Vulnerability is a tough concept. Maybe vulnerability is something you haven’t given much thought about, but are pretty sure it is something to be avoided. The Cambridge English Dictionary says vulnerability is to be easily physically, emotionally, or mentally hurt, influenced, or attacked. I don’t know about you, but I am not thrilled with the idea of being “hurt, influenced, or attacked”. I can be such a wimp.
However, there are two sides to everything. Let’s turn this around and look at vulnerability as a tool. Yes, being vulnerable can be uncomfortable. Uncertainty is uncomfortable. Worrying about what people might think is uncomfortable. Being perceived as weak or submissive is a huge risk in our over-achieving “get ahead” society. But, having the ability to open up and allow yourself to be vulnerable can have some positive results. Understanding the value of vulnerability in making human connections is important. Consider who is more authentic to you, the boss who is cool, distant, and “all business”, OR the boss who remembers to ask how your sick child is doing or admits when THEY messed up at work? Do you resonate more with someone who sheds a tear and shows some emotion, or someone who hides their emotions? Vulnerability researcher and author Brené Brown, in her 2012 TED Talk, states that “vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation and creativity. In cultures where failure is not an option, neither is innovation.” In other words, some of our best work is going to come out of being open and taking risks!
My hero, Eleanor Roosevelt, once said: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” To me, that means opening myself up to the risk of failing, of being rejected, criticized, or of looking foolish. Even just being my authentic self is not without risk sometimes. But, if I do not allow myself to be vulnerable, what might I be MISSING? I might miss meeting a great new connection because I was afraid they’d say no if I approached them for coffee. I might miss out on a new project to tackle because I was hesitant to volunteer. I might miss out on learning something new because I was afraid to admit that I didn’t know how to do it and needed help. I might miss out on helping someone else or just brightening their day because I was hesitant to ask how they were doing.
This week, challenge yourself to be vulnerable to new conversations, opportunities, and people. Walk across that room and say “Hi!”. Give that idea or opinion you’ve been hesitant to share. Ask for that raise. Be willing to do something where there are no guarantees. Dare to be open. Dare to be yourself. Dare to be a little more vulnerable.
With a new year comes the tradition of looking ahead to all it has to offer and how we might improve ourselves and our life as it touches others. A very common approach is to make a list of New Year resolutions. So…we are already a several weeks into the new year now. Do you remember ANY of your resolutions? How are they working for you? I’ve never done very well with the whole resolution making game. Traditional resolutions are so often vague or negative. Don’t drink so much, don’t yell at the kids, don’t spend so much money… Don’t, don’t, don’t! (Are you feeling like an naughty kid yet?) I find it hard to get enthusiastic with such negativity. The vague resolutions just don’t get me going either. Lose weight, get healthy, focus more, improve my income. How? What is the actual problem I’m tackling? By when?
Recently, I was introduced to the concept of choosing a word for the new year. (Thanks, Mari!) Although many people make New Year resolutions (and forget them a week later), people choosing just one word keep it at the forefront as a compass throughout the year. Pick just one word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live. What kind of PERSON would you like to become?
Maybe words like:
resonate with you. Words have power. I think having just one word as your beacon for the year can be truly transformative. Asking yourself “What is something generous I can do today?”, “Who can I show love to today?” or “What connections can I make today?” is a powerful way to transform yourself, and the world around you.
My word for this year is Risk. What’s yours? Tell me in the comments below!
“Fake it ’til you make it”. “Just do it”. “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. How’s that approach working for YOU? How many opportunities have you turned down because you lacked confidence in yourself? I meet a lot of people in my work who are suffering from “impostor syndrome”. They nearly ALWAYS feel like a fake. They lack confidence that they are truly knowledgeable and capable, and fear one day being “discovered”.
Confidence, to me, is that feeling of certainty, that feeling of self-assurance and trusting myself that I know what I know. So why is self-confidence in such seemingly short supply? I think Russ Harris nails it in his book, The Confidence Gap. Harris identifies five reasons we lack confidence:
- Excessive expectations
- Harsh self-judgement
- Preoccupation with fear
- Lack of experience
- Lack of skill
Obviously, in any endeavor, you need to show up and do the work, practice the skills, and put in time and effort. Generally, the actions of confidence come first (when you gain skill competence) and the feelings come after. It is the old “familiarity breeds ease of use” maxim. In my experience, the first three above reasons are the most common for lack of confidence, with fear as the underlying root.
