How often do you tell them..
• That you don’t have the answer to a question or problem
• That you need help with something
• That you’re not sure what the next best step is and you’ll need their input figuring it out.
I’m going to guess it’s not all that often.
And there’s a good reason for that. We perceive not having the answers as weakness, as vulnerability.
And leaders are not supposed to be vulnerable.
Or are they?
If you’ve read any of Brene Brown’s work, you may already know her take on vulnerability.
She describes it as ‘uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure’. It’s that feeling we experience when we do or say something without knowing what the response is going to be, when we loosen control of the outcome.
When we’re open to saying I’m not sure, I don’t know what I’m doing.
It doesn’t come easily.
But neither does trust. And modeling vulnerability is an ESSENTIAL part of building trust with your team. To building a safe place where people
…can bring their whole selves
…feel safe to raise things when they don’t seem right to them
…are not afraid to ask for help
…are willing to share ideas knowing they have a psychologically safe, non-judgemental space to do that.
When people feel comfortable to do this, all different kinds of magic happen. Strong trust emerges, and innovation and personal effectiveness can be powerful side effects.
When someone contributes an idea, they might have had to push themselves to do it. If the idea is squashed instantly, they might have trouble contributing again. It takes vulnerability (and courage) to speak up.
As a leader, I encourage you to nurture innovation, to help create that psychological safety where every idea can be considered.
Someone I was talking to the other day described this as bravery. What do you think? How do you see the act of being open about not having the answer, or of needing help?
And what has your experience with this kind of vulnerability/bravery been so far?