Are You Tough Enough for Vulnerability Based Leadership?

Become a better sales coach and sales manager today.

What does it take to be truly authentic? How would your life and career change if you became fearless? Vulnerability is the path to becoming invincible. Discover how you can become more powerful than you could ever imagine.

8-Steps to Creating a Coaching Culture by Keith Rosen
Whether at work or at home, becoming a more powerful leader than you ever imagined will not be achieved through training, further skill development, a better coaching system, a better product or service, or even a better team of salespeople. And to become an invincible manager takes vulnerability. It requires you to become truly vulnerable. However, it’s important to keep in mind my definition of vulnerability, which I share below.

The number one issue within the workplace is lack of trust, specifically between management and staff. A Maritz Poll states, “Only twelve percent of employees strongly agreed that their companies’ leaders were completely ethical and honest. Only seven percent strongly agreed that the actions of senior leaders were completely consistent with their words.

In every interaction; in every conversation; you are either building trust – or eroding it.

The cornerstone of any worthwhile relationship is trust. Trust is the mortar that binds any relationship, and if diluted, will affect the integrity of the relationship. Without trust, you have nothing to build on that could be sustained over time. And you are certainly not able to create a healthy coaching relationship without trust. Contrary to the opinion of some managers, there are no tools, incentives, compensation packages, or strategies that can compensate for any lack of trust in a relationship.

The only way to build trust is to let go of your need to be invulnerable or perfect. That is, to actually allow yourself to be vulnerable.

Embrace Your Humanity

Now, when I suggest making yourself vulnerable, I’m certainly not expecting any of you to start driving without your seat-belts, leaving your front door unlocked, abandoning your goals, making yourself look stupid in any way, or verbally sharing every thought that pops into your head, which could result in swift removal from your current position. I’m not suggesting you do anything that is going to put you or someone else in harm’s way.

The type of vulnerability I am suggesting encompasses who you are and what you can do to cultivate a safe environment to earn trust, to build trust, to reinforce trust, and to demonstrate trust within your company and among your sales team. There are more obvious ways to go about building trust, such as:

  • Honoring your word
  • Following through with your commitments
  • Being consistent with your approach to managing, coaching, and communicating
  • Being respectful and supportive of the other person’s opinion, ideas and points of view
  • Ensuring alignment of shared goals in every conversation
  • Consistently being mindful of the law of reciprocity
  • Setting or re-setting expectations when needed

While these are all healthy practices that build trust, they will only take you so far. To build a culture of trust and the type of trust that carries teams on to win the championship as well as develops the type of loyalty that’s unshakable and deep,  is through vulnerability. And that requires managers to demonstrate their vulnerability in front of their direct reports. Ultimately, it requires the manager to be human.

The development of a high-performance, long-lasting team depends on the ability of the manager and the team to be vulnerable. The core intentions is to encourage a deeper connection to one another. Vulnerability-driven trust allows people to more comfortably and confidently share their mistakes, failures, challenges, feelings, and concerns that are often kept bottled up inside for fear that expressing them will be misinterpreted as a sign of weakness. And when shared, those team players quickly realize they are not alone, as they often share the same fears, goals and challenges as their peers.

Show me a manger who embraces her humanity and expresses her vulnerabilities, and I will show you a fearless manager who is invincible.

When salespeople possess the unshakable belief in their manager that their intentions are sound with no hidden agenda, the salespeople do not need to feel guarded or protective around their manager or even around their team. This promotes a stronger feeling of trust, knowing that their vulnerabilities will not be used against them in any way and instead will become a conduit for their own continued development.

Exercise The Law of Reciprocity

While it may sound counter-intuitive, being vulnerable does not equate to weakness but to greater strength. Keep in mind that in order to develop a team built on vulnerability-driven trust, the vulnerabilities need to be shared by both management and your people. However, in order to develop this level of trust, it is the manager who must model and encourage this vulnerability-based behavior first. You can’t expect your salespeople to show any vulnerability (based on their past experiences) until their manager shows that it is, in fact, safe for them to do so. As such, the law of reciprocity ensues. That is, if I do or say something first that may be risky to demonstrate it’s safe to do, then you’ll be more open to doing the same.

The most powerful leaders are the ones who are willing to risk losing face in front of their team in order to encourage an atmosphere where their people would be willing to take the same risks themselves. Of course, your display of vulnerability must be genuine and authentic or you will risk losing the trust that may have already been present. When you notice your salespeople finally beginning to model your behavior, it is critical to the emerging culture you are looking to create that vulnerability is not to be punished and the sharing of any weakness, problem, or failure does not result in any type of consequence.

Even with all of your good intentions, chastising or even making fun of someone else’s admissions of failure or declaration of a personal shortcoming or weakness will discourage trust. This needs to be handled in a more appropriate and empowering way, and often best done one to one, rather than in front of the group.

Vulnerability-driven trust is not something that can be achieved in a matter of days but requires a long-term commitment to turning around an existing culture. This will be achieved over time through repeatable shared experiences, structured exercises and activities, meetings, and most important, the continual modeling by managers of the level of trust and vulnerability that they want their team to emulate.

Once achieved, the byproduct is a cohesive team focused on a shared goal that everyone benefits from.

Photo Credit: Keith Nerdin