Trust and Vulnerability are Contagious

So, we were talking about leadership and the concepts around being leaders inside our corporate environment today. Strong leaders tap into the strengths and skills of their team members. Exceptional leaders reach out to all team members to build bridges to enable everyone to grow existing skills or develop new ones. The ultimate goal is higher performance, for the company and for the individual, a win-win.

 One way to build bridges is to lay a foundation by sharing personal stories. The more a leader can offer of herself or himself, the more people will extend themselves back. Building a relationship means developing trust, which is an investment of time and energy. An authentic relationship also means showing a bit of vulnerability. It may appear to slow work down because resources are going towards the relationship rather than the task. However, that example of slowing down allows for a faster and more efficient work environment. People trust each other so they are more apt to volunteer information or just speak to one another which can speed the process of completing a project along faster. They are also willing to work harder and maybe longer because of that relationship and familiarity. Slowing down is an investment to allow everyone to speed up.

So this concept, I understand. I teach it to countless people at work. I live it. It is an integral element of a core value “kaizen” (continuous improvement.) Guess what I also uncovered today? In general, we spend more time with the people we work with than our own family, friends and loved ones. And if we are working under leadership principals and striving for higher performance, we probably exert a lot of energy. What happens when we leave the office?

 I believe, through my experience of coaching and teaching, that most people do not put the same amount of energy into their personal relationships. Most people get laziest with the people they care about the most. Making shortcuts when answering questions, taking for granted that our loved ones will be there when we need them, those are examples of what many people do. How can we manage our personal relationships in the same diligent manner as we do at work?

I don’t want to be in that place. I want to make certain that the people who I love and care about the most understand the truth. Even when I am tired, I can’t shut out the people who love me. This indicative of a person who is used to being there for everyone else, wanting to make everyone else’s life better but not relying on others for support.   Yep, that is the INFJ/”Counselor-Idealist” in me – private to the nth degree about what I am thinking and feeling.  Sometimes I need to pick up the phone, regardless of whose number pops up on caller id. At times I need to take two minutes out to tell someone that I care about them.  Social psychologists know that adults need to hear their first names, they crave feedback and positive reinforcement, as much as children do.   Adults who I personally cherish and value as being a part of my life deserve to hear that truth.

Actually, I have been doing better with staying connected with my friends, near and far. But there will be times when I need to play hooky from karate or paddling or hula to spend quality time with a person who makes me smile.  I need that quality time, breathing air together, in the same zip code, live and in person.   I don’t want to be lazy in my personal relationships, regardless of how hard I am working in my professional life. Nor do I want to forget about taking care of myself. I realized this past summer that I had not been keeping this equation in balance. And by spending too much time in two or three areas of my life, I have neglected my heart and allowed my soul to whither. As I mentioned before, an authentic relationship also means showing a bit of vulnerability. That scares me. Nay, terrifies me. But I see that losing the trust of a friend or taking a relationship for granted is an almost impossible bridge to rebuild.  So the reward far outweighs the risk. 

 Love is not a finite emotion. It is like a single flame, burning from a sweetly scented candle. When you touch another person, you ignite a new flame. What is the result? The room is brighter and there is more heat, not less. So no one loses, it is a win-win. Who wouldn’t want to catch that?

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