Ep #112: Vulnerability as a Female Entrepreneur
Vulnerability is not just about making yourself susceptible to physical or emotional harm – it can also be a mechanism for growth and connection with others. Tune in to find out how being vulnerable can help make you, as a female entrepreneur, an exceptionally powerful leader.
What you’ll find in this episode:
- The advantages of being vulnerable.
- The difference between vulnerability and exposure.
- How to let your guard down and be vulnerable.
Featured on the Show and Other Notes:
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Hey, I’m Kris Plachy, host of the Lead Your Team Podcast. Running a million-dollar business is not easy. And whether you’re just getting started with building your team, or you’ve been at this for a while, I’m going to bring you honest, specific, and clear practices you can use right now, today to improve how well you lead your team. Let’s go ahead and get started.
Hey, hey, how are you? Welcome, welcome to the podcast. Today is the very first Monday of April. And we’re officially coming into a new year, it feels like, right? Like, gosh end of March last year was just a total cray cray. And then April was like the beginning of us realizing, “Oh, okay, this is life now.” And so I do feel it’s almost like today’s a new year, or starting something new. And we have a little bit of an end in sight, right? Maybe a little bit.
So, I’m also excited because we are in the process of finishing up registration for, How to CEO. If you have been thinking about it and you haven’t signed up yet, don’t miss your chance. We’re about to close the doors. I think tomorrow, Tuesday, you will no longer be able to register. We start this Thursday with a whole new group of rock stars, amazing women. I just am always gobsmacked by how gorgeous all these people are that we get to work with and the businesses and the work they do in the world, which brings me to what I want to talk to you about today.
So, I want to talk about vulnerability as a female CEO. This may or may not be your favorite topic. Some of you, this isn’t a big deal. You don’t have any problem being vulnerable, exposing parts of yourself to potential criticism, harm, maybe even, right? I think the definition is making yourself susceptible to physical, or emotional harm, or attack. But when we think about vulnerability as the evolution of a species of humans, right, there’s a reason why we’re protective of ourselves both physically and emotionally, because when we were an earlier species that could mean one of two things. It could mean immediate death from physical harm. When we lived in caves, or we lived in grass shacks or mud huts or whatever we lived in, physical harm in many cases was an immediate death sentence. And then also, so was emotional harm, especially being ostracized from the tribe, from the clan, from the group, from the pack, being ostracized meant that you would no longer be included, which meant you probably wouldn’t eat. And you wouldn’t get access to the resources of the tribe, clan, group, et cetera, right?
So vulnerability, it’s normal that we have a dance relationship with it that we don’t really want to ever feel overly vulnerable, because there’s this innate relationship that we have with it. But now that we’re the species that we are today, where we know most physical harm, right, we know what we’re working with in the world. Usually, there’s not a bear, or a panther, or a something around the corner. And emotional harm while incredibly uncomfortable, it doesn’t mean death like it did thousands and thousands and thousands of years ago, as a part of our evolution.
And what we’re now seeing is when you resist, block, prevent your vulnerability, you also do a couple of things in the world that may not be your intention but could be happening. The first one is you block yourself from growth. I’m going to talk about each of these a little bit, but you block yourself from growth. You prevent yourself from being able to see things in a way that could support you actually being better than you are today. Right?
The other thing about when you block, or prevent, or restrict yourself from any kind of vulnerability is you create space, or some sort of barrier between you and other people. Vulnerability is a mechanism for connection, healthy vulnerability, right? Vulnerability in a personal relationship, sharing information about yourself, revealing parts of yourself, vulnerability, and intimate relationships with a partner, right? That’s where a lot of that is also shared and that’s very scary, but it’s also where that deep connection is created. And then there’s the vulnerability when we think about you as a woman running a business, and what ends up happening is we create a persona that might appear to be unapproachable, distant, disconnected in a way that is not constructive for you to lead.
And this is one of the areas that I think women can be exceptionally powerful in as leaders if they allow themselves. Okay. So there’s really blocking yourself from growth, preventing that connection, and also developing a persona that precludes your team, people in your company from identifying and building a relationship with you in their own mind, right? Because you’re not going to be close with everybody in your company but there isn’t any reason why they can’t experience you and see you and feel you in a way that helps them know who you are.
