I saw these people painting our apartment building. The person who is painting, sits on a hanging bench and he communicates with his colleague who is holding the rope from the top. The question I asked was “How vulnerable are they with their lives“?
It was a training session and it was time for one of my team members to give his presentation. I told him to focus on only 3 slides as the key messages were in that slide. I was confident that he will just follow what I had told him. In the next 30 minutes he rocked and every one was in awe. I too enjoyed the way he did the presentation and engaged the audience and also build a good rapport. A lot of people complimented him and said that it was one of the best presentations. As he came down to sit next to me, I told him ” I am sorry, I was wrong with my inputs“. He made the presentation from start to finish in the same order and that was very appropriate for the context. Sometimes as leaders we tend to micro manage and miss the larger impact. He shared his story so beautifully that I was able to learn a lot of things from his presentation.
It was the middle of the week. I had just registered for a personal development webinar for the coming Saturday night. In fact, I was very happy until up to the point when my wife mentioned that we have to go for a dinner that same Saturday and almost around the same time. My first reaction was of anger and the immediate words that came out of my mouth was “why don’t you three go for the dinner as I have just registered for this WebEx?” I knew I had it. In the ensuing moments I was going through all those mixed feelings. It started with losing an opportunity to learn from the WebEx to annoying my family by not being there for dinner. I was in that torture chamber that we call uncertainty. This is when I discovered the hack of taking a walk, doing a deep breath and then reframing.
I went and told my wife that I will join. Before she could ask (I do not know she would have asked) I told her that the WebEx recording will be available and hence I will see that later. The best part was I explained to my wife how I flipped the dialogue within myself and then chose to decide to be with the family. I figured that it was only possible as I explained to her because of something which I am cultivating as an ” Antifragile ” ego. I am learning that if you build your self-esteem around being right all the time you will stick to your position. But if you are flipping your ego around “what is right” then you will define the way forward and create a win – win. Yes, I went through the recording few days later and it felt good. Embracing this episode made me realize that I was very vulnerable when I went up to my wife and told her that ” I will join.”
To me from those personal incidents where I said, “I will join for dinner with all” to “I am sorry, I was wrong with my inputs” made me realize that once you express those feelings from that “Uncertainty chamber” inside you, you are vulnerable. I was hanging by the rope of my own ego and I was holding my own pride. Once you leave that rope to others, like the person sitting on the hanging bench, you build safety with the other person. The person holding the rope is equally vulnerable. In fact, shared vulnerability will increase the communication channel (Up & Down in the case of painters). The final outcome is to establish a purpose.
Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to speak for a minute on vulnerability. I spoke about the Vulnerability spectrum, citing shades of the above examples and from my life. I said, the vulnerability spectrum is about how you are calibrating yourself without fear and putting yourself out every time. I shared how I had to make changes in my mind during one of the conference calls from ” I should be right ” to make a shift to “what is right.” I also shared an incident when my whole team wanted to hear from me, the solution to a problem and I said, “I do not know, let us ask Mr. X”. After the session, around 5 people came up to me and asked me to share some more of these vulnerability examples in some detail. ” Vulnerability is a good audience connector“.
The other day a friend of mine asked me “What do you think? Am I vulnerable”. I was not sure how to respond. So, I took a chance and said, ” I don’t think so.” I then went on to explain how one can judge if they are vulnerable. Some of the cues you can look for are things like sharing an unpopular opinion, standing up for yourself, asking for help, Saying No as shared by Brene Brown.
Brene Brown says in the book “Daring Greatly” that when it was time for her TED conference in Long beach, she desperately wanted to see a talk that she could copy or use as a template. The talks that resonated with her strongly, didn’t follow a format. They were just genuine. She said,” I’d have to be vulnerable and open. I need to walk away from my script and look people in the eye. This meant to me that I’d have to be me.”