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Why Being Vulnerable is Good for Business

July 5, 2012

I once attended a meeting where a professional services firm was making a pitch to help my company work through a certain business issue.

They had prepared a little presentation to introduce their firm and set up the discussion. As the first power point slide went up on the screen, I could not believe what bullet point number three said:

  • We will be vulnerable with you

I knew instantly what this guy was thinking: by being vulnerable with us, by sharing his own company’s foibles and dirty laundry, we would then want to share more of our company’s problems, too.

Which we did.

Once he learned more about our struggles, guess what? He was better able to offer solutions that his firm could help us solve through their services. It brought the business relationship to an entirely new level.

 Vulnerability builds credibility – and then trust.

And in case you were wondering, the meeting lasted four hours.

Everyone loves a good failure – especially when it belongs to someone else. Probably because it reminds us we are not alone in our terror, and our situation is really not so bad after all. It diminishes the power the threat of failure can hold over us.

By being vulnerable first, we make it okay for everyone else to be vulnerable with each other. And that’s when good spiritual work can begin to happen – even in a business community – once we let go of that shallow, smirking façade of success. How else can we expect anyone to get to that level of real and raw?

Look; we can choose to hide the awful mess going on inside our lives by propping up some kind of shiny image of success. And our meager attempts to fake out everyone around us is, of course, much more appealing than spilling the beans about the wrenching truth: the terrible mistakes we’ve made; the botched relationships; the lost opportunities; all of those times we fell flat to the floor while everyone watched.

But I have grown to appreciate more the people who are not afraid to be transparent, raw, and realistic about the challenges and disappointments they are experiencing; those who can admit that maybe they don’t have all the answers to everything. It makes me want to be real and transparent with them, too. I don’t know how else anyone can expect to develop true relationships.

Plus, it’s a great way to close business.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 5, 2012 8:44 am

    Thank you for posting. This is true, honest, and helpful

  2. July 5, 2012 11:21 am

    So true! I worked for a company several years ago that was more transparent about their mistakes and used it to educate us about what not to do. I learned more from them and still leverage those learnings today.

  3. July 5, 2012 11:46 am

    Camel Jim. Around here, there is plenty of bad news. The first inclination is to hide it — to keep it away from people and concentrate on the shred of good news you might have.

    But you will be found out! Thanks to social communications, there is no dark side to be hidden. So, just get it out of the way … then you can deal with the rest of the story.

  4. July 5, 2012 3:17 pm

    Very well put as usual, J.B. It’s hard to over-emphasize the power and importance of vulnerability. As a very introverted guy, I spent nearly 40 years making it pretty much impossible for anyone to figure out what I was thinking. Then I wrote a book that explores in detail the struggles I had with an anxiety disorder. The whole experience almost gave me vulnerability whiplash. But the response from readers has been amazing, and the way I interact with friends and family has changed much for the better too. Thanks for reminding us why being open and honest (without getting melodramatic or self-absorbed) matters so much.

  5. Dan Black on Leadership permalink
    July 6, 2012 12:47 pm

    I think being vulnerable is an uncommon but important topic. It opens the door to better relationships. Great thoughts and post.

  6. July 7, 2012 10:15 pm

    it is not easy to take off the hard shell of defense that is built up over time.

  7. July 8, 2012 1:35 am

    It is tough to be vulnerable sometimes but I definitely agree that it levels the playing field and makes others want to share.

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