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Vulnerability in Business: Why “airing out our personal garden” opens us up to our greatness

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They say that when you in business, every day must appear as if you are in Disney World. It’s a magical place of dreams.

I think that’s only partially true. While there is no doubt that customers are drawn to the “seemingly perfect and impossible,” they are also quite weary of it. All of us human beings are imperfect. Society breeds pressure to pretend. And while the vision of everyone walking the streets “bare chested with their problems in view” is a laughable idea, I submit that moving closer to vulnerability moves us closer to the dreamy perfection we wish we could attain.

The other night, I was at a Business After Hours Event. I was speaking to a fellow business associate, who I know only casually, about the feeling of overwhelm that another businessperson felt in her job. The reaction I received was surprising and revealing.

Here was the reaction: This is not okay. It is not okay to be overwhelmed, and, it’s certainly not okay to be talking about overwhelm in a business environment. 

I had to do some backpedaling at that point. There was no presentation given about this feeling. This feeling was disclosed to me in a very safe, one to one, business environment. And while we need to be strong and carry on, our vulnerability creates connections with others. Nobody is created in the plastic perfectness that is Disney. Opening up our imperfections is the first step to greatness. To become a true leader and grow professionally and personally we must hold true to the “A” in the ABC’s of Productivity, “Accept Your Reality.” What does this mean to you? What is that nagging feeling unappreciated at work? Not heard; invisible? Do you worry that if you speak up you may not be respected for being too “weak?”

Think for a moment about a leader you admire. Does this person have any servant qualities? Does he or she laugh at herself? Does he or she share mistakes made and lessons learned? The leaders I can think of in this realm are: Jesus Christ, Barack Obama, Thomas Jefferson, Mother Teresa, and my mentor coaches, Melinda Cohen and Kate Steinberger.

Strong and vibrant companies and organizations are made of committed, fulfilled, and strong individuals. When each person, each cog on the gear is willing to take a good look at how he/she might use their strengths for the good of the team, and transparently share the places in which he/she is less strong, they open up to learning and growing. The team binds together in a more cohesive manner. Productivity increases. Happiness results. Profits grow.

Conversely, when we ignore the warning signs of overwhelm, burnout, antiquated systems, etc., we run the risk of crashing and burning. I had a client, a business owner, who ignored this for too long and the company went bankrupt. Luckily, the owners of this company were able to downsize and re-tool their business, and come back stronger than ever. Along the way, though, it meant becoming transparent and vulnerable. It was scary to be “weak.” The rewards, however, continue to surpass their wildest dreams.

What will you be open to this spring? It’s time to air out so that new growth can take hold and flourish.

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