Can We Be Intentional About Bringing Vulnerability Into the Workplace?

Brene Brown's work (Daring Greatly and Shame Research) has resonated with thousands (maybe even millions by now.) What is so inspiring for me is that it's resonating with my clients. VP's of Fortune 50 companies are asking themselves, "how do we allow for more vulnerability at work and ensure that we are building a shame free culture?"

Our bookshelves are stocked with 10 step processes on how to do things at work. But there is no ten step process on how to build a culture that allows for vulnerability. So how do you begin?

Well, the courageous leaders I've had the privilege to work with start with intention. They have a belief and passion for building and fostering a culture that allows people to express vulnerability without shame or judgment.

And after that, they start to talk about it with others. They design intentional conversations with their direct reports about the topic of vulnerability in the workplace. They share stories of their own experience with vulnerability. They are committed to becoming more self aware about their own fears around vulnerability. They are committed to efforts to increase emotional intelligence and self awareness in themselves and all they work with. And they're committed to understanding and eliminating any unconscious behaviors or structures, including performance metrics and appraisal processes, that could instill shame or fear in the workplace.

And then, they keep talking about it. They bring the conversation into town hall meetings. Into off-site meetings. Into coaching conversations. They intentionally design conversations to allow people to share why it's hard to be vulnerable at work. To name the structures and messages that get in the way and can make employees feel shame.

And as they listen; they become more aware of the ways to make more space for vulnerability. And they work at creating more space and removing the obstacles that get in the way.

Ultimately they know that if they foster this kind of culture; it will allow more innovation and creativity to emerge. And yes, they could put a metric or ROI to it. But they don't. They just know it's the right thing to do and are vulnerable enough to lead the charge without a measurement or return.

My experience in working with these leaders and organizations has been career (and life) changing for me. They inspire me to be authentic every day in my own consulting practice and allow me to be "me" when I'm with them. They were by my side when my mother recently died and I broke down in front of them. They were by my side when I got married and transitioned into a new phase of life. And they're right by my side when I share my fears about leaving my 88 year old father for a move across the country; my first move in my entire life.

"A journey of a thousand steps starts with the first." I believe it's possible to create a shame free culture that allows people to be vulnerable and authentic. And all it needs is a seed of genuine intention.