Solution Saturday – 10 Ways to Build Vulnerability into Culture

Faking drains, but vulnerability ignites.

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I often encouraged audiences to embrace the power of vulnerability. During the Q&A at a recent presentation one participant asked how to build vulnerability into his organization.

The five functions of leadership from, “The Leadership Challenge,” by Kouzes and Posner, came to mind.

  1. Model the way.
  2. Inspire shared vision.
  3. Challenge the process.
  4. Enable others to act.
  5. Encourage the heart.

If there’s ever a place for leaders to model the way it’s vulnerability. When leaders aren’t vulnerable, everyone wears a mask.

Encourage vulnerability by practicing vulnerability.

5 benefits of vulnerability:

  1. Energy. Self-protective leaders spend their energy maintaining image. It’s draining. Vulnerability enables leaders to spend their energy on energizing others.
  2. Connection. Courage to be seen gives others courage to connect. Vulnerability is an open door for those who wish to connect.
  3. Teamwork. Protective silos block teamwork. Vulnerability breaks silos.
  4. Engagement. People dare to engage when they dare to be themselves.
  5. Transparency. Strong relationships require transparency.

10 ways to build vulnerability into organizational culture:

  1. Extend trust. Trust is given, not earned. The most vulnerable thing a leader does is extend trust.
  2. Practice optimistic transparency. Don’t pretend things are easy when they’re challenging. People won’t trust you if they think you’re faking.
  3. Reject ridicule.
  4. Listen with empathy. When you feel compassion, let it out. Leadership empathy fuels momentum. Don’t use empathy to validate failure or lack of effort.
  5. Speak from your heart. Organizations are filled with talking heads. Leaders of influence speak from the heart.
  6. Honor constructive dissent. Reject whining.
  7. Welcome new ideas and learn from mistakes.
  8. Share what you’re learning. Expose personal ignorance. Say:
    • I never thought of that.
    • I’m learning…
    • I’m reading…
  9. Give credit.
  10. Live by shared values. The fence around safe playgrounds is built of shared values. Call out public violations of shared values.

How might leaders build vulnerability into organizational culture?

What are the benefits/dangers of vulnerability?