A man with true grit takes a stop for today’s interview on the vulnerability topic. His answers are not quite easy to get digested, but I hope you will – objectively – enjoy his perspectives on the topic, as much as I did.
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1. What is your interpretation of vulnerability?
I think one of the greatest gifts you can bestow on a person is self-sustainment. As the saying goes “it is better to teach a man how to fish, than to give him a fish”. So, I believe it is better to help a person unlock their inner identity than to help them achieve a goal. Once a person can truly understand – and most importantly – accept who they are, any goal can be achieved. This is done from learning how to pull the answers from within.
Many people say that they know themselves, but I see very differently, with hundreds of clients that I have worked with. It is a situation of “you don’t know until you know”. It is hard to know where you are, without having any contrast. Therefore, the subject of vulnerability is so dear to me! Vulnerability is a common concept when it is spoken about from external perspective. People do not talk about vulnerability from internal perspective enough. So many people have been told how great they are from a young age, now they have a hard time facing that they may not be as great as mom and dad told them they were. This causes them to not be vulnerable with themselves and admit their shortcomings. Due to never admitting that, they struggle to move on and even reach the end of their life hiding behind the same false perception. To me, that is one of the biggest mistakes a person can make. By being vulnerable with ourselves first, we accept ourselves for who we are; and, from there, we can grow into what we want to be.
Vulnerability to me is both internal and external, as I mentioned earlier.
It must start inside by an understanding that our current shortcomings are not permanent and by admitting them to ourselves. By being vulnerable, we will be able to grow.
“One cannot change until he/ she admits there is a need for change”
External vulnerability is best received when it is done sparingly. Kind of like the story of a boy that cried “wolf”… If a person is always being vulnerable by disclosing every little thing they have done wrong or what is going on currently in their life, the impact of their words will start to lose its weight. On the opposite hand this is the reason why leaders do so well when they are vulnerable. They generally carry themselves with a lot of pride and are very self-dependent in their team’s eyes. When they get on stage and become vulnerable, it really resonates with the people around them.
When a person is vulnerable on the outside, yet they are not actually vulnerable on the inside, it is quickly seen as fake by people close to them and empaths. In my tough love perspective, vulnerability must come from the right intention or otherwise you are just whining. It must come from the intention of self-development, by being vulnerable with those around us or within ourselves to get help and grow. One can also have an intention to be vulnerable to share something to help others grow. If we look at the Results Pyramid, we understand that, in order to change a result in a person, we often must go all the way down to the experience that led to a certain belief… that led to a certain action… that led to the undesired result. However, it is hard to recreate the right experience sometimes, to change the chain. To do that, vulnerable stories as lessons do a great job to help people with recreating the experience.
2. Can you tell us about a time when you were vulnerable in the workplace?
I conduct team meetings a few times a week. Whether it is just with my managers or with the entire staff, I draw on my mistakes in life to help them understand why certain actions may not be to their advantage . The story that I come back to, most often, speaks about me losing employees. I was vulnerable to talk about the poor choices I made, back in March 2015, in regards to one of my teams. This caused 5 employees to quit, as they were not making enough money.
3. What happened?
I was working with a team that was in a recovery situation. What that means is they were losing every month and not even coming close to meeting their KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). It was not a bad team! It had gone through some tough times, that had created a lot of tension amongst them.
I knew that, for that team to win again, I had to help them come together as a unit first. I did not worry about driving top line revenue as much as I should have and spent most of my time on relationship development and morale boosting. When team members would miss goals, instead of coming down on them a bit and pushing them to work harder, I babied them and told them “It’s OK, you will make it next month”. I was afraid to lose them and make my turnover number look bad.
That is the truth. I was chasing a metric as a leader and I wanted to be liked. So, even though we started to hit our team goals, eventually, there were many team members that were missing the accountability needed to make it in a commissioned environment. By trying to be their best friend and not being a good mentor and leader to them, I did not give the proper support for them to make the money that would have kept them going. 4 out of the 5 people that quit that month broke down crying in my office when they announced me of their resignation.
“If it is done correctly, vulnerability is a true sign of strength and confidence”
What was the lesson here? In my opinion, keeping people accountable and not being afraid of being disliked (if the intentions are pure) is the right thing to.
4. Do you regret it?
If you are asking whether I regret being vulnerable with my team, I absolutely do not!
Once I became more vulnerable with my teams, I became more human to them. This humility allowed me to have stronger relationships, that led to much deeper levels of trust. Those levels of trust led to better operating speeds. Those better operating speeds led to double digit growth and that led to many promotions. If you want to make an impact, allow yourself to be vulnerable! In right dosages and at right times.
If you are asking me if I regret babying my team members – which caused me to lose 5 of them in a month – I do not. Simply because I live life with no regrets. I am very happy with where I am now and I do not regret anything from the past. Those mistakes may have not led me here, had they not happened. However, if I were to be faced with same situation (which I have), most probably I would do things slightly different.
5. Nowadays, do you consider that being true to yourself and others is a sign of weakness/ vulnerability or strength? And why?
As I mentioned before, it depends on what amount of it and for what intention. If it is done correctly, vulnerability is a true sign of strength and confidence. A person being able to openly admit faults and mistakes (facing the possibility of being ridiculed) is a strong person, in my mind. It also shows that they do not have a fixed mindset, that requires them to hide behind a fake persona. They know that, by admitting their mistakes and faults, they can grow.
6. How did your experience with vulnerability influence your current state of mind? Would you recommend others to talk about it?
I recommend that everyone thinks about timing when they are being vulnerable. Timing is everything in so many aspects of life! And vulnerability is no different. This is where emotional intelligence must be applied. How you go about being vulnerable matters as much as the act of being vulnerable itself. If a person has a high level of emotional intelligence, I recommend using vulnerability as a tool to lead and help others, including themselves.
“I believe it is better to help a person unlock their inner identity than to help them achieve a goal.”
If a person has a lower degree of emotional intelligence and self-awareness, I suggest they work on improving that, before becoming very vulnerable, on a regular basis.
7. If you can sum up in 1 word how you feel about your experience with vulnerability what would it be?
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