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The Importance of Vulnerability in Business

Dr. Brené Brown has led the charge on understanding vulnerability, and the importance of vulnerability in creating better relationships. She feels that the benefits of vulnerability outweigh the risks, and she is not alone in her beliefs. In his popular blog, Mark Manson also praises the merits of vulnerability. He emphasizes that being vulnerable is the key to building better relationships. And as many successful entrepreneurs know, good relationships are at the heart of any business.

So, why is being vulnerable so difficult? “Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It’s tough to do that when we’re terrified about what people might see or think,” says Dr. Brown. This is because many of us grew up in an era when it was considered a flaw to be vulnerable. We were taught to put up shields to protect ourselves from risks. We learned that we had to be tough. However, vulnerability is risky. People can take advantage of us if they know what we are protecting with our armor. Yet even so, scholars suggest that being vulnerable and taking risks is important. This is because risks and vulnerability are inherent in building trust. And trust is a requirement in establishing relationships, even business relationships.

So, How Does Vulnerability Relate to Performance in a Business Environment? 

Business is all about people. Even in the era of the internet and online shopping, the adage still rings true. People do business with people. In a keynote presentation given in 2017, Marcus Lemonis said that, “vulnerability is the key to business, opening yourself up and showing people who you are.” When writing for Inc Magazine, Jacob Morgan stated that, “Vulnerability allows people to connect on a different level, which can lead to increased collaboration, productivity, and cohesiveness.” In an article for Entrepreneur magazine, Angela Kambouris joined in the conversation as well. She wrote, “Vulnerability fuels the strongest relationships and can transform performance to help bring more success to an organization.”

Morgan recognized that there is power in vulnerability as well as risks, especially in the workplace. He wrote, “Vulnerability is still somewhat of a taboo term in many workplaces. However, as more leaders and employees capitalize on their vulnerabilities, workplace environments can become more conducive to real connections.” Vulnerability creates opportunities for individual growth. It also creates the ability to increase trust, engagement, and respect within your group. All of these factors are important for success in the development of a business team. Morgan’s description emphasizes the power of vulnerability concerning leaders, but he was also careful to include employees in his narrative. It is these employees who typically make up the teams within today’s successful businesses.

Teamwork and Business Performance

A famous quote credited to Michael Jordan stated that, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” In his book Trust Factor, Paul Zak said, “Vulnerability is a sign of strength because it signals teamwork rather than dominance.” Study after study cites statistics about high-performing teams being more productive than individuals. The development of top-performing business teams requires the presence of at least two conditions. First, there must be a unifying mission. Second, the members of the team must trust each other.

Trust is the link between team members, and vulnerability is the key. Trust is a requirement of successful teams because of the nature of interdependence. A high-functioning team is a group of people who are dependent upon one another. It’s as simple as that! Without trust, a group of people will never become a high-functioning team, no matter how talented the individuals of the group may be.

If Michael Jordan is right, organizations must develop high-performing teams in order to maximize the organization’s performance. Vulnerability, therefore, is the link to performance. To create a team, a group must form interdependent relationships. To establish these relationships, teams must first develop trust with each other. In order to build trust, individuals must become vulnerable with each other. As Mark Manson wrote, “…the key to true vulnerability is that you are willing to accept the consequences no matter what.” Vulnerability requires one to take a risk, and the research shows that successful business relationships are worth that risk.

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