• jeffreypkiplinger

Radical Vulnerability in Business

I've been trying to write a post on the value of, or need for, personal vulnerability in business for a year, and I haven't found a hook. Maybe this is enough.

I keep thinking about the business leaders I knew through the 2008-2010 recession, and the times we talked about our deep fears in a time when it looked like clients might remain frozen like deer in headlights for longer than we could keep our companies afloat.

I keep thinking about Dr. Brené Brown's game-changing TED talk and the Netflix special that grew out of it, and how it helped frame conversations with my friends and family.

I think about the fear scientists often feel when they want to offer an unsupported opinion or an off the wall idea, and how their peers sometimes exploit that fear to shut them down. Edie Stringfellow at MassBio wrote a nice piece on this aspect of the culture of biotech that you can read here.

I think about my wife and her patience with my own struggles to admit to fear or the (pointless) shame of not knowing something. The year before we married was the worst of the recession: 2009 was terrible for business owners like me, but she helped me face my fear of failure, and in doing so I moved past it into courage and success.

I talk about this action - willingly facing fear to move past it, acknowledging our vulnerability - with business owners more and more often these days. I think we're entering a time when this conversation is more possible than ever before. Vulnerability is not the same as weakness, it's an essential step to courage and conquering.

Entrepreneurs take great risks, and with risks come fear, and shame of fear. Being vulnerable is the beginning of building stronger relationships, teams, and companies. It's asking stupid questions, seeing your strengths more clearly in contrast to your weaknesses, trusting to receive trust in return. Finally, it's about seeing ourselves clearly and being seen, which gives us the strength and courage to be our best.

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