Vulnerability and Productivity

Author and researcher Brene Brown has done some great work on vulnerability and shame – expressed beautifully in her book Daring Greatly. I highly recommend the work to anyone looking to improve their relationships, management skills, parenting, or just their overall approach to living life.
But today, I want to look at what practicing vulnerability means from a productivity standpoint (it is Productivity Friday, after all). Dr. Brown’s research has wide-ranging applications – especially in the workplace. She specifically addresses bosses and managers – but their practices will influence a company’s entire culture. So, let’s look at how Dr. Brown’s ideas can increase workplace morale and productivity.

Fear, Shame, and Productivity

According to Dr. Brown, fear and shame influence so much our daily lives and decision making. We are avoiding being vulnerable and end up trapped in the cycles of shame over the inescapability of vulnerability. This cycle plays itself out again and again in the workplace – we are fighting over the finite resources available and let fear drive us be reserved, overly careful, or even combative. Our goal becomes survival – reflected in the immortal words of Peter Gibbons of Office Space, “that will only make someone just work hard enough to not get fired.”
That’s not the kind of employee we want, right? Employees that only show up for the bare minimum, fight over petty disagreements, and are driven by fear are not the building blocks of a successful business. Instead, it is a recipe for just getting by – if even that. If we want a culture that values creative contributions and dares greatly, then we need to learn to foster a healthy vulnerability in the workplace.

A Workplace Set Free

The title of Dr. Brown’s book – Daring Greatly – is just what we want from employees. A business that is willing to dare, that rewards honesty and courage, and that builds a culture of trust and respect is set up for big things. So how do we build a culture? Dr. Brown suggests a mantra that I hope gains traction all across the business world: show up, be seen, and be courageous.
By encouraging employees to be fully present, to not be afraid of being seen, and to be courageous; we can build a workplace where employees are set free to dare greatly. There will be mistakes and errors – but they will be owned with courage. There will be bad ideas – but they will push everyone to grow better ones. There will be conflict – but true growth comes through difficulty.

Happy and Connected Employees

The fear of being vulnerable causes stress, fear, disengagement. Embracing our vulnerability will create the opposite – joy, courage, and engagement. Building a workplace that values these commitments will attract happy and connected employees who take ownership of their work. And study after study has proved that happy and connected employees are more productive.
If you’re looking to increase your business’ productivity – rather than trying to push your people with more fear and shame; consider encouraging them to push past the fear of vulnerability and embrace the Dr. Brown’s advice to show up, be seen, and be courageous. Of course, I haven’t done justice to the work of Dr. Brown, so if you’re interested in learning to transform your workplace through embracing Vulnerability be sure to check out her book or website!

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