Vulnerability is Strength When Done for a Purpose #40

Warwick Fairfax

October 20, 2020

Want to be a leader known as strong, confident, honest, transparent and secure? Vulnerability can pave your way to all those adjectives — if you employ it wisely. Host Warwick Fairfax discusses with co-host Gary Schneeberger the helpful and the not-so-helpful ways you can be open about yourself. When vulnerability works, they explain, it can help your team members weather crucibles they’re going through today — and inoculate them against those yet to come.

Highlights

  • Oversharing vulnerability isn’t helpful (2:56)
  • What the dictionary has to say about vulnerability … and why it isn’t helpful (3:19)
  • Why vulnerability is an act of courage (5:40)
  • Vulnerability can inoculate you before a crucible and treat you after one (8:01)
  • How Crucible Leadership was born from vulnerability (12:06)
  • Your vulnerability helps your team not feel alone (16:04)
  • The ways a leader’s vulnerability is empowering (17:08)
  • The power of story in vulnerable discussions (17:59)
  • Your vulnerability helps others take risks (19:40)
  • Teachable moments are vulnerability moments (23:11)
  • Be careful not to gossip about yourself (28:32)
  • What’s wise to share when being vulnerable? (31:59)
  • When vulnerability is inauthentic … and damaging (32:56)
  • The importance of “threading the needle” (35:42)
  • How vulnerability is a sign of strength (39:45)
  • How Crucible Leadership can help you practice vulnerability with your team (41:06)
  • Key episode takeaways (44:01)

Transcript

Welcome to Beyond the Crucible. I’m Warwick Fairfax, the founder of Crucible Leadership. Vulnerability done right, which is for a purpose focused on helping your team, is a sign of strength. It’s actually a sign of inner self-confidence. Those that pretend to be, have never made a mistake, that’s often a sign of insecurity. When you’re secure within yourself, when you’re confident within who you are, you don’t mind people seeing the authentic real you that’s has doubts and fears that’s made mistakes.

Does that sound like the kind of leader you want to be? A leader who’s strong. A leader who’s self-confident, honest, open, and transparent. A leader who is secure. If so, then you’re going to really enjoy today’s episode.

Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, the co-host of this show and the communications director for Crucible Leadership, and today’s episode is all about vulnerability, but not vulnerability in a vacuum. Vulnerability as Warwick puts it, “For a purpose.” Vulnerability that is designed to build community with your team, designed to build camaraderie with your team, trust, designed to take your team to the next level. So, sit back and enjoy this conversation about vulnerability with a purpose.

Vulnerability is a lot in the news. People like Brené Brown, who wrote a fantastic book, Daring Greatly, and is one of the top TEDx speakers. She talks a lot about vulnerability as a tool for creating communication with your team’s trust, empathy, all of which we’ll get into. But really the kind of genesis and the purpose of this is how do you actually do it? Vulnerability for a purpose, do you just talk about every dumb thing you’ve ever done, or I mean how do you use it in a way that’s productive with your team and in leadership? Because who wants to just spew out every dumb thing they’ve ever done? That may make you look vulnerable, but it could also make you look stupid. And nobody wants to follow somebody that’s, “Yes. Let me just tell you about every dumb mistake I’ve made pretty much every day for my whole life, and I’m really a clueless moron-

Right.

… who’s just messes with people’s lives, and really just destroys everything I ever touch. So, let me talk about that.” I mean-

Right.

… that wouldn’t be too helpful.

No. And there’s a concept in general communication with folks about oversharing. We all have known people. Let’s raise our hands. We’ve all been the person who’s overshared sometimes in conversation, and this is a similar kind of thing, vulnerability. You can be over vulnerable and that sort of diffuses the thing that makes vulnerability a positive.

And one of the first places that Warwick and I wanted to start when we started to brainstorm talking about this was as we do a lot of times when we have these episodes where it’s just Warwick and I talking, we’ll go to the dictionary and we’ll look up, “Hey. What does it say about forgiveness in the dictionary? What does it say about humility? What does it say about …” So, we went to the dictionary and looked up vulnerable in the dictionary, and the dictionary, listener, was zero help because here’s what the dictionary says. And I actually went to a thesaurus at dictionary.com, and here’s some synonyms for vulnerable, okay?

So, we’re at the outset of a podcast where we’re going to talk about the benefits of vulnerability with a purpose. And this is what dictionary.com’s thesaurus says are synonyms, things that mean the same as vulnerability. Defenselessness, exposed, unsafe, weak, naked, on the spot, out on a limb, sitting duck, unprotected, and my personal favorite, sucker. Those who are vulnerable according to dictionary.com are suckers, but here’s the antonyms for vulnerable. The antonyms, the words that mean the opposite according to thesaurus.com, dictionary.com, guarded, protected, safe, secure, strong. That’s what our definitions that we use in our day-to-day lives tell us about vulnerability, and it’s fair to say, Warwick, isn’t it, that we wanted to have this conversation to get people to think differently about vulnerability and to apply it differently?

