Is Vulnerability a Strength or a Weakness for an Entrepreneur?

5457121673_2b9ba4f16d.jpg

Does vulnerability get you more trust? One sales/marketing expert says yes.  By Lauryn Ballesteros (Co-founder, S&M)

Most people think that vulnerability is the mushy, daytime TV, heart bleeding story where you share confidential and potentially dramatic details about your personal life. Traditionally, it’s seen as weak, overly emotional and even inappropriate.

But what was once seen as out of place in the business world is now fast becoming necessary to earn trust and credibility with our employees, customers and tribe.

The other day, I sat in a meeting with my team. With each of us scattered all across the country, I contemplated what it takes to build a group of individuals that deeply trust and support one another.

It had been a long couple of months.

Our launch for S&M was approaching and there was [too] much to do. And if I’m going to be really honest, I was exhausted.

I had spent the weekend in Buffalo, partly for my sister’s wedding shower but also to create some head space between the close proximity of the launch and my fast-fleeing peace of mind.

As I sat in my bed in the wee hours of the night breaking down the key points of this very article in my mind, my own message was reflected back to me.

V is for vulnerability — it’s the new wave of leadership.

In that moment, I realized that I had been leading with fatigue and fear. As the tasks piled up on my plate, I was becoming increasingly preoccupied with the numbers of the launch, wondering if we would reach our goal.

While I had good intentions, fearful leadership results in a team that also works from fear (and that is no good).

Fear of making a mistake, fear of being seen as unprofessional and fear of taking chances.

“I know that S&M is a game changer for any student who takes it, but would it be life changing for my team,” I asked myself. “Would they feel accomplished and see the money that they worked so hard for?”

It was then that I was reminded of one of our key beliefs: to release the outcome.

The self-inflicted pressure of needing a lot of money to be seen as successful weighed on my mind, until I chose to speak the truth.

For me, my idea (or truth) was that money as a stand alone metric for success was the wrong metric to pursue. Not that money was bad, but the blind pursuit of dollars in the bank was a futile aim, one that leads to quantity driven decisions over quality driven ones.

And that was not where we were headed. Vulnerability came from me being honest about what truly mattered.

Three ways to be more vulnerable

Each of us has a set of core beliefs that on some level is disruptive.These are the notions that, if shared, you fear would potentially compromise your chance at success and ultimately, acceptance by those around you.

If you share what you really think…

  • Your peers will disagree with you.
  • Clients may not like you anymore.
  • You could be publicly challenged or scrutinized.
  • Your top talent may quit.
  • Or worse yet, you may be fired, ostracized and laughed at!

But here’s the thing.

People don’t trust you if they can’t feel you.

If you’re too distant, you lose the herd. You’ll find yourself at the top of the mountain, alone. And as a founder, CEO or leader of any sort, that is an epic fail.

So how can you be more vulnerable?

1. Speak your truth (even if it isn’t what they want to hear)

If you want others to listen, you must open up to your biggest ideas.

Lean into your edge and adamantly develop and defend your vision for your team, product and customers. Be willing to stand for something!

In my case, we chose to stand for quality. Quality design, quality product and quality experience for our team.

Many times, you’re helping your team see the world, the opportunities before them and themselves in a new light. Your impact goes far beyond the immediate task of product development. Yes, you have that much influence (isn’t it great!).

2. Lead by example

As a founder, you set the tone from day one. Whatever you want to create in others, you need to first create in yourself and within your team dynamics.

Do you want people to show up on time? Show up early.

Do you want people to take risks? Take risks publicly.

Do you want to demonstrate the value of vulnerability? Be vulnerable yourself.

The success of your team isn’t 100% on your shoulders, but the tone and pace that you run at is – so be intentional.

3. Be willing to share the good and the bad

If your team knows you’ve come through hard times before, they are more willing to trust that you can do it this time around too. A lot of business folk, especially entrepreneurs, don’t want to talk about their failures because they think it makes them look bad.

You think you have to be perfect to be accepted. If people knew you made mistakes, then they would reject you. You’d lose your job, your respect and then soon enough you won’t be able to pay the rent.

Your boyfriend will leave you, you’ll get fat and need to move back to Kentucky with Aunt Sue. In the end, you decide it’s probably best that you just hush up and keep acting perfect.

But that’s not real. In fact, people like to hear battle stories. Think of Dos Equis’ The Most Interesting Man in the World. I bet you he has a great story or two. That’s what makes him interesting!

Consider building story telling into the framework of your business. Commend people for sharing their personal triumphs and failures, especially when they help other team members learn. Reward openness as opposed to condemning it.

There’s a new kind of leadership in town and this one’s sharing how she feels.

What do you think? Is vulnerability a good or bad thing in business? Do you want people to be more vulnerable or less? 

This post has been syndicated from Public Beta.

Photo via MartinaYach / Flickr.

laurynAbout the guest blogger: Lauryn is a sales/marketing expert, blogger, and cultural entrepreneur focused on bringing authenticity into everything she touches. She loves Italy, her dog, and a good book on the beach. She just released a free, three part series on how to land your ideal client here. You can follow her @heylaurynbee