Have you ever heard the word “Vulnerability” and questioned what it really means?  In a moment I’m going to share with you two tips that you can use to immediately start practicing vulnerability in your personal and professional lives – but first, let me share with you a recent experience where I practiced it myself….

Last week, I facilitated an intensive leadership program that I created to empower leaders to be their authentic selves and stretch towards vulnerability.

As part of the program leaders are asked to push themselves into their “learning zone” which is just outside their comfort zone.

learningzone2-500x245

My goal as facilitator is to help people avoid the “panic zone” but be just uncomfortable enough to truly learn, grow, and transform.  

During the event, I participate as both a facilitator and active participant, which means I try to also stretch myself towards vulnerability.

It’s not always easy to hold the group space while simultaneously demonstrating the behaviors I want them to strive for.  Let me tell you it is exhausting but so rewarding. I get something out of this event every time I facilitate it.

On day two there is an activity I call the “vulnerability circle” where we all sit in a circle and take turns answering the question of a random card on the floor.

The questions range from fairly safe to questions that really push you to be open and not hold anything back. Of course as the facilitator I have the advantage of knowing what’s on the cards, but it doesn’t make it any less nerve wracking when it is my turn to participate.

Because I was practicing honesty and authenticity I chose to answer whatever card I received as truthful and real as possible.

And it wasn’t easy.

The card I drew asked me to mention the one thing I’d take out of my house if it caught fire (presuming my family and pets were okay and I had time to retrieve one item).

I took a deep breath and answered with the most honest answer I could:

In my side table I have an 8mm video cassette that I’ve never watched. It is a video of my mother just three days before she died. I do not know what’s on the video, I didn’t record it, and I have never brought myself to watch it. I want to remember her as healthy, not as skin and bones (she died of cancer). But it’s been nearly 20 years. I’m not sure I even remember her voice anymore. I should probably make it a point to watch it soon.

I don’t talk about my mother often and when I do it’s the same recited few sentences I’ve been saying for ages, “my mom died of cancer when I was 18. She was amazing. I am grateful to have had her.”  To speak of her in this raw and unedited context was vulnerable but it was worth it as I was able to connect with so many people who related to what I shared.

There were tears and silence and in that profound moment we connected deeply, not as colleagues but as human beings.

Being vulnerable isn’t always about big risks and it isn’t always about crying. Being vulnerable is about showing up, being authentic, and having the courage to be as human as possible.

lion

The next time you have an opportunity to interface with your colleagues or direct reports, think about how you are showing up.

Here are two tips that you can try today to stretch yourself towards vulnerability and let the magic learning begin

  • Tell a story – Have you ever had a time where you made a mistake and learned from it?  Or have you been impacted in some way by someone else?  Perhaps you have a story, like mine above, that may choke you up to tell.  Tell it.  By using story to reveal your humanity or learning points you give others an in to connect with you.  The more human and authentic you can be, the more powerful the connections and subsequent trust you will develop.

 

  • In the Moment Declaration:  This one can be challenging and does require a bit of self-awareness but when done well it is amazingly authentic, vulnerable, and powerful.  The next time you feeling uncertain, embarrassed, or upset about something or someone own it. Simply declare what’s going on with you.  You don’t need to solve it or ask for solution, just own it.  “I need to say something, I’m feeling embarrassed about xyz and it made it hard for me to focus, can we start again?”  Behaving in this way not only increases connections, it also gives others permission to do the same.

Do you have a vulnerability moment to share? I’m going to start recording some podcasts and would love to hear your story for a potential interview.  Take the vulnerable step and shoot me an email will you?

Thanks for reading,
Ryan