“Vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I’m willing to show you. In you, its courage and daring. In me, it’s weakness.”

Vulnerability comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s a feeling of uncertainty – wrapped in a blanket of anxiety and spearheaded by emotional subjection. It’s the feeling of being totally exposed to the world.

Dr Brené Brown, a research professor and author of the #1 New York Times bestselling book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead has spent the last 19 years studying vulnerability, as well as courage, and has become a leading figure in the field. Her research, fuelled by her stiff upper lip upbringing has paved way for discussions surrounding emotion. “I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.”

Vulnerability is about feeling out of control – and stepping out of ones comfort zone. “When we think of times that we have felt vulnerable or emotionally exposed, we are actually recalling times of great courage.” By allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable, you are allowing yourself to grow and develop healthier habits. By running away and giving in to the fear, you are just reinforcing the doubts that build up in your head.

In 2010, Brene Brown hosted a TED Talk entitled The Power of Vulnerability, which has now become one of the most-watched talks on the platform. The talk focuses on the stigma surrounding vulnerability and the importance of shifting it.“What most of us fail to understand…is that vulnerability is also the cradle of the emotions and experiences that we crave. Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy courage, empathy, and creativity.”  Vulnerability takes courage and should be celebrated, not judged or mocked. The sooner one allows themselves to be vulnerable, the sooner they start to grow.

Activities for you and your team

  • In your next team meeting or all hands. Encourage a space of learning with your team members where you discuss reflections on Dr. Brown’s TED talk. Allow your team to share their views on how vulnerability could help them be more productive in their roles. Create an environment where conversations can flow and research is discussed – that way everyone has a chance to learn and evolve.
  • Re-framing constructive feedback through the lens of bias. Check your bias the next time a team member comes to you visibly upset or distressed. Avoid the instinct to jump to conclusions or even go into fixing mode. Allow time for the person to cool off before asking what is wrong, and when you do engage in dialogue listen with compassion. Acknowledge the courage they have shown by being vulnerable.
  • Think about your last 1:1. Have you ever shown your vulnerable side at work? and if so, did you feel supported by your team in that moment? Does the idea of being vulnerable in front of a team scare you? And if so, why is that?

 New habits to make a difference

  1. Listen to Brene Brown’s podcast Unlocking Us or Vulnerable by Allysa Rochelle.
  2. Challenge the stigma behind being vulnerable. Channel the fact that by being vulnerable, you are allowing yourself to learn and grow.
  3. Pick up a copy of Daring Greatly or Dare to Lead by Brene Brown and consider starting a book club / reading group with your team.

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