You’ve likely heard all about the importance of vulnerability in being a leader.
Vulnerability is the ability to acknowledge a mistake, to admit a weakness, to ask for help when you need it, even to put a crazy idea out there. Most importantly, you need to know that you can be vulnerable without fear of judgment.
Vulnerability is a crucial ingredient in allowing teams to perform at an epic level.
Most leaders say that they want a high level of openness and honesty on their teams, yet the up-undermining vulnerability.
Leaders frequently allow these three actions to kill vulnerability.
#1: Confusing “being supportive”… with “being efficient.”
When someone comes to you with a project they’re struggling with, what do you do?
The natural tendency is to be efficient in solving the problem and say, “Thank you so much for being so vulnerable! Now let me take that away from you and give it to someone else more capable.”
Reassigning ownership discourages vulnerability. You’ve taken away something that your team members enjoyed and wanted to be successful. Now they won’t have that chance.
Instead of efficiency, be supportive. Ask how you can help, and don’t assume that changing owners is the answer.
I worked with a CEO recently who had someone on the team who was having some real challenges.
I coached the CEO that instead of jumping in with a solution, to respond with, “You still own this. What can we all do to help?” This led the executive team to a fantastic conversation that allowed them to all pitch in with their input and expertise, while still encouraging her to keep going.
#2: Fostering a spirit of internal competition.
I get it. You have a competitive spirit.
Your competitiveness likely contributed to your successes.
You want to crush your competitors, and you want people on your team to have that same attitude.
But competitiveness pushed too far becomes the enemy of great collaboration by encouraging the focus on individual goals, individual owners, and personal achievement.
3: Setting clear expectations … and not telling anyone
Lack of clarity around what the leader expects is one of the biggest detractors to vulnerability on a team.
Lack of clarity invites fear into the party, and fear brings along defensiveness.
Be transparent, explicit, and clear.
On a truly great team, everyone knows exactly where they stand at any particular point in time.
The very best leaders that I’ve worked with have been able to improve trust and vulnerability with their teams by consistently holding them accountable to their expectations.
Sometimes that requires giving them what we call the “kind truth.”
It’s easy to be nice, but sometimes being kind means being honest.
Even great leaders will occasionally slip up and negatively impact vulnerability on their teams.
But, interestingly enough, so are the rest of your teammates.
Encourage vulnerability, and you’ll be sure to get the most of every one of them.