Right. I mean listening to those dictionary definitions which are fascinating, most people are going to be thinking, “Well, I want to be safe. I want to be secure. I want to be strong. I don’t want to be a sucker. I don’t want to be weak.” And so, if you were just going by the dictionary, it’d be pretty clear. Don’t be vulnerable.

Right.

It doesn’t make any sense, but yet I think it’s beginning to change in our culture that more and more leadership thinkers are beginning to say, “Vulnerability does make sense if done right.” But I guess the dictionary is still catching up with some of the thought leaders out there, so, yeah, go figure.

Now, I did find several articles, and there were a number of definitions of vulnerability or views of vulnerability that were positive. And here’s one I got from an article from a magazine, online magazine called medium.com, and this will be sort of I think the jumping off point for our discussion here, and that is this. This author, Tony Fahkry, wrote this about vulnerability. “Vulnerability is an act of courage because you merge with your authentic self instead of hiding behind a façade to appease others.” What’s your reaction to that as a definition?

Yeah. It’s really good. I mean I think of vulnerability and authenticity as very closely linked. Authenticity again is a concept in amongst thought leaders that become pretty popular in with more and more people today. They’re just tired of the plastic, the unauthentic, that kind of be who you think people should be or people want you to be. It’s just something that it’s not really attractive anymore.

We had somebody on a podcast, Chris Tuff, who wrote a book, The Millennial Whisperer, and one of the things he said is, “More and more millennials, which are 20-somethings to early 30s, they want real. They want authentic. They want vulnerable. They want people that’ll have a personal connection.” And so, those are the folks that are working with mid-level leaders, senior leaders, so authenticity and vulnerability are closely linked. They want to work with somebody that’s real not somebody that pretends they don’t have a hair out of place. It’s just like, “Yep. Everything is been good. I’ve just gone from success to success,” and if you admit that you fail or have any fears, well, you’re a loser or you’re just not really a successful person. That’s just a terrible image that we see over in our culture, but authenticity and vulnerability are definitely closely linked.

Well, I can say for certainty to our viewers on YouTube that I indeed don’t have a hair out of place. For those of you who are just listening on an app, I’m bald, so I do not have a hair out of place. But that’s only in the absolute, literal sense. Figuratively, there are plenty of figurative hairs out of place here.

It’s interesting, Warwick, when we sort of hatched this idea, when you hatched this idea for the podcast, this topic, you sort of put it around the theme of vulnerability for a purpose. And as we’ve been discussing it, we’ve sort of talked about it as vulnerability for a purpose for a purpose, and that’s not just being redundant for because we mistyped something. It’s vulnerability for a purpose making sure that it’s something that serves a purpose, but at the same time, the purpose that it serves beyond just making sure you’re not sharing too much is in the context of why we’re here at Beyond the Crucible. The purpose is to help people with crucible experiences.

And I want to set you up with a couple of points that we can talk about to sort of begin to unpack this for the audience, and that it’s kind of a two-pronged approach to the purpose of vulnerability used on purpose. One is to be able to inoculate your team in case those crucibles come, and they will, as we’ve experienced, as our guests have experienced. Crucibles will come. So, one reason to be vulnerable with your team, to be vulnerable with others is to inoculate them for what’s to come.

Another reason to do it is to help them overcome crucibles, move beyond the crucible, as the title of this podcast is, after those crucibles have come. So, it’s kind of preventative medicine, and it’s kind of treatment at the same time. Vulnerability is, isn’t it?

Yeah. It’s very true because we talk a lot about crucibles on this podcast, Beyond the Crucible, because that’s kind of what it’s all about. But when you think about it, when you’ve had a trauma, and we’ve interviewed people, a variety of traumas, whether it’s been abandoned orphan, a woman naval officer whose husband died in a Top Gun training accident, the woman that was permanently disabled growing up at age 11, a variety of different traumas. And when that happens, you’re going to feel very vulnerable. It’s one of the most vulnerable times in life.

And so, in a business leadership or organizational context, it could be maybe corporate’s going to be downsizing your unit. Maybe there’ll be jobs will be on the line. Maybe there are things going on your personal life whether it’s divorce or challenges with kids or maybe a mom or dad has just gotten Alzheimer’s. We come to work as whole human beings. We don’t sort of separate it all, so your team may be going through a whole variety of personal and professional challenges.

