Showing vulnerability and sharing feelings do not always feel comfortable in our highly performing business environments. And yet, vulnerability and empathy combined are a one-way ticket to expressing the truest and most authentic part of ourselves, our deepest nature, our aspirations, the very best of ourselves and ultimately connect truly with others. As managers, we absolutely need this true connection with others to create performance, innovation, inspiration and empowerment. What does it mean for you to show-up being vulnerable and empathetic?
Key 1 – Daring our vulnerability
Showing vulnerability is the best way of showing others that they can also afford to be vulnerable. It is a great way to build relationships and trust with others.
Being vulnerable requires us to let go of our desire to be right or to achieve perfection. Many leaders believe that they must always have an answer for everything and therefore cannot be wrong or leave a question unanswered. This undue pressure on themselves prevents them from being vulnerable and, even worse, prevents team members from being accountable for themselves, both as individuals and as a team.
How does our egos get in the way of being vulnerable?
How can you explore showing more vulnerability with your employees?
Vulnerability can be manifested through emotions, but more than anything through transparency. A manager might admit that they do not have an answer for everything, they can make mistake, they need others, they have strengths and weaknesses, fears and doubts. By allowing yourself to be vulnerable and imperfect you open-up to genuine relationships with others.
I interviewed my friend Jan Fryderyk Pleszczynski who is Interim CEO at Dare To Care Records, PREVIOUSLY President and CEO at 4U2C Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group on this topic. I know empathy is a core value to his leadership. While he is integrating into a new organization in this challenging covid-19 context, working remotely, he is showing how he can be vulnerable when humble. He says: ‘A huge dose of humility would be part of the recipe if there is one to integrating a new leader role in this context. It takes a lot of humility. Also, being mindful about your mood, your attitude, what you project, what you are bringing at the table, communicating well and being super transparent are very important. Being in a supportive mode is a key ingredient’’.
Brené Brown suggests that we see vulnerability as a sign of strength and courage rather than weakness. A way to be completely ourselves, completely human, and, inspiring for our teams.
Key 2- Empathy: So Powerful!
I strongly believe we must abandon the old paradigm about the importance “emotional distance” from colleagues and employees; let us replace it with a comfort in exposure-emotion, because it allows for authentic expression.
Empathy is another ‘’must’’ to build genuine relationship with others.
I found that researchers at Development Dimensions International 12 (DDI) concluded through a study that, for predicting future success, that empathy was the top leadership quality. According to their research, managers who listen and respond with empathy perform over 40% better when it comes to engaging others, planning, decision-making, coaching and overall performance. Are you surprised?
Jan believes empathy is very powerful when genuine. ‘’In our actual context, empathy is most important than ever. The workforce is evolving, transforming, changing, it has expectations that are different than it used to be. I don’t’ think there is a recipe to empathy or authenticity, although you need to genuinely care to the right level of extent. I am not sure if empathy is a skill set or something you need to go deep down to have access to’’.
Interesting perspective! I actually believe that empathy should become a recognized and sought-after skill for any leader and business. As a manager, as a team, conversing and intervening with empathy allows to better understand people, problems, issues, and dynamics. Empathy leads to more active listening and problem solving. And, the emotions of our colleagues, our employees, and our clients are an important source of information that is just as critical as factual analysis and figures for better grasping a situation. It broadens and complements any understanding of a business environment.
How might you increase your level of empathy?
What could be the impact?
I suggest you practice your empathy through a role playing exercise. Next time you plan to express your opinion to a colleague, try putting yourself in their shoes. Perceive the message in their place. How do you feel? From there, how can you adapt your message?
Finally, I invite you to think of your role as a leader. Your role is not to “do it all” by yourself. Your true role is to connect with others to be able to better delegate and support them so that all members can realize their potential and maximize their performance while working towards a common goal.
I hope I gave you some food for thought!
As always, I invite you to be inspired and inspire!
President-founder of o2coaching, Author, Speaker and Coach