It all started with baseball-sized cards in people’s back pockets. Everyone in the company was required to have one. Jumpstart Inc. was an innovator of vulnerability in companies. Employees were required to keep a card with them at all times. It listed their strengths and their weaknesses. Everyone was required to produce it at the request of another employee. During a conversation where two parties were failing to agree they might ask for the other person’s card and might read something like this:
Weaknesses: easily upset by authority, short of temper, dislikes bossy people.
Strengths: Observant, comes with solutions more than problems, validator.
Upon reading each other’s cards they might have a thoughtful pause and then realize that one of them is being bossy, and therefore pushing the wrong buttons. In those short, vulnerable moments both parties are allowed to appreciate not only their weaknesses but also play to their strengths. Now, for many of us that might seem horrifying. On a side note, it really shouldn’t be. In a close-knit team you most likely already know the baseball card stats of the people around you — at least the weaknesses, but you might be failing to see the strengths.
The challenge of last week was to establish who you can turn to for help when you make a mistake and need improvement and establish where your team can turn to for help when they make a mistake.
I use the analogy of the baseball-like cards. Because vulnerability is one of the most feared feelings in our personal lives and more so in our professional lives. As a team leader, it is your job to ensure that your team circle of safety not only allows vulnerability, but encourages it. When you or your team make a mistake, it should be corrected, but also accepted as growth as you set the tone and standard for allowing them and yourself to move on from mistakes.
The word ‘professional’ has a stigma of “without feeling”. On the contrary, the more feeling and vulnerable you allow your team to be around each other, the greater your progress will be toward professionalism. I am not talking about the mushy, warm, fuzzy emotions we generally associate with words such as ‘feeling’ and ‘vulnerable’. While those might exist, all of us, without exception, run off of feelings, which come from thoughts. Being in touch with those, which is the basis of emotional intelligence, has been shown, time and time again, to be a key aspect of good leadership.
Remember that as a leader you hold every card of your team. It’s your job to handle weaknesses with care and tenaciously encourage their strengths.