Make Way for Vulnerability

My Dad passed away November 13, 2014 after unexpected kidney failure caused by a response to an embolism. In the five years since his passing, between October 19th and November 15th, (the weeks that remind me of hospitalization, life altering decision making, and funeral planning) there is a grey haze over my normally sunny disposition; it doesn’t prevent me from achieving goals, interacting with others, or laughing at jokes, but there is something that changes about me during that time…and that’s OK.

As a leader, I am comfortable admitting when I’m feeling vulnerable. In my experience, it has helped me build greater trust, communication, and care with those in my circle, personally and professionally.

Every year in early October, I’ve pulled my teams together, and expressed that it is a difficult time for me; I share my Dad’s story, and explain that by no means, will this impact my support for them, or the work that we are collectively doing, but I do want them to know I may behave a bit differently because my soul is sad, not because of anything they have done. I reassure them that my haze doesn’t last forever, and after a few weeks, I will be back to my normal self. My announcement is always met with empathy, and provides me the space I need to “be in my feelings”, but more importantly, it lets my team know that I am one of them; I have pain, joy, and a host of other emotions too. By opening up and trusting them to support me during a difficult time, they realize I will be there for them if and when they go through something similar. My vulnerable moment demonstrates, no matter what, we will get through tough experiences together.

These days, you can’t escape the words “unprecedented”, “uncertain”, and “crisis”; we are constantly being bombarded on the news and social media sites with information about the terrifying acceleration of COVID-19. There is confusion, fear, and very few answers; people around the globe are unsure when the virus’ onslaught will halt the upending of our normal lives, and anxiety has reached a fever pitch. However, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, business must continue.

As a leader, you are probably feeling the need to be strong for you team during this time; that is admirable, but remember, you’re still human, and you ARE allowed to feel. If you’re scared, say so; if you don’t know what the future holds, be honest about that. Your team doesn’t want you to present the situation through rose colored glasses; these are challenging times, and to get through, they need a leader who they can trust to be brave, honest, communicative, flexible, and supportive. We WILL get through this; it’s most likely going to get worse before it gets better, but there will be an end, and when it ends, we will rebuild as a global community, learn from the experience, and innovate to be better prepared for the future.

Vulnerability isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength. Let your team have a glimpse into your “grey haze”; it will help them better understand you, your motivation, and your actions while building trust, empathy, and loyalty. When we let others in, we demonstrate that we truly are #inthistogether.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Lead bravely. Be kind.