And so, it’s important to obviously relate to them as humans, but to be vulnerable and just show them whether they’re going through crucible or not, what it is like to be real and be vulnerable so that maybe when they go through something, that you might have an occasion where their work performance is going down a bit, and you’re getting on them. But maybe you don’t know that they’re about to go through a divorce, or as I mentioned maybe they’ve got a sibling with a cancer or Alzheimer’s. There could be all sorts of things that if you don’t feel it’s a safe place to share, you may not bring that to the workplace.

Right.

And so, you may be getting on them saying, “Hey, come on. The numbers aren’t being met. It’s holding everybody up.” So, a climate of vulnerability can create somewhere where a place where you will know what’s happening, and then if you know what’s happening, you can actually help them and empathize. So, creating that space, that safe space of vulnerability, whether they’re going through a crisis or will go through a crisis at a crucible moment is really key to have an effective team, to be honest.

And we will very quickly kind of unpack some real-world examples and ways in which folks can practice vulnerability in the right way on purpose for a purpose. But one of the things I think is so fascinating, Warwick, about vulnerability as it relates to Crucible Leadership is I don’t think it’s too big of a stretch to say that Crucible Leadership was borne out of your vulnerability.

And listeners who’ve been with us for a while, who’ve heard some of the earlier podcasts, have heard your story. But the pivot point of your story, and I’m going to ask you to tell it again here, the pivot point of your story when you were asked by your pastor in your church to share your crucible, you had to be vulnerable. And out of that vulnerability, some pretty incredible things happened in your church that led to Crucible Leadership.

Yeah. I mean that is true. It’s ironic we’re talking about vulnerability. Vulnerability in a sense is the core of the whole brand-

Right.

… book, podcast. It’s kind of what it’s all about. Sometimes, you forget because we do it so often. You almost take it for granted, but, yeah, I mean for listeners that may not have heard other podcasts or the story, basically in summary, I grew up in a large family media business. It had been in my family for 150 years. It had the Australian equivalent of the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal. It had magazines, newsprint mills, radio stations, TV stations. It was a very large company.

And I was a fifth generation, and basically, my dad died in early ’87. I felt like the company wasn’t being run well or run along the ideals of the founder. I was fresh back from Harvard Business School having worked on Wall Street and gone to Oxford previously. So, I launched this $2.25 billion takeover I thought for noble reasons, but it ended up not working. Family sold out. We had too much debt, and three years later, the company went into bankruptcy. So, that was sort of the genesis of the Crucible Leadership, in particular, the way back.

So, sharing that, I mean it caused me lots of pain, and the ’90s were pretty difficult years, dark years, if you will. So, where that the pivot point where I realized by being vulnerable and sharing this story could help people was when the pastor of my church in Maryland, which actually 12 years ago now, a long time ago, asked me to share a sermon illustration. He was giving a sermon on the life of David and he was running away from Saul, and sort of a righteous man falsely persecuted. I said, “Well, that’s not me, but I’m happy to share my story.” And somehow even though there weren’t any media moguls in the congregation that I know of, somehow it struck a chord with people because I was able to share what I went through, what I felt like since it’s a church. A few lessons maybe God was teaching me by being vulnerable and sharing what I’d gone through and some lessons. It helped people.

So, I say, “Wow. If by sharing my story it can help people, that’s worth the pain of sharing it.” Frankly, after you’ve shared it a fair amount, it actually does get a bit easier. But, yeah, I mean it did seem to be vulnerability for a purpose. There did seem to be a purpose in sharing the story. Now, I’ve shared it on podcasts, blogs, and different places, so, yeah. I mean it’s oftentimes people write books or they talk about, Follow me. I’m super successful,” and I don’t know. Sometimes, we learn more from our pain and our failures, and I think people can relate more to people that are willing to be honest about their failures and mistakes than …

Yes, you can learn from people who are being successful, but there’s something about failure and mistakes that maybe draws you in a bit closer. Maybe you even learn more in some strange way.

I’ve talked about this before and in conversations that we’ve had. It’s the idea of being vulnerable for a purpose. One of the greatest purposes that I’ve experienced in the vulnerability of others, and that includes you, is when someone like you who had a failure that’s that large, that was that confidence shattering, it’s easier to be able to say, “I’m not alone.” And it’s not negative to say … And you’ve said that people have said that to you. People have said to you, “Well, geez. My failure doesn’t look so bad.” And it’s not an insult, and you have not taken that as an insult to you. It’s empowering to share your experience. It empowers others to have had, “Okay. I’m okay that I’ve had that experience.”

I compare that many times to the fact that I spent time in AA. I am 23 years sober as this is being recorded, and that walking into that first meeting, hearing people get up and talk about their alcoholism was enormously helpful to me because they were being vulnerable and that made me realize what I thought I was unique in, I was not, that there were other people like me. So, when a leader is open about failure, setbacks, traumas, tragedies, crucibles, that is empowering to the team, is it not?

