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Vulnerability in leadership has been in vogue for ages and scholars agree it is a key ingredient in psychological safety. But how can we set about being authentic and “human” in a practical way?

What does it mean to be vulnerable in practice?

🎯 Vulnerability begins with showing you have no need to believe in or project a vision that you are perfect.

Sending this message can be more actionable than you think.

  • Discuss your emotions such as your general mood or response to tasks and changes in the workplace. And yes, be honest when someone asks, “How are you?”!
  • Talk about the parts of yourself you want to work on.
  • Openly share your views… especially if you suspect they are unpopular ones.

Of course, vulnerability is not just wearing your heart on your sleeve.

The second part to vulnerability is inviting others in and allowing them to help you be better. A great way to do this is through regular feedback.

Unfortunately, feedback is stigmatized in most teams. Who wants to the bearer of bad news… or be the subject of it!?

🎯 To create a shift in mindset around feedback, develop and share a common language, process, and habit around giving, receiving and making use of feedback.
Here’s what should go in your basic feedback guidelines.

  1. How and when to ask for feedback
  2. How to give feedback. Are there any phrases that your team responds to better than others?
  3. How to turn feedback into actions (if necessary)
  4. How and when to revisit feedback. Do you do a roundup of “things we’ve learned” each week? Does the recipient of the feedback send around an example of how they’ve put feedback into action for a wider review…?

Your actions for this week

✅ When you’re next speaking in a group, mention a negative emotion you had in response to something work or life-related. It doesn’t have to be very “heavy”, just say what you felt, how you moved past it and your reflection on the experience.

✅ Share basic guidelines for how to give feedback in your team. Cover the four ingredients above and give relevant examples of what putting them into practice will look like. If you already have a feedback framework in place, review it and discuss examples of how you could better use it.

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The bottom line:

Building vulnerability isn’t so fluffy after all. First, be human and send the message you are imperfect – and okay with it. Then, you can grow a culture of feedback by creating and enacting shared basic guidelines.

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