How vulnerability strengthens organizations

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2 min read

When you read the word “vulnerability” in a GRC blog post, your mind probably goes to data breaches or IT security flaws. But this time we’re talking about human vulnerabilities.

This blog is part of our D&I series, which started with 4 ways diversity & inclusion is good for business.

Encouraging leadership and employees to be vulnerable can be a tough sell. The very definition of vulnerability is being “exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally."

But being vulnerable actually means being okay with making mistakes and not having all of the answers. One of our three core values at Galvanize is “We lead through ambiguity—embracing what we don’t know—because when we encounter the unexpected, we grow the most. By experimenting and failing, we find new ways to push Galvanize forward toward our mission.”

"Vulnerability is the best measure of courage.” - Brené Brown

The courage of vulnerability

Dr. Brené Brown’s TED Talk on vulnerability went viral in 2010 and remains one of the top 10 most popular TED Talks today. She’s also the author of several books, including Daring Greatly, in which she dispels myth #1: Vulnerability is weakness.

Instead, it's actually “the best measure of courage.” She believes that vulnerability can courageously create space for “productive failure,” and lead to increased employee engagement and productivity.

Deloitte’s research on D&I reinforces this. They’ve identified courage as one of the top six signature traits (which are all interrelated and mutually reinforcing) of highly inclusive leaders. Courage is so important because “talking about imperfections requires personal risk-taking.” See? Vulnerability and courage go hand in hand.

Trust is key

When asked to evaluate an organization’s culture of inclusiveness, American analytics and advisory company Gallup always analyzes levels of trust.

A research team at Google discovered the importance of trust by interviewing more than 200 employees across 180 teams, and looking at 250 attributes of each individual. They found that even in the most incredibly smart and talented dream teams, how the team members interacted, structured work, and viewed their contributions mattered the most.

The number one key dynamic that set the most successful teams apart from other teams at Google was psychological safety: Could people take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed?

That doesn’t mean you have to inherently trust your team before sharing a single thing. Brown’s vulnerability myth #5 is “Trust comes before vulnerability.” Being vulnerable often involves first taking a risk and letting go of control, and building trust through subsequent interactions.

No matter your organization or industry, vulnerability can be an authentic and inclusive way to improve connection and engagement. As Brown puts it, vulnerability is “the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”

Watch Brown’s TED Talk on vulnerability here.