Sharing a guest blog with you on the power of being vulnerable and how it was a gift to my client. His insight came after reading Dare To Lead™, a book by Brené Brown.
Seven months into my new role and I was feeling… embarrassed. Embarrassed because I still didn’t feel like I understood what my job was supposed to look like. I should have been open and asked my boss/peers for help but I was afraid to be vulnerable because I was afraid others would think I was incompetent or just not smart.
My job was to help sales teams run campaigns and be successful. The sales leader wasn’t embracing my efforts and the team wasn’t running the campaigns they were given. My teammates worked on other teams and seemed to be performing very different functions in their roles.
It was confusing and, as time went by, I felt more and more awkward about discussing my situation with my boss. If I brought up the obstacles I was having with the sales team, then it would call out the fact that our campaign execution was so poor and that meant I wasn’t doing a good job.
So I went quiet… until it blew up in my face!
My boss’ boss asked me for a detailed report on the campaigns we were running. She was going to present it to her boss’ boss! My material fell flat and my boss had a talk with me about how this reflected poorly on me… AND HIM!
The culture at my company focused on making our executives happy. You were expected to deliver your best and if you needed help, then you had to say something. Well, it wasn’t easy to ask for help and no one had time to help.
Something unexpected happened next!
The weight is lifted
Rationally, I knew my job was at stake. Near the end of the phone call, my boss asked, “Are you not able to do your job, or are you confused about how to do your job?” I replied, “John, I’m still unclear about what this role is and what I should be doing. Talking to the others confuses me more because of the different things they do.”
I was humble, contrite, and wasn’t defensive at all – it’s not easy being vulnerable. At the same time, I was feeling an enormous sense of relief! Relieved that my secret was out and that I had nothing to hide. I had a problem that I couldn’t solve and was trying to hide. It was a huge burden!
Vulnerability, according to Dr. Brown, is uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. In my case, it involves a difficult conversation. I decided to give it a try and, immediately, there was a profound gift.
Now I had no reason to hide anything. In hindsight, I made this situation much worse by not pushing to get the help I needed. Nonetheless, I was happy to be having this tough conversation! The weight off my shoulders felt amazing.
Empowering human potential
An empowering confidence started to fill me up. My issues COULD be solved! It required communicating confidently to my boss then to my sales leader. So I asked for my boss to facilitate a conversation with my sales leader to explain my role and the expectation around campaigns. I started pushing myself to understand areas I didn’t know much about and leaned on people to help me. Again… being vulnerable.
Things changed dramatically for me. We’re starting to run campaigns, the sales leader has brought me into bigger projects and I’m ready for any requests that come my way (well… getting there).
Now I realize why Coaching 4 Good says they “empower human potential“. I needed to get over an internal obstacle and when I did, I felt like I was on fire! This sequence of events has freed me and is drawing out my potential. There are still many things I need to improve but I’ll never hide from my shortcomings again!
Blurting out honesty
The biggest breakthrough came a few weeks later. My boss wanted weekly one-on-one calls with me to track my progress and understand the things I was working on. I welcomed them instead of dreading them. During one of these calls, I went through my usual updates. We were about to move to the next topic when I said,
I really appreciate that talk we had a few weeks back. I’m feeling confident about my ability to make an impact around here. I’m feeling better about my communication although, I must admit, I’m still a bit hesitant about sharing everything with you.
I wasn’t planning on saying that last part but it bubbled up and I really felt like saying that… because it was true! I was looking to take these difficult conversations on! I wanted to share more with my boss – not just the positive stuff – and needed to air my hesitation. The fear of being vulnerable didn’t stop me this time.
What followed was very unexpected.
Sharing stories of being vulnerable
My boss let me finish my statement. Then he cleared his throat. His tone was softer and his pace was slower. He started by saying he understood and empathized. He then shared some of his own fears and lack of confidence in many situations. His stories and his honesty was comforting. I realized that he, too, felt like I often did. He shared his emotions and described some of his own stories about when he was lost, confused or struggled.
He shared more than I ever expected a manager at my company to share. It meant a lot. It reminded me that my job isn’t supposed to be without discomfort, confusion or struggle. The struggle is when I will learn. Connecting with others is how I will learn too. Pushing myself to be vulnerable is a good thing. This realization has been a gift and now I want to work towards a promotion!
Give vulnerability a try
My takeaway for readers is to find the courage to engage in difficult conversations. If my boss said, “we have to let you go.” I would have realized that my company was at odds with my beliefs and how I wanted to live. There’s some risk when you say, “I don’t know what I’m doing” after 7 months! However, there are many other, less risky, conversations that you can tackle. You need to understand what is going on inside of YOU first. Self-awareness is the first step. Once you have clarity, then you will see these conversations that need to take place. Think about my example:
“I’m still not comfortable sharing everything with you.”
That wasn’t an attack. It wasn’t admitting incompetence. Instead, it revealed a discomfort deep down inside that needed to come out. The truth is that it benefited me tremendously and boosted my confidence. It benefited my boss who now has a very solid relationship with his subordinates and is much more comfortable knowing his strengths and weaknesses. Our company benefits tremendously as well. He and I are much more efficient and we’re not letting all this baggage affect our productivity. I hope you decide to be vulnerable one day and see what gifts come to you through your willingness to being vulnerable, open, and authentic.