It is. I mean one of the probably foundational principles of vulnerability is it creates connection. It creates a sense as you say, very rightly so, Gary, that you feel like, “I’m not alone,” and you feel like you can relate to the person. This leader of yours is not this plastic, perfect person where the perfect family, the perfect house, the perfect life, the perfect everything. It’s they’re human beings who have made mistakes and have things in their life that are challenging. So, it creates a sense of connection, and it also creates the opportunity for empathy.

When somebody’s willing to be vulnerable, it creates the opportunity for that leader to show empathy, to say, “Look. I’m not here judging you. I’m not here up on Mount Olympus or something looking down at your little issues. I’m here with you. I mean I’ve made mistakes. I’ve got things going on in my life.” It can breed a sense of empathy and connection that is really foundational to building a team. If you don’t have a sense of connection then, you don’t build trust. You don’t build a team. It’s really the bedrock of a successful team is that sense of connection.

And you’ve written about this for Crucible Leadership and talked about this idea of vulnerability with a purpose, and one of the things is that is fascinating about the things that you talk about in that regard, Warwick, is the power. And we hinted at it earlier. We talked about it earlier. The power of your personal story, but the power of story in general. It moves people. It draws people in. Part of the beauty of vulnerability for a purpose is that its tied to story. When it’s tied to story, it has extra impact.

What are some of the things that stories that people are vulnerable enough to tell, not over sharing but sharing in the right contexts to create community, to create comradeship with their teams? What are some of the doors that unlocks for healthy teams?

Yeah. I mean I think there’s a whole series of things, and we’ll get into how you decide what to share for a purpose, but by being vulnerable, one of the things that people often in organizations are often risk averse. “If I make a mistake, my career’s over, so I’m going to play it safe.” Well, playing it safe often means that your organization won’t get to the next level, won’t thrive, won’t hit that next, frankly, revenue or profit target because if I just do the safe approach, maybe I’ll keep my job. If I take a risk, then I could be fired or trouble will come.

So, one of the things that’s helpful is be vulnerable to say, “Yeah. I’ve taken risks.” I had this business unit that I was 20 years ago I was asked to head up. It was a small one, and maybe it didn’t work out so well, or maybe even if it did, it’s like, “The night, before I was ready to take the helm, I couldn’t sleep. I was nervous. I couldn’t eat it was just,” you know?” Because that’s reality, and then people will say, “Really?” “But I pushed ahead. Fortunately, I had a boss that supported me.”

And so, sharing stories like that where you took risks is important, so that’s sort of one category which is really important. And I think we talked about human connection. One of the other important factors is as human beings, we’re all naturally we’re fearful. We have doubts. We make mistakes.

Right.

That is the essence of being human. And so, if you see your boss is somebody that has fears, has doubts, and can make mistakes, again, we’ll talk about, well, what do you actually do with all that? Do you share every single doubt and fear you ever had or-

Right.

We’ll get into that later. But conceptually, if you feel like your boss is a human being that’s fearful like you are, it’s like, “Oh, wow. Then, I guess if I’m fearful, maybe I’m not a screw up. Maybe I’m not like somebody that doesn’t deserve to be in this organization.” It’s okay. I mean one of the definitions of courage that people talk about is not so much the absence of fear but acting boldly in spite of fear.

Right.

Very few people that have acted with courage, whether it’s the military or what have you, will say, “Now, were you afraid before you went to battle?” They’ll say, “Of course,” you know?

Right.

But yet, they went in anyway because that there was a bigger cause, something more important. They were able to get past their fears, but we all have fears. So, just risk taking, being honest about fears and mistakes, those are the kinds of vulnerability that just makes you seem human and relatable and gives people the freedom to say, “Okay. It’s okay to take risks. It’s okay to be fearful. It’s okay to have doubts. It’s okay to make mistakes.” That brings a tremendous sense of freedom to your teammates, to your organization, and it creates a real … When people have that kind of human connection, it’s an incredible bond, you know?

Yeah.

People talk about in the military, which I’ve never been in. They talk about this bonding in the foxholes kind of thing, where you’re in it together. Well, when you’re under that kind of crucible under fire and any day could be your last day, I have to believe that you’re going to be vulnerable. The conditions would almost force it.

Right.

And so, there’s this camaraderie, and people say that they miss it when they get back to civilian life. So, that kind of connection is critical, especially when the mission is critical.

Yeah. It sounds like what you’re describing, if we had to sort of put a phrase around it, is that those things in leadership that we call teachable moments. Teachable moments many times can be vulnerability moments when you have an employee, and I’ll give an example from my own life. I got laid off from my second newspaper job as a reporter because … And I’d been doing really well. This was in the early ’90s, and I started to believe my own press clippings a little bit. I started to feel my oats a little bit, and I didn’t work as hard as I should have.

