line – despite uncertainty in the results.
Outside of sports, it’s tough to show your cards, to let people know how you are feeling, or to allow others into your world. This is especially true in today’s workplace.
It’s unpleasant to think about, yet in order to reach our truest potential, we must get uncomfortable.
Busting the myth of vulnerability as weakness
As I’ve studied vulnerability, I have come to realize that the above phrase is one of the most powerful ways to view the concept. Yet, at work, vulnerability is viewed as weakness, or to being susceptible to attacks or to competition.
In studying the work of Dr. Brené Brown, a best-selling author and research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, I’ve learned otherwise. Her books, ‘Daring Greatly’, ‘ Rising Strong’, and ‘ The Gifts of Imperfection’ all cover vulnerability, shame, and courage in great length and demonstrate the impact that each of these have on our personal and professional lives.
She states that “the perception that vulnerability is weakness is the most widely accepted myth about vulnerability and the most dangerous.”
This statement leads me to why vulnerability in the workplace is a benefit for both employers and employees.
The missing ingredient for success
Let’s think for a moment about what vulnerability entails in the workplace:
- Stretching to achieve with unknown results, potentially failure.
- Opening up to show all your cards to co-workers and your boss.
- Sharing a new idea with your boss.
All of these are examples of bravery and authenticity. This is how we are most effective as employees and creators. And all of these also happen to be tangible ways in which we see actual growth or expansion in business.
And nearly all of our world’s greatest business achievements stem from similar bold movements.
So, if we see such growth, innovation, and progress stemming from vulnerability, and if it’s the way to more open and honest communication, then why wouldn’t we ALWAYS embrace it – especially in the workplace?
As athletes do with sports, leap into vulnerability at work rather than shy away from it. Recognize that getting uncomfortable is movement towards our utmost potential as employers, as teams, and as individuals alike.
To start, do this:
- Put yourself out there. Express your ideas, share a dream you have. Open up and accept the feedback and reactions as they are.
- Give yourself permission. This goes for anything – to be who you are, to show your colors, to ask questions or for help.
- Try something new. Whether it’s daily, weekly, or monthly, give yourself the opportunity to try something you haven’t done before, little or big. This is a great step towards practicing vulnerability.
But first, we need to be open, honest, trust, try and test the waters – for both ourselves and with others.