So, what’s to be done? Well, as Robert Frost said, “the best way out is always through”, so let’s unpack the the concept of fear a bit, shall we?
Firstly, that fear you are feeling can be a powerful source of energy, and harnessed and used beneficially.
What is your attitude toward fear?
Do you see it as a sign of weakness?
I am here to tell you that it is NOT; it is a normal human emotion. You need a reasonable amount of fear for basic human survival. However, in managing the fear that erodes your confidence, the key is understanding that confidence is not the absence of fear. Let me repeat that. Confidence is not the absence of fear. Confidence is having a working, transformed relationship with fear. In the confidence arena, it is our ATTITUDE towards fear that holds us back. Yes, fear is a powerful emotion, but what you DO with it is what makes all the difference in the confidence game.
Finding ways to diffuse negative thoughts is your best weapon against confidence zappers. When you start to self-judge, compare yourself to others, think of a zillion obstacles, or invent ominous predictions, grab that thought balloon and mentally pop it with a giant pin. Remember, thoughts are just words temporarily occupying a moment in your consciousness. JUST WORDS. You hear and read lots of words every single day. You certainly don’t believe all of those, do you? Well, apply the same approach to the thought hooks that chip at your confidence, remember that it is your ATTITUDE toward fear that holds you back, not fear itself, and watch yourself blossom with increased confidence.
There are a lot of great authors with thoughts and exercises to help you dig deeper into the topic of confidence. I highly recommend the following titles as a place to start:
There is a lot of controversy around the idea of trust during an election cycle, so I started pondering the topic. We want elected officials we can trust to make important decisions about the well-being of our environment, our communities, and our nation. We trust them to make decisions on health, crime, transportation, budgets, safety, managing growth… the list goes on. Frequently, we become disappointed. We feel our trust was misplaced; our interests and well-being have NOT been protected. Campaign ads drive the point home again and again that the opponent is not to be trusted.
Gaining someone’s trust is a slow process, and once lost is often impossible to re-gain. When we trust someone, we believe that they are telling us the truth. We believe that they have no agenda and only have our best interest at heart. We feel we have been given some value through their words or actions. They are willing to help, listen, understand, show respect, and are reliable. Trustworthy people also give trust as well as receive it; placing their trust in you often elevates your opinion of them.
Think about the people you trust. What characteristics do they possess and display that has put them on your list? Have any of them ever lost your trust? If so, what was the path to regaining it, if that was even possible?
Distilled down, trust is confidence in someone or something, and distrust is suspicion.
It leads to discord, including low morale, miscommunication, poor response to problems and issues, and dysfunctional leadership.
Now let’s take it one step further… Do you picture yourself as a trustworthy person? Have you earned trust from others?
In both your business and personal life being trustworthy matters. Customer service is a great sales tool, but customer relationships and customer loyalty are key to long-term success. Personal relationships are no different. Lack of trust erodes relationships. The value of trust is beyond measure. Authentic trust is something that is built by both talking about it and by practicing it.
So, what is the take-away? Simple.
- Proactively think about the topic of trust, be an observer of trust, and evaluate your business and personal relationships in terms of trust.
- Identify ways you can build, strengthen, and repair trust:
- listen to others
- build compassion
- give trust (basic or conditional… not blind)
- recognize the value and contributions of others
- deal with others honestly
- address mistakes and betrayals constructively
- Trust in yourself
If you’d like to explore the topic of trust further, click on the images below for some excellent books to start with: Speed Trust by Steven M.R. Covey, Building Trust in Business, Politics, Relationship, and Life by Robert C. Solomon & Fernando Flores, The Trust Edge by David Horsager, The Little Teal Book of Trust by Jeffrey Gitomer, and Trust Works! by Ken Blanchard.
