Norton: Vulnerable and transparent, and the courage to be both
The team-building event was held at Top Golf. The vice president of sales was reluctant to have the meeting there as he had never played golf and didn’t want to embarrass himself. His team convinced him that he could just join them and not have to worry about playing or swinging a club.
As the night went on, the team did everything they could to get their boss to step up and give it a try. There were others on the team that were in the same spot, having played very little or never. Men and women took their turns embarrassing themselves with awkward attempts to hit that little white ball. In the end, the vice president of sales chose to keep his dignity intact and did not take his turn amongst the team.
Having spoken with some of the salespeople and the VP of sales privately, I heard mixed opinions about the decision not to join the group. Some thought it showed poor leadership in not being vulnerable enough to laugh at yourself and have a little fun with your team as there were more hacks trying to hit the ball than there were any good golfers.
When I asked the VP of sales why he chose not to try, he was completely transparent with me, sharing that he just didn’t want to embarrass himself. He felt he was being open and vulnerable to his team as well as sharing with them the very reason he chose to stay in the background. It was a bit of a shame because sometimes it’s OK to show humility among our teams and peers.
Two of the words that we hear often when it comes to expectations of leadership, and really people in any role, are vulnerability and transparency. We no longer must have all the answers or pretend that we do. We no longer have to be perfect or pretend that we are. Maybe the world we live in places that kind of pressure on some of us, and the stress of that pressure can drive us further away from finding the ability to be vulnerable and transparent.
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Last week I wrote about courage and discretion, and when we should exercise both. What I am sharing here is a different kind of courage, the courage to be open to failure, being brave enough to take a swing at a golf ball with our team when we have never played the game before, and being daring enough to admit we don’t have the answers right now but will work hard to find them.
Some of the most courageous people I have met have also been the most transparent and vulnerable. Being grounded in honesty and integrity provides them with the strength they need to be vulnerable and transparent. Looking at failure and saying, “So what,” positions them to achieve greater things in life as they move past those mistakes, learning from each one.
One of the synonyms for courage is audacity. Sometimes when we hear the word audacity we think of a negative connotation. Thinking things like, “The audacity of that person.” I like to think of audacity in the positive sense, having the audacity to be courageous in the face of possible embarrassment, to have audacious bravery to own our decisions and our mistakes. To be audacious in the way that we can laugh with others while we laugh at ourselves.
This week you may be asked to do something uncomfortable, something completely outside of your swing zone or comfort zone. And if you are, I hope you will make the decision to audaciously pursue the opportunity. We all learn in different ways, and one way that I know we learn the best is by getting knocked off balance. So take the chance, say, “So what,” and watch how your vulnerability and transparency endear others to you. As always, I would love to hear your story at firstname.lastname@example.org and when we can show courage in ourselves during moments of vulnerability, it really will be a better-than-good life.
Michael Norton is an author, a personal and professional coach, consultant, trainer, encourager, and motivator of individuals and businesses, working with organizations and associations across multiple industries.