I was the guy that would get drafted if a story needed to go on the front page and be written with what they thought was verve, they turned to me. And I was kind of I enjoyed that role. I enjoyed that attention, but it also led me to not be quite as dedicated as I should have been early in my career.

So, when it came time, when the economy turned a little bit, and the paper had to lay people off, I was an easy choice to be laid off. And I’ve told that story through the years to folks who have worked for me rather than just, right? There’s a teachable moment will present itself where I need to tell them, “You need to kind of ratchet it up a little bit. Try a little harder. Put forth more effort. I see that you kind of slacking back a little bit. Maybe you’re believing your own press.”

I’ve told that story, and what that has done is it’s shown them when they have seen me in a position of authority, they see me as someone who’s gotten to that position because I went through a crucible. I went through something that didn’t work out. I went through something that was, you’ve said many times on this show, “Your crucible can be your fault or not your fault.” This was my fault. I’ve been through it. I came through on the other side.

And in sharing that with people who have worked for me through the years, it sort of knocked their fear off a little bit. It’s helped them identify that I can identify with them. They can see in me somebody who’s been where they’ve been. There’s understanding there. There’s community there, and that has, more often than not, that vulnerability is led to them far more successful than just reading them the riot act. It’s led them to see, “Oh, okay. There is a way out of this. There’s a way to hitch up my belt, do what I’m supposed to do, and come out on the other side successful.”

Gary, that is a fantastic example of really what we’re talking about. It’s hard to think of a better example, which is really vulnerability for a purpose. There has to be a reason for sharing. There has to be, “Well, why are you doing it?” And clearly, there was a reason. You had a reporter who was working for you, and you wanted them to pick up their game.

And so, as I think about it, there are sort of three components of what makes a good story to share. And the first is empathy. Well, by sharing that story, you created empathy with this young reporter saying, “Okay. Here’s what I’ve been through.”

Right.

“I kind of made some mistakes. Maybe I believed my own press clippings. Okay. So, you know what it’s like to be a young reporter who is working their way up.” And then, you also showed understanding. You empathized because you understand the issue of what it’s like, and then the third component is there’s a point. There’s a reason you shared that story. You wanted that reporter to kind of step up their game, and so, empathy, understanding, point.

So, as I think more generally about what makes a good and what type of story should you be vulnerable about, I think of I mean Jesus shared a lot of parables. You think of in wisdom literature, Aesop’s Fables. Typically, a parable or a fable, there’s one point you’re trying to make in that.

Right.

I mean good ones don’t have 10. It’s too much for people to comprehend. There’s one overarching point. You had one overarching point you were trying to make.

Right.

“You need to step up your game because here’s what happened when I didn’t, okay?”

Right, exactly.

And you would-

And, “If you don’t, it could happen to you, too.”

Right. And you weren’t trying to make a direct threat or correlation, but just-

Correct.

Just FYI something you might want to consider.

Identification, not threat. Yeah.

Right, exactly. And so, the issue to think of is you might have a lot of stories to share. The question is if it’s a business issue, maybe you want a new manager to take a risk and take on a new startup segment of your company. Share some stories that you went through when you did that perhaps and how you were afraid, and maybe it didn’t work out. Maybe it did work out, but either way, here’s what you learned. Maybe you could say, “Well, I was scared, and fortunately, I had a mentor or a boss that really helped me,” or, “I had a friend of my parents or somebody that was an entrepreneur.” So, you can share some tips as well as to what you went through, and we often learn so much more by story.

Now, maybe somebody comes to you with something on the personal side. Maybe they have a mom or dad that has Alzheimer’s, or maybe, heaven forbid, but maybe that happened in your life. So, you could just listen and say, “Well, thanks for sharing,” which would be a little cold, but if you have something that you can help to like sometimes, with things like Alzheimer’s, there’s no cure. There may not be a lot you can share that will help, maybe a few little tips. But just as we said earlier, just by sharing the fact that you’ve had a parent that has gone through it, they will feel not as alone, and they’ll be more willing to share. And when they have bad days, you’ll understand. You can support them and just by feeling heard and not feeling alone.

Not that you do this for that reason. It may well, they might actually perform a little better, which is not the reason, but it will be by-product.

Right.

So, it’s kind of like what’s the point of the story? It could be a human connection and empathetic one. It could be a business challenge, so match the story to the issue or the challenge that you’re facing. Don’t just willy-nilly share every dumb thing you’ve ever done.

Right.

That’s the oversharing part.