“Authentic trust can never be taken for granted, but must be continuously cultivated through commitments and truthfulness. True leadership, whatever else it may be, can be based on nothing less.” – Robert C. Solomon
Why should you care about board composition? Boards of directors make decisions that can impact you, your community, and the country. That’s why it’s important that membership on corporate boards be representative of a company’s constituents. Boards of directors choose CEOs. They make decisions about executive compensation, whether to buy, sell, or merge with other companies, where corporate offices close and relocate, and how much priority a company gives to issues other than profits, such as social responsibility.
Good corporate decision-making requires the ability to hear and consider different points of view, which comes from people who have different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. Companies that have women directors and executive officers lead by example. They send a clear message that they value diversity of thought and experience. Advancing women to positions of leadership is smart business.
Here are a few things to consider when it comes to a Board of Directors:
- Diversity of Thought: Women on boards bring different perspectives to the difficult issues facing today’s corporations. It is widely believed that diversity of thought results in better decision making.
- Stakeholder Representation: The makeup of corporate boards of directors should be representative of the company in which it governs: shareholders, employees, and customers.
- Competitive Advantage: A diverse board is better positioned to thrive in today’s global economy where the pace of change is accelerating and rapidly changing economic realities require nimble, strategic and well-informed directors.
- Availability of Essential Skills: Senior women executives offer the skills and experience that most boards need, including industry knowledge, operational experience, and functional expertise.
As of right now, there is a huge, untapped pool of talent.
Women hold just a small number of corporate board seats. In 2015, the 2020 Women on Boards Gender Diversity Index of Fortune 1000 companies showed that 17.9% of corporate directors were women. This is a small number when you consider that: women comprise about half of the total U.S. workforce; hold half of all management positions; are responsible for almost 80% of all consumer spending; and account for 10 million majority-owned, privately-held firms in the U.S., employing over 13 million people and generating over $1.9 trillion in sales.
It is time that companies took advantage of this untapped pool of qualified board candidates. It’s time that we increased the number of women who serve on corporate boards.
There is a strong relationship between the gender of a company’s key leaders and the diversity of its board of directors. Women account for 49 CEOs, 37 Board Chairs, and 158 Nominating Committee Chairs in the Fortune 1000. Compared to their male counterparts, women in these roles are much more likely to oversee gender diverse boards.
In fact, boards headed by women far exceed the national average of 17.9% women per company board. Female CEOs, Board Chairs, and Nominating Chairs have an average of 30.0%, 27.7%, and 23.1% women on their boards, respectively, while men in these positions trail at 17.3%, 17.6% and 17.2% women. While we cannot speak to causation, there is clearly a strong positive correlation between women in leadership positions and gender diversity on boards.
To close, here is a question to contemplate. And please, consider answering the question in the Comment section. I’d love to hear from you!
- In what areas of interest could you expand your voice by joining a board or committee? Name three.
Here are a few resources for you to find board openings:
Linkedin.com (search “board member” under the Jobs tab)
It’s getting chilly here and life is turning to more indoor pursuits (have I mentioned I’m a winter weenie?) That’s why November is the perfect time to join me in an Art Everyday Challenge! Hosted by Leah Piken Kolidas at the Creative Everyday website, participants are committed to a month of daily creating… painting, doodling, knitting, crafts, writing, photography, jewelry-making, or whatever interests you each day. The idea is to bring more creativity into your life; no pressure, just FUN! Through the sharing of creative adventures, you are sure to meet some wonderful people via the group Facebook page, blog posts, Instagram, and Twitter. It will be a rewarding month as we cheer each other on!
Why don’t you join us for a month of fun and add some colour to your winter? Click HERE to check it out!
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, is on a mission to unleash female ambition so that more women are in decision-making roles and having a profound impact on issues. Sandberg calls this “leaning in.” Women (and men!) worldwide are getting involved in the conversation around women’s leadership through community, education, and circles focused on encouraging women to pursue their ambitions, and changing the conversation from what we can’t do to what we can do.
Linked in is a great place to connect with others “leaning in” to their best selves! You can connect with a group from your local area or be a “virtual member” of any group. I am proud and feel privileged to be taught, supported, and challenged to grow by the amazing people in the Lean In Together Minneapolis-St. Paul group. At its heart, Lean In is about defying limitations through supportive relationships…
Read the book. Join a circle or online group. Get ready to Lean In to your best self. You’ll be glad you did.
(click on the book to see more!)