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Simple Solutions: Musings on Vulnerability in the Workplace

I can’t tell if it’s for my own personal development, or motivated by my recent professional leap of faith and the accompanying fear birthed by such a stomach-flipping jump, but I’ve been spending some time with Brene’ Brown lately. Not literally, (although I’m available Brene’ if you were curious), but in her research - namely Daring Greatly, the iconic New York Times Bestseller and go-to for just about anyone trying to “figure things out.”

Brown’s entire portfolio of research is rooted in the science, complexity, and opportunity of vulnerability. As a soapbox believer in the power of vulnerability, she doesn’t have to spend a lot of time convincing me of the value. She had me at the foreword. However, in this latest plunge into her work, I find myself focusing on two concepts; first, the fact that vulnerability is incredibly powerful in business, and second, in practice, being vulnerable, as a person or professional, is actually quite simple.

Throughout my career, I’ve spent a lot of time as a consultant, public representative, corporate representative, and a few things in between. Over 15 years, I’ve spent countless hours in meetings discussing strategies, operational efficiencies, processes, metrics, you name it. In many of those instances, we managed to over-complicate the simple stuff and actually ignore some of the harder things. I’m not arguing that processes and KPI’s aren’t important, but the strategy around important business topics does not have to be overly complicated.

I’d suggest that, based on my own experience and years of research complements of people like Brene Brown, complicated issues do not have to equal even more complicated solutions. Power and creativity often come from the most genuine, real place. As executives, leaders, team members, colleagues, we can and should have straightforward, vulnerable conversations. This practice alone not only leads you immediately to operational efficiency – less of the “gobbledygook” and more substance – but also lays the foundation for more authentic, connected relationships. As we see the trickle down, and slightly ironic, impact of digital disconnection, finding ways to connect, internally and externally, is that much more important and vital to the performance of a business.

Vulnerability is the backbone of connection, and while embracing this concept is certainly scary, in practice, it’s actually very simple. Authenticity in the workplace should be prioritized over automation. While automation sure is tempting, it’s not the answer for connecting with your team or your clients, and can actually be the quickest way to inadvertently end a relationship before it even gets started.

In my sales communication trainings, I always pull up a redacted sales email I received once. Anyone would agree the note was tone deaf, impersonal, cheesy, and scored very high on the creepy scale. I responded so negatively to the “pitch,” that even if whatever they were selling was interesting, I would never give them the time of day and now their email will serve as a perpetual poster child for what not to do in my small professional world. Why did I respond so badly? Because they prioritized automation over authenticity and their inability to allow for their own vulnerability made me that much more protective of mine.


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