And what comes to mind as you say that, and I hadn’t thought about it until you just said all that right now, is here’s the exhortation for listeners, I think. Don’t gossip about yourself, right? Don’t tell tales out of school about yourself. It has to have a purpose, and if you’re just telling everything that’s ever happened to you, every crater you’ve ever taken, every time you’ve fallen off the horse, every time you’ve misstepped, every time you’ve encountered a crucible, and it’s just to get it out in the open or to make conversation, it’s not effective. It’s gossip. Don’t gossip about yourself. Have a point to it that will help the person to whom you’re speaking along their journey.

Absolutely. Well said. I mean vulnerability, it has to have a purpose. So, you might come out of a meeting with the CEO, and you might think, “This CEO is clueless. He’s about to make some decisions that could be terrible for the company, and the board is insane that they still have him.” So, you could just share with your team, “By the way, I think the CEO’s an idiot. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I just thought I’d tell you.” But what’s the point of that?

Right.

It’ll make people scared witless. There’s no point. Or, “Yep. Today, we had an argument at home with my wife or husband, and, yeah, I’m kind of feeling down. And one of my kids just flunked out of school, and gee, there’s another one that I don’t know if he’s sneaking drugs on the side, but he kind of looks kind of a little weird. And my neighbor is just awful.” Just on and on and on about every bad thing that’s ever happened or stuff that happened in middle school that you did some stupid stuff. If none of it has a point, it really is not helpful to share every dumb thing that’s ever happened or every fear that’s ever happened.

Or it may be that you may come to work thinking, “I didn’t have all the information, but I have some concerns about what’s happening out there in the market.” Well, it’s not necessarily helpful to share, “I don’t know if this is founded or not, but I’m just fearful today. I wonder if our company will be there next week.” It’s like that’s not helpful. Now, if it’s one thing if you know that the markets is really taking a hit. Your company, maybe it could be challenging. Well, people know. People have talk around the water cooler, then be upfront. “Yeah, we are in for some challenging times. I think we’re going to make it,” or just basically the bottom line is what is going to be beneficial to your team? It can’t be, “It will make me feel better if I unburden myself and say every dumb thing.”

Exactly.

Will it help the listener? Will it help my team? If it’s not going to help them, don’t share. So, it needs a great deal of wisdom to know, yeah, you don’t have to share every truthful thing you know if it’s not going to help them. You need to be open with your team, but how and when is the key. So, the bottom line is it’s got to be beneficial to your team. If sharing this makes you feel better, that’s kind of self-centered. It’s vulnerability for a purpose that needs to be focused on your team’s benefit and helping them with the current situation. Sharing something that might’ve helped them 10 years ago but won’t help them now-

Right.

… or it might help them 20 years from now, but it’s not relevant. It’s got to be beneficial to them and beneficial to them now.

And going back to the authenticity point, oversharing about things all the bad stuff that I’ve done, and I did this wrong and that wrong, that can be read very easily as trying too hard to be friends with the people on your team and not authentically. You’re trying too hard. You’re trying to, “Hey, look. I’m just like you. I had this experience and that, and I failed here, and I failed there.” At the end of the day, you’re still the leader, and the experiences that you share need to be focused exactly as you said, Warwick, need to be focused on how to help those you lead. What’s the parable? What’s the takeaway? What is the point of what you’re saying?

And if it doesn’t have a point, it can actually … If vulnerability with a point for a purpose creates community, vulnerability without a point, without a purpose can create chaos. They can become less comfortable with you. They can become less, more fearful. They can become less confident, and that’s the exact opposite of what you want to create.

Yeah. That’s extremely well said. I mean think of vulnerability like anything else in leadership management. It’s a tool. Vulnerability, you can’t build a house with a wrench. It’s useful, but you need a few other tools, hammer, saws, a bunch of things. Vulnerability can be a tool, but it’s not going to solve every issue. So, just blathering on about every dumb thing you’ve ever done or trying to create connection by being vulnerable inauthentically can backfire. So, back to what we’re saying earlier, the millennials, 20-somethings, early 30s, yes, they want you to be authentic and vulnerable, but if you out of the blue say, “Hey. By the way, when I was in high school, I did drugs,” and they have the mentioned it all, hasn’t come up.

Right.

But you’re just sharing this to just assume in your middle age that all young people do drugs, which some do, but not all.

And you’re trying to be the cool boss that they can identify with.

Exactly.

Yeah.

That will drive them nuts. They’ll say, “Oh, I see through you. You’re just trying to be cool and give it a break. I mean I didn’t share that with you I ever did that, or I didn’t do that,” but, yeah. So, vulnerability just to try and be cool, that won’t work. That’ll be very damaging. So, it’s got to have an authentic purpose. It can’t be manipulated. It will not be worse than not being vulnerable, but if you try to use it as a tool to try and make yourself seem good, or I’m going to be vulnerable because that’s what all the management books say these days.

