The Worst Advice I Ever Received
I was reminded this week of misguided, dangerous feedback I was given two years ago in a work appraisal. It contained a toxic recipe for pain, anxiety, loneliness and the crushing of spirit. Never give this advice. Never take it. Here it is.
I gave an after dinner speech last week in the Hunter Valley wine district to a packed room of corporate marketing leaders. I went on a bit too long of course, loving the limelight after six weeks on the sidelines. In the bar afterwards, a senior event sponsor said to me: “Lots of nuggets in that speech. But the power of it was built around one thing: authenticity. That’s why it worked.”
Being ‘authentic’ means being genuine, credible, legitimate. It’s powerful stuff. Learning to have the courage to be more authentic is making a real difference for me. Here’s the biggest benefit of all.
It is only when we show vulnerability that we make real human connections.
Now- I am no poster child for authenticity. But I know I am making progress. It feels great.
The very best outcome from this blog, for example, has been the human connections it has helped forge. Many with strangers, some of whom I have now met. Many connections with friends and colleagues have deepened. Here’s why.
I have shown vulnerability and fragility in some of my writings. I’ve told the truth. Truth creates connection. When I meet Possums readers who I don’t know, they kind of look at me warmly. They feel they know me already. They recognise elements of themselves in me. We have empathy for each other. We are all fighting similar battles. I have become part of their ‘circle of trust,’ even though we have never met before. And with those I do know, that connection just goes a notch deeper.
So (drum roll…..), here’s the worst advice I ever received, dished up as part of a work review where feedback was given anonymously: “Do not show weakness in your blog writings. We as leaders must remain and be seen as strong at all times.” Read that again. Ponder upon it. Join me in shaking your head in dismay.
What absolute rubbish. If we expose vulnerabilities, others do the same in return. Conversations become real. Counsel becomes genuinely meaningful. That’s when we can make a difference for each other, as leaders, or as part of a team. That’s how we create legacies to be proud of.
Rob Irving puts it this way: “When you shed light, the darkness loses its power.”
I like that, a lot. By being open about what energises, and what is causing dis-ease, you gain immediate strength. I am privileged to have conversations where colleagues and friends share fears with me, and I do likewise with them. I know they leave those coffees refreshed, stronger, with a sense of release and clarity. I certainly do. Human connection. No bullshit, posturing, bravado and swagger. Just the truth, dammit. CMO Andy told me a few days ago: “Often it is those who wear the Superman underpants outside the suit who need the most help.” Something like that. Andy’s point- just because someone can appear strong, big, confident, secure does not mean that in fact they are not fighting very tough battles inside.
Have the courage in your professional and personal lives to show vulnerability. Share how you really feel when things are tough for you. Take full responsibility for where you are at and what you will do next, absolutely. But find confidants to share the truth with. Here’s one guaranteed outcome: the darkness loses its power. Almost immediately.
Works for me. It really does.