So, first of all, let’s just talk about growth. This is an interesting dynamic, now that I’ve coached so many women in so many businesses, I have some sort of general assessments I could offer you, while again, these are general. These don’t apply to everyone, but typically speaking what happens for a lot of us when we ascend to a leadership role of our company, because we have a specific skill or talent.
So whether you’re a doctor, or a lawyer, or an artist, or an online business, or influencer, or graphic designer, or an interior designer, no matter what your profession, if you have grown to bill a seven figure business or even a high six-figure business, you’ve done so under the umbrella of your skill, of your talent. And so, we can use myself as an example, right? I’ve built my seven-figure business because I have a talent for coaching. I’m really good at it. And I take a lot of responsibility for that and a lot of ownership and a lot of pride, to be honest, I’ve been coaching people for fricking 25 years. I better be good at it, right. But I may not be very good at marketing.
And I may not be very good at Facebook Ads. I may not be very good at finance, right, you name it. There are for sure elements of my business that I’m not very good at. I’m not very talented at, I don’t have a lot of experience in and what I see with the clients who come and want to work with me and work in my program, a lot of the time is an inability, initially to demonstrate vulnerability, because they’ve been so good at this thing in the world, whatever is the thing, justifiably, understandably, completely competent, nobody measures up. And yet when it comes to leading and managing people, you’re intimidated, insecure, you lack confidence, maybe a little bit of that imposter syndrome, dealio. And so then when you work with someone like me and I start asking you the questions and offering up the ideas and what about this and why is this happening this way?
And let’s tell the truth about this, right? All the areas that I go to with my clients, sometimes that initial reaction is to throw it up, right? Like to throw up the guard rails because that vulnerability is so uncomfortable, because you’ve had to be so not vulnerable in this one space in order to be seen as that expert. But now in order to really grow, you have to let that go. And that’s tough. And I’ll be honest. I’ve played some serious tug of war with people over the years because they absolutely cannot release and lean into vulnerability enough to grow. And in my experience, I won’t keep working with that client because it’s too much tug of war. I’m not trying to make people miserable. I’m just trying to help you see where your opportunities are, you lean into those. The clients that I work with who do the best in their businesses are the ones who are willing to go there, right?
They are willing to go there. And then what ends up happening is of course you build better relationships when you are more willing to be vulnerable. And there is a difference, so when we’re talking about connection and vulnerability, improving your connection, both in your personal life, in your personal relationships and in your life and relationships with your team, when you are willing to reveal the parts of yourself that you protect, because you know you can grow. And you can also connect because what I have also found when you are honest with yourself and you are willing to open up about where you feel vulnerable and specifically in those spaces that I talk about right, in your business and how you lead and manage, you might not be surprised to find that you attract a lot of people who are working on the same thing.
And when you’re in the position of being in authority, in the power position, in a relationship, and you say out loud, “Oh my gosh, this is really hard for me. Am I doing it right? I don’t know what I’m doing.” And you’re willing to risk that emotional harm, which is mostly just embarrassment, judgment, shame, you create the space for others to be okay too. Now, this is a relatively silly example, but this week, Thursday, as I’m recording this, which will have already come and gone by the time you listen to this, I’m going to try an Instagram Room. Which is when you do a live Instagram with up to three other people, I’ve never done this before. And my team is like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s going to be great.” And of course, I’m like, “Hey, you don’t know what I’m doing. I’m going to make a fool out of myself.” I am willing to be vulnerable.
And then one of my team members said, I think it was Miriam. She’s like, “No, it’ll be great because there’s lots of other people who’re trying to figure it out and you’ll make them feel normal too.” Like if you can’t do it, they’ll feel good too. And then that’s kind of what I’m talking about. Like it’s always so funny when somebody opens up and says something and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, you have that? I have that.” And then we’ve immediately created connection. And I think as a woman running a business, I do think this is a hangover from a lot of our formal and informal influencing of what leadership looks like from the time we were born, that somehow leaders should have it all together. Leaders should not reveal too much of themselves. Leaders should be at most, a little bit mysterious and secretive or, like enigmatic. I actually really think that’s an antiquated view.