Yeah.

There’s got to be an authentic reason that’s focused on helping them.

Right.

If it’s focused on you, it will backfire big time.

Yeah. And it’s important to say because there is a bit of threading the needle here. You don’t want to overshare. You don’t want to be over vulnerable to the point that you just made about sharing stuff that has nothing to do with what your team is going through. But at the same time, you want to be fearless enough, brave enough, helpful enough that you do do it. I mean you don’t want to be too stoic and not allow yourself to release those things that can be helpful, so you’ve got to thread the needle.

If you’re too stoic, I mean being stoic, you can blow it by being too stoic. So, you’ve got to find that middle ground where you’re sharing, you’re being vulnerable, but it’s for a purpose. And in the context of what we’re talking about here at Crucible Leadership, it’s for a purpose to help them either meet a crucible that’s to come or to get beyond a crucible that has come.

I think that’s well said, and really, I think if you’re in the moment, it is possible in the spiritual world, we think of kind of this inner voice, inner spirit if you will, and whatever your kind of spiritual faith perspective. You have this sort of inner intuition, inner voice that if you listen to it, it will tell you what to say at the appropriate time.

So, if somebody’s you ask somebody and say, “How’s it going?” and if you’ve created some degree of connection which is a prerequisite, they might say, “Well, yeah,” or, well, you might ask them, “How are you feeling about this new job you’ve just been promoted to?” “Well, okay. Yeah, yeah, okay.” “Really? So, tell me more. Any fears, anxieties?” Well, maybe a little bit,” and so by doing a little fishing, you get them to kind of unpack a bit. It requires a bit of empathy and discernment, which would be another podcast.

So then, they share about, “Yeah. I’m actually pretty scared about this new opportunity. Everything, I mean I’ve been successful and all, but somehow this is different. I’m kind of nervous.” Say, “Well, thank you for sharing.” Obviously, honor that vulnerability, and then that’s when you share, “Well, I was in your shoes 15 years ago, and I blew it,” or, “First few days, first few weeks, I couldn’t sleep. It was just awful.” But so, that’s when you know what to share because it directly relates to what they’re going through and maybe you offer some tips. So, that’s really the issue.

If it’s a personal thing that they bring up and you can share something that’s relevant, whether it’s a parent who’s sick, or a marital issue or kids, then that’s relevant. It’s relevant to them not feeling alone, so you will know that when somebody says something, yes, and I’d err on the side of being vulnerable. But it has to be you have to do soul searching. Is it relevant to what the person is bringing up, what the team is bringing up, and am I doing it for their needs or to meet my needs? That’s really the two questions you want to ask is is it relevant to what’s being shared, and is it to meet my needs or their needs? And if it’s for their needs and it’s relevant to the issue, then go ahead and share.

Yeah.

You don’t need to be worried at that point because then you’re okay.

And it worked out perfectly. That is the perfect place to begin our descent to land the plane on this very, very, very interesting conversation. What is a parting thought, Warwick, that you’d like to leave listeners with to sort of wrap up what we’ve talked about here? At the end of that, I want to tell them about an exciting new opportunity where they and their teams can actually explore some vulnerability together. But on this whole subject, what’s the bottom line that you want to emphasize for them so that they have their chief takeaway?

Going back to that dictionary definition that made it seem like being vulnerable means to be weak, being a sucker as you put it from one of those definitions. I think I, we beg to disagree as I think vulnerability done right, which is for a purpose focused on helping your team, is a sign of strength. It’s actually a sign of inner self-confidence. Those that pretend to be never made a mistake, that’s often a sign of insecurity. When you’re secure within yourself, when you’re confident within who you are, you don’t mind people seeing the authentic real you that’s has doubts and fears, that’s made mistakes.

Because back to what we’ve just spoken in earlier podcasts your self-worth isn’t bound up with your failures and mistakes. It’s bound up with who you are as a person from a faith perspective, God. We’re created by God, but I think we have beauty in just an inherent humanity.

So, bottom line is I think by being vulnerable, it is a sign of security. It is a sign of self-confidence, and frankly, it helps other team members feel not alone. They can be willing to take risks of being vulnerable can actually help the organization be more successful.

Absolutely.

So, don’t be afraid of it. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s actually a sign of deep inner strength.

And that is the sound, listener, of the plane landing. Warwick has landed the plane perfectly, and I have some exciting news where you can practice some of this vulnerability that we’ve been talking about right now. At crucibleleadership.com, we have just debuted. It’s just days ago when you’re hearing this. We’ve just debuted what we’re calling the Life of Significance Assessment, and what that will do, you answer a handful of questions 10, 15 if that many questions very not a long thing. Take you five minutes to finish it. You answer those questions, and what you will get back is where you are on the journey to come back from a crucible experience. If you’ve had a crucible experience, what you might learn from that crucible experience, what are some things you can dig into to make the most of learning how you’re designed and how to cast your vision, how to make your vision a reality?

