The Delicate Balance of Vulnerability - Part III: Just Right

The stoic, stiff-upper-lip generation gave us really bad advice when they taught us never to show weakness. Unfortunately, some of the huggy-lovey people talking about “authenticity” today are giving equally bad advice. Time for some balance!

In this three-part series I’m exploring the role vulnerability plays in team effectiveness. In the first post, I shared the risks of showing too little vulnerability. In the second, I focused on what happens when you appear too vulnerable. Today, I’ll share some examples of how the right expressions of vulnerability can bolster trust and enhance team relationships. 

Part III: Just Right

Vulnerability is a powerful source of connection between people. Although for decades it was seen as inappropriate to express vulnerability at work, we are finally appreciating the benefit of a healthy dose of honest humanity among teammates.

Too little vulnerability can make you seem aloof and reduce the likelihood that your teammates will have your back. Too much vulnerability and the team might try to disassociate with you because you seem like a weak link. The magic is to get it just right.

The secret lies in having confidence in your worth and then being willing to share when circumstances rattle that confidence.

“I’m not sure how to respond to the way our marketplace is changing.”
“Our new team leader’s communication style is really different from mine - it’s hard to adjust.”
“I’m struggling to stay focused today because of a personal issue.”

Interpersonal issues are also great opportunities to show your vulnerability:

“I feel like we got off on the wrong foot, can we start over?”
“I don’t feel like I’m living up to your expectations, can we go over what you’re trying to achieve?” “I feel like I’m frustrating you, what could I do differently?”

Appropriate expressions of vulnerability are ones that demonstrate your humility and your willingness to get help from your teammates. They don’t detract from your ownership of the issues.  

The best teams are the ones where team members are confident in their roles AND willing to open up about their concerns and doubt. No Teflon people. No wimps. Just right.