Recently I've been working on a new initiative with a group of people who don't know each other very well. We've met several times to focus on the project parameters. We've talked about all aspects of what we are intending to do. This week one of the team members showed up feeling discouraged about something that she had just experienced. And because we are all experienced coaches and facilitators when she shared that she wasn't feeling really 'present' we paused to get her to elaborate. We ended up talking about patterns and the things that can really get in the way of our success.
What came out of the discussion was a discussion on vulnerability. We realized that we had spent time talking about our backgrounds, our strengths, our work styles, and many other areas we thought were relevant to the project. We decided that what might possibly make a big difference for us as a team working on a project that we would be continually defining as we moved forward would be talking about our weaknesses.
it remindeded me of an activity I do in team building. It's based on Patrick Lencioni's Five Dysfunctions of a Team. It is the one exercise I've done that consistenlty shifts the way team members see each other. The exercise is very simple. Go around the table and have everyone answer these three questions about themselves:
Where did you grow up?
How many siblings do you have and where do you fall in that order?
Please describe a unique or interesting challenge or experience from your childhood.
It feels awkward at first but as soon as one person risks opening up there is a complete shift for the team.
None of the challenges that I've faced in working with people usually are related to strengths. The things that have presented challenges have been our weaknesses, failings, and vulnerabilities. It was great to share them openly with each other. It created a safe place. It helped us to know ahead of time the areas where we will have to be careful. And sharing them with each other provided some accountability from the outset.
When I shared with the team the areas that I struggle with, it allowed us to have a conversation about how we will handle it when it happens to us. It makes it easier for them to understand why I am upset and what is at the root of it. We can actually act in a way that honours each other.
I don't think this relates to just business and team dynamics. Being vulnerable with each other allows us to understand each other and support each other in all our relationships.
We tend to hide our weaknesses and the places and ways we feel vulnerable. Talking about them has a counter intuitive affect. It actually makes us stronger.
So where do you feel most vulnerable?