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The Vulnerability Requirement

I sat nervously excited and secretly sweating while trying to appear calm and collected before the panel. Being interviewed for a promotion is no joke. I felt it was going well, and then the bomb dropped. It was a question prefaced by the statement, “Now let’s talk about something that you’re NOT good at...” and the interviewer, who was a peer, proceeded to tell me a perceived flat side.

As much as I recoiled at the feedback given in such an embarrassing way, I eventually realized the thrust of the question: what I was doing wasn’t working and I needed to change. Even though I felt I was doing fine, the outcome wasn’t what I desired. The variable I had access to changing was me.

Admittedly, it took me a while to see this reality (almost a year), but when it finally took hold my next step was obvious: decide between my ego and fixing my flat side. At the next opportunity, I shared my desire to be open with my colleague and I requested their feedback so I could work on my deficiencies. I felt awkward and uncomfortable - and it was clear they did too - but my heart was in it and I walked away feeling light and free. We’ll see how I feel when the feedback starts rolling in, but for right now I feel it’s a good start.

There’s another key reality that is likely the most important: I chaffed under the feedback because I was out of practice at receiving negative reactions. Because this was an uncommon experience, my self-awareness suffered. In order to be self aware, I must provide opportunities for others to feel safe voicing negative feelings.

In order to be self aware, I must provide opportunities for others to feel safe voicing negative feelings.

You cannot be “with” your colleagues if you are closed and unwilling to receive honest feedback. How do you know if you are an open leader? Here’s a quick measurement: look over the past two to three months and identify the last time someone shared something with you that needed to change, you received it, and you enacted positive change for everyone to see. No one is perfect for two to three months straight. Not even you. If nothing comes to mind, it’s likely that your self awareness needs a boost. Let’s be awkward and vulnerable together.

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