I don’t believe that leadership is just something that you are anointed with. I think it’s something that you earn through creating a great thing in the world and building a movement towards it and then assembling a team. And I think your ability to be humble and demonstrate your own vulnerability, engages people. And I’m going to do a podcast on employee engagement here to follow this one, about what that really means and what the heck we’ve done. We’ve made such a mess with employee engagement, but engaging people is helping them to see you. Be willing to be seen as you. Not as the person you think you’re supposed to be. Who is that person? Then I don’t even know you. Then if I like you, I don’t even like you because you’re not showing me you. But a lot of women who are leading companies, they show this version of themselves that they think they’re supposed to be. And I see this a lot in the online space because you have so much competition. It’s so unnecessary. Just be your amazing self. Tell the story.
It’s amazing how many people you will attract, not just clients, but also people who want to work with you. Who want to be a part of your healing, whatever that is that you’re working on. Now there’s a difference between vulnerability and exposure, right? Imagine there’s this person who’s standing like, “Oh, I this …” like putting on an outfit, that’s kind of immodest, but still an outfit and someone who just opens up their jacket and shows you everything that they’re wearing and it’s nothing, they’re totally naked. Like, “Oh dear, I didn’t need to see all that.” Right. That’s part of our learning, is like vulnerability isn’t just dumping our stuff on our people, but it’s allowing ourselves to be willing to be wrong, to be willing to be right, but there’s a better idea. To be willing to reevaluate everything you thought you knew. Right?
I had a great chat with my daughter today and she was the one who gave me some really great advice. She’s like, “Do it this way, mom.” I was like, “Oh, that’s good, are you … how old are you? Are you Buddha?” Right? So, I think your willingness to just not have to feel that embarrassment and shame if someone knows something more than you, and then you can actually thank them for it. That’s the kind of vulnerability we’re talking about, people want to work for that person. Don’t you? Don’t you like to work with that person who you say something to them and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, I hadn’t thought about it that way. That’s really brilliant.” Versus someone who’s like, “No” or someone who’s completely unavailable and doesn’t even respond. So notice where you are sort of on your scale of vulnerability. Where are you totally at ease?
And then where else do you just shield up? And what might you be willing to do to work on that? Now I believe in the How to CEO program that’s part of what we do, is you guys can come to especially the office hour calls with other women who are all running successful businesses and come into that call and say, “Oh my gosh, what am I doing wrong? Why is this not working?” And you have seven other people on that call who were like, “Yeah, right. Me too.” And it normalizes what you think in the world, everybody else knows that you don’t. No, they don’t know it either, that promise you. And then you learn how to be vulnerable as a CEO. And once you’ve been able to do that, then, first of all, you create so much speed in your business because you’re not dragging your own closure behind you, your own heaviness, your own lack of change.
You are much more nimble when you are more vulnerable and you lose nothing, other than the people who don’t want anything to do with the person that you reveal when you are vulnerable. But guess what? Then they weren’t really on your side, in the first place. They weren’t really in your camp. And I would much rather know that. I’d much rather me be exactly who I am on this podcast and someone tune into it and say, “Yeah, no, that is not for me.” Than me pretend to be something I’m not, to try and engage more people. And then they love it, but they’re not loving what I’m doing because it’s an expression of me. I think it’s a really critical step to your growth. And to be honest with yourself about where that is and isn’t true for you right now. Okay. So some thoughts to think on this fine first week of April. Thanks for tuning in.
If you have any questions or want to know more about, How to CEO. Go to howtoceoregister.com. It’s all open right now. And we also just created a new page about howtoceo.com. We’ve put a bunch of videos and snippets and testimonials and all sorts of things about this program. Just to help you get a better sense of what it’s about and what it feels like, so you can check that out also. All right, thanks for tuning in today everyone. Have a great, great day.
One more thing before you go. In a world of digital courses and online content, I like to work with my clients live, because I know that when you have someone you can work with, ask questions of, and meet with, you’re so much more likely to get the success that you want. So head on over to howtoceolive.com to learn more about our very exciting, very exclusive program, just for female entrepreneurs. We’ll see you there.