You may wonder what vulnerability has to do with navigating change and building resilience. Since 2020, we have been forced to navigate change like we have never seen before. Reacting to restrictions, then to the world opening up again, with most of us breathing a huge sigh of relief that there might just be some more stability again…
…and then war… continuing to test our resilience.
So what can help to keep our resilience and performance high when we are continually navigating change? And what about that word ‘vulnerability’?
Setting the stage for Navigating Change – with resilience and vulnerability
With real life examples, the two latest articles from Emma Last and I show how strength and growth came from reluctantly accepting their vulnerability.
What is vulnerability?
Vulnerability – noun · The quality of being vulnerable (= able to be easily hurt, influenced, or attacked), or something that is vulnerable (https://dictionary.cambridge.org).
It’s no wonder that we do not want to admit our vulnerability! Not the traits we think of when we think of great Leaders.
In her book, ‘Daring Greatly’ Brené Brown describes vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”
It’s that unstable feeling we get when we step out of our comfort zone or do something that forces us to loosen control.
We often talk about comfort zones, and in the Performance Pressure curve, one of the positive areas for performance is the comfort zone. This has low to moderate pressure with medium to high performance. HOWEVER if we want high performance, we need to move into the stretch zone. Here we feel moderate to high pressure, but take on a challenge and are able to grow. This is the zone we ideally operate in when we are navigating change.
Despite feeling scared, hesitant, and even exposed stepping into the stretch zone, there are so many benefits we can find when we step out of our comfort zone. The only concern is if we are continually stretched too far and are on our way to burnout or at least are in the strain zone.
Psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson developed the first version of the pressure performance curve back in 1908.
Where does vulnerability come into performance, pressure and navigating change?
It is important to understand and acknowledge what zone we are working in. Thus ensuring that we don’t ignore the feelings of exhaustion or dips in our mood or resilience. Are we more likely to be brave enough to reach out for help when we need it, if we are vulnerable?
Brené connects “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” to vulnerability. So is being vulnerable really that bad?
Emma says, “If you’d have asked me 5 years ago if being vulnerable was a good thing, I would have struggled to find the connection. I saw vulnerability as a weakness, a chink in my armour. Being vulnerable may have put me at risk. Now I see it as a way to step into an area of risk with growth. Being open and honest about my feelings or concerns about uncertainty may have meant that my boss may have thought that I was unable to cope or was resistant to the change. Even admitting my own feelings to myself would have felt like weakness.”
Seeing vulnerability in a different light
I now see vulnerability in a completely different way. I want to be on a continual growth path, whether that be personally or professionally, therefore stepping into my stretch zone is a good thing for me. Of course, we have to be conscious of stretching ourselves too far, no one wants to become burnt-out.
Vulnerability for me is also about connecting with myself and is highly important to my emotional wellbeing. How I process my feelings, whether that is through talking or writing is key to my resilience. Opening up about the difficult or challenging times in life as well as the good may make me more vulnerable in that moment but makes me stronger in the long term. As well as allowing me to connect more honestly and authentically with others in all areas of life. Vulnerability also allows me to become more self-aware. This means I can reflect and take action to support my own needs to build our resilience.
By sharing my story I believe I help others to connect with their stories. This may help them to understand that you can still be a leader, highly resilient and be vulnerable all at the same time”
Jill concurs that vulnerability is fundamental to building resilience and navigating change, she says:
“Awareness and reflection give us the opportunity to ‘Get it out of your head’. Doing this daily or at a minimum weekly, seeing what’s working well, what we need to tweak, and what we may choose to do differently is central to achieving lasting resilience.
Reflection shouldn’t just be about your business or work. To be effective reflection needs to cover your whole being. Your mental as well as physical and emotional wellbeing. Also remembering your self-development and your relationships. It’s no fun doing all the hard work and then not having a happy home life to be able to share it!
Building resilience and vulnerability
Being in check with your emotional wellbeing. It is important to have a way to express your emotions. Use means such as talking, journaling and mindfulness is all can building your resilience. Being vulnerable can be good for you!
This is where we clicked because Mind Chi addresses all these elements, allows us to acknowledge our vulnerability, however it manifests for us (since we all react differently to different things) and more importantly utilises our marvellous brain to become our internal coach and support us!”