I was reminded of the power of vulnerability in communication recently, at my daughter’s 10th birthday.
She has always been ‘upwardly mobile’. As a third child, she often drifts towards older children – no matter how hard I try to ‘redirect’ her. The consequence is that, sometimes, she feels the need to act older than her years. To put up barriers. To play ‘the part’.
This was clear as the girls started to arrive for her birthday sleepover. Within minutes of the first friend arriving, my daughter ran up to me and said, “Mum, I don’t want them in my room”!
“Why not?” I replied.
“Because my dolls are all set up on my bookcase. I don’t want them to see my dolls”.
No matter how hard I tried to reassure her that they probably all loved dolls too – she would not let it go. So, I reluctantly helped her sweep them into a box, safely out of sight.
That night I was lucky enough to overhear a rich and wonderful discussion between the girls…about Barbies. “I actually love my Barbies”, the oldest girl announced. “I have loads of them. And I love doing their hair and dressing them up. I don’t care what anyone thinks”.
I could hear the collective sigh of relief throughout the room. They all smiled at each other. Laughed and agreed, before starting an open and honest discussion about their favourite dolls.
The next morning my daughter’s dolls were returned to her shelves, and the girls played freely and happily.
Magic, right – that because one child had been brave enough to be open and honest with the group, they were all able to be open and honest with each other.
This is so often the case in business discussions. We all have internal walls. Barriers we have developed to ‘play the part’. Walls that built around our own insecurities. Are we smart enough? Are we experienced enough? Are we good enough?
When you as a leader are brave enough to let those walls down and share your own vulnerabilities, you encourage connection. You create an environment where people are able to communicate in an honest and powerful way, without the walls.
The ability to share vulnerability in an appropriate and authentic way is not a weakness. It is a superpower.
Stop presenting. Start talking.