I had to stop drinkin', cuz I got tired of waking in my car driving ninety.” - Richard Pryor
You Said What?
Let’s say you had a team-building exercise in your company’s training where you are asked to explain your strengths and weaknesses. In discussing your strengths, your class of peers listened respectively (usually with arms folded). But in laying out your weaknesses with the same honesty, you see them lean forward just a little more, their eyes soften, with arms to the side or laying on their desk. Notice the body language, you are moving past barriers and maybe shocking a few people. If you asked me to describe my weaknesses in my younger years, I would have told you “I work too hard” or something similarly idiotic to hide my insecurities. Now, I prefer talking about my areas of improvement over my strengths because it reminds me that I’m in the middle of my journey.
Richard Pryor's Secret
Most critics agree that Richard Pryor was one of the top comedians that has ever commanded a stage. What made Pryor stand out wasn’t his sharp wit, his act-out delivery, or his hide-the-kids language. It was his vulnerability. His humanness. His courage. His heart and soul. You knew Richard Pryor was an imperfect person, but you would hand over last week’s pay check to hear what he had to say. The truth is we are all under construction and Pryor resonated. You needed his testimony of raw truth. His willingness to be vulnerable Reached You to the Bone.
Removing a Barrier to Greatness
Have you ever reached someone to the marrow? You can. Unfortunately, too many people don’t feel safe being vulnerable in a professional setting. Cogs in a system aren’t supposed to be vulnerable; great leaders embrace it. See: Abraham Lincoln. The response to this form of courage in an informed organization should be; “This is a human being. This is someone who is self-aware. This is a fierce soul. This is someone committed to the team. We love her strengths and she’s past the barrier of personal insecurity. She will lead herself to greatness and we will all benefit. She is foundational to our future.”
Are you working in a safe culture that allows you to be vulnerable with colleagues? What if you did?