I've been offline for a bit, recovering from foot surgery. Why the hiatus? Why take time for myself? Well, because I could (for which I'm so grateful). But also because taking care of myself helps me to perform at my best in the long game. I also know that allowing vulnerability like this has immense value. There's power in surrender. Not long ago, I would have attempted to "man up" and prove to myself and others how much I could handle on my own. But how, really, would that help me heal? I allowed myself, instead, to appreciatively receive support. It was an amazingly restorative process. I’m sure it’s partly why my recovery has been faster than expected. Oh, and no egos were harmed in the making of my "get better soon" film!
Give In and Connect
Here’s why this may be of interest to you: The ability to give in, let go of control, accept your imperfection, and be vulnerable is a powerful way to strengthen your effectiveness as a leader or a parent. It’s at the core of success in sales. Oh – and it’s also the door through which you must pass to find meaning and joy in your life.
So, yeah, I get it. “Vulnerability” is not a term that seems aligned with success for those of us who are striving to be successful, get-to-the-top-of-the-heap, close sales, I’m-in-charge leaders. Because of that, we’ve learned to do everything in our power to shove the idea into that dark corner where other “we don’t talk about that” things are hidden. But know this: The ability to let your guard down is a primary driver of how well we experience real connection with other people. Connection is what allows us to lead and convince others to work with us, follow instructions and buy our stuff. At the deepest spiritual level, connection is what gives our lives purpose and meaning. Connection is why we’re here.
Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability is the fourth most viewed TED talk in the world. I’ve watched it several times, and viewed it once more when reflecting on my convalescence. Her academic research into connection, shame and vulnerability has led to a vibrant career as an author, educator, storyteller and speaker. She delivers her message by walking the talk, relating her personal struggles freely and openly as if her listeners are all trusted friends. I felt that, even through You Tube, we connected somehow. Because of that, I bought what she said.
Connect and Close the Deal
And that’s the point of this piece. With connection comes the ability to buy and sell, to influence, lead and collaborate. All of these involve the exchange of value. The exchange of value is an emotional process, rationalized by a logical one. Connection is the magic that allows it to happen. Connection is shared energy. We don’t have good words for this, but we’ve all experienced it. Good sales people know how to connect with their customers. The same is true for leaders, team members and parents. To be powerful, relationships must be symbiotic involving the free exchange of energy. When we put up walls, knowingly or not, the energy doesn’t flow. Without connection, the deal doesn’t get done. When we’re connected, the walls vanish.
I’ve done my best to boil down Brown’s TED Talk and research findings in this figure, tweaking and extending it slightly to the context of sales and leadership. We’ve all had moments where we’ve felt vulnerable and out of control. How we choose to think about those moments where we feel vulnerable way is the key to whether or not we move toward connection or isolation. Accepting that it’s OK to be imperfect, vulnerable or not in control of a situation breaks down barriers to the magic exchange of energy.
A Thought to Practice
So how do we erase years of training and socialization to allow ourselves to reap the benefits of connection, sell more, be stronger leaders and better humans? We open ourselves to connection with others by embracing one thought and making it a core belief. That thought is “I am enough.” Accepting the adequacy of who we are leads to the ONE thing that Brown discovered allows people to feel connection. The one thing that allows us to connect is the feeling that we are worthy of connection.
Try this: Find a quiet place. Sit comfortably with your feet on the ground, your spine straight, and close your eyes. Take three, slow, deep belly breaths. Center yourself and be open to a feeling of calm within. Accept that calm as the essence of who you are. Then, quietly repeat to yourself, “I am enough. I’m right where I need to be. I am worthy of anything I seek with an open heart.” If it comes to mind, say something specific that you’re seeking. Be with this idea of being enough and feeling worthy for a few minutes – whatever feels comfortable. Then count to five, open your eyes and return your attention to your surroundings and life.
Do this daily for a few weeks, ideally just on awakening or before retiring. Write yourself Post It Note reminders on the bathroom mirror, on your computer or any place where you’re likely to see it during the day. “I am enough.” As you come to believe it, notice how your approach to customers, colleagues, and family members changes. If you’re about to have an important meeting, silently remember the affirmation, “I am enough,” before you begin. Notice how any fear of how others might react vanishes. Notice that you feel closer and connected to the person or people you’re reaching out to. Notice how this allows you to be real in a way that others will value. Notice how this allows them to be more authentic with you. Notice the connection. Notice their humanity – regardless of title, role or position. Then allow this to bring you and the person or people you’re addressing to find common ground and a way to get a mutually-beneficial “deal” done. Notice how much easier it is to say “thank you” for what others have given you when you’ve received it with an open heart that feels worthy.
Pretty squishy stuff, isn’t it? This, though, is how we regain control of the subconscious thoughts that are holding us back from who we know we can be. For left-brain, rational types, know that this is what the research shows, too. Man up, give in, embrace your enoughness, and allow success! If you’d like to dig deeper, apply this kind of work to a specific situation or bring it to a team you’re supporting, let me know. We’re already connected, right?
Pete Colgan works with sales and marketing professionals who want to feel fulfilled so they can manage stress, build thriving businesses and create successful, happy lives. Consider investing in yourself to truly understand what brings you joy and how you can use that awareness to increase revenue and kick your life and career into high gear. Whether through one-on-one coaching, or a cost-effective group coaching program, what you discover will help the work you do feel effortless! Click here to learn more.