It will also tell you in addition to sort of mapping out where you are on the journey, it will give you a profile of who you are as you’re taking that journey. And there’s some very interesting profiles that our team has created based on the answers to the questions, individually tailored to you. One of them, maybe you’re what we call a world changer. Maybe you’re what we call an imagineer.

If you take this assessment at crucibleleadership.com, at the bar at the top of the page, it’ll say, “Assessment,” click on that and take the Life of Significance Assessment to see where you are on your journey to a life of significance, to see if you’ve had crucibles, to see how you’ve handled those crucibles, to see how you can handle those crucibles better. Lots of insight that will really help you in moving forward.

And here’s where the vulnerability part comes in. Take the assessment with the team at work. If you’re a leader, have your team take the assessment. If you’re one member of the team, suggest to your boss, “Hey. Let’s take this assessment together. Let’s take an afternoon to do an off-site and talk about where we’re all at on this journey to a life of significance.”

As you talk about the things, the questions, that are on that assessment result will help you with vulnerability. They’re prompts to help you be vulnerable for a purpose, to help you move forward, and help other people move forward. So, we encourage you to take the Life of Significance assessment at crucibleleadership.com, and then give us some feedback. There’s a feedback form on the website. Send us your feedback on what you thought about the Life of Significance Assessment because really, you’ll be one of the first people who will have a chance to take it, and why not use it as an opportunity to practice vulnerability with your teams?

Speaking of practicing vulnerability with your teams, here’s three big takeaways, 30,000-foot to complete the airplane metaphor. 30,000-foot takeaways from Warwick and I, the discussion that we just had. Number one, Warwick ended on this point. Vulnerability is not weakness. It’s not nakedness as that definition says. It does not make you a sucker as dictionary.com defined vulnerability as. It makes you human. It makes you relatable. People trust people they relate to. They trust people who are fellow travelers, who’ve been through the hard times and similar hard times that they’ve been through. Your teams will be empowered by your purposely shared vulnerability.

Second point. Think of the teachable moments. We’ve all said that. “Well, this is a teachable moment.” Think of teachable moments as vulnerability moments. I’ll say it again. Think of teachable moments that crop up in your workday, in your every day as vulnerability moments. Show empathy, understanding, and have a point, a point that will create community, that will help the person you’re telling with a crucible. Whether it’s a crucible that’s to come, inoculating them, or it’s a crucible that’s already happened, helping them be treated to get beyond that crucible. And this is key when you’re choosing what to share, do not gossip about yourself. That’s one of the ways you make sure you have a point.

And the third point that we can share is vulnerability is a tool as Warwick very, very wisely said, but it’s not going to solve every issue. Use it with care. Use it intelligently. Use it intentionally and do not forget that there are other tools in your toolbox and that employing all those tools, using all those tools are the things that are going to help you lead your team to the best place that you can lead your team.

Well, this has been a great discussion, Warwick, and I want to thank you, listener, for spending time with us. As I said, you can go to crucibleleadership.com to find out more about Crucible Leadership. You can sign up there for Warwick’s regular email updates on what’s going on at Crucible Leadership. I’m going to let you say this, Warwick. I mean I’ll ask you this. It’s a pretty exciting time at Crucible Leadership right now, isn’t it?

Oh, it is. I mean really between the assessment and the book that’s coming out, Crucible Leadership, next year. I mean the podcast, a lot of super exciting things are happening. Absolutely.

Yeah. Speaking of the baldness I talked about earlier, if I had hair, it would be on fire because we’re working hard at Crucible Leadership for you.

Well said.

So, drop by crucibleleadership.com. Sign up for the regular updates on what’s going on, and until the next time that we’re together on Beyond the Crucible, remember this. That your crucible experiences are painful. They can be traumatic. You’ve heard the discussions on this very podcast of people who have gone through truly traumatic, painful, life changing things, but the good news. They’re not the end of your story. There’s hope beyond the crucible. There is healing beyond the crucible, and that’s what we’re here for.

So, remember that as painful as it is right now, it’s not the end of your story. As we’ve said before, a crucible is not a period at the end of the sentence that is your life. It’s a comma, and you get to write what comes after that. And what can come after that if you learn the lessons of your crucible and you apply them in your life, if you’re vulnerable enough with yourself to learn the lessons that that crucible is trying to teach you, the next chapter of your life can be the most rewarding chapter of your life. And the reason that that is true is because that chapter leads you to a life of significance.

Leave a Comment