THURSDAY THOUGHTS: Make Way for Vulnerability

My Dad passed away unexpectedly November 13, 2014 after kidney failure caused by a response to an embolism. In the nine years since his death, 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 this time…and that’s OK.

As a leader, I am comfortable admitting when I’m feeling vulnerable, and 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 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 my haze doesn’t last forever, and after a few weeks, I will be back to my normal self.

The response?

My announcement has always been met with empathy, and provides the space I need to “be in my feelings”, but more importantly, it lets my team know 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 do the same for them if and when they go through something similar. My vulnerable moment demonstrates, no matter what, we will get through tough experiences together.

As a leader, you probably feel the need to be strong for you team during challenging times; 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 situations through rose colored glasses; they need a leader who they can trust to be brave, honest, communicative, flexible, and supportive.

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 we are truly connected.

Why not you?