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Can team members be TOO vulnerable with each other? No, say experts

Brené Brown and Patrick Lencioni say to come clean, warts and all

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” – Brené Brown

Not a private therapy group

Without making your team your private therapy group, should you share your weaknesses, mistakes, or need for help with colleagues at work?

Yes, emphatic yes, say Patrick Lencioni and Brené Brown, two world experts on the subject of being vulnerable with your peers.  

Can you be TOO vulnerable? No, unless the team's just formed. 

Organisational health expert Lencioni qualifies this, by saying that perhaps during the initial stages of team development, complete vulnerability is not a realistic expectation.

“But soon after, the only way for teams to build real trust is for team members to come clean about who they are, warts and all,” he writes in The Advantage.

Judgement is required

Lencioni says a team member arriving at every meeting armed with a laundry list of mistakes and weaknesses could be a problem, but the problem would be a lack of competence rather than too much vulnerability.

“A measure of judgment and emotional intelligence is always required, and I’ve found that the vast majority of leaders understand where to draw the line,” Lencioni says.

Millions of people can’t be wrong

With 37 million views for her talk on The Power of Vulnerability, academic Brené Brown has clearly found a water cooler topic sweet spot with the public, and powerful public figures.

"Brené taught me that leadership requires admitting what you don't know instead of pretending to know everything," Melinda Gates is quoted as saying in Inc. magazine. "I love her message that vulnerability is the key to building trust."

In her TED talk, Brown famously says "Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen."

Dare to lead

In her latest book Dare to Lead, Brown says it’s often not a case of too much vulnerability, it’s a case of too little.

“People are opting out of vital conversations about diversity and inclusivity because they fear looking wrong, saying something wrong, or being wrong. Choosing our own comfort over hard conversations is the epitome of privilege, and it corrodes trust and moves us away from meaningful and lasting change,” she says.

Authentic and imperfect is the new black

True belonging, she explains in her book Daring Greatly, only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world.

“Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

In Daring Greatly, she sets out the 4 steps team members should take to feel they belong: 

  • Recognize that facing vulnerability takes enormous courage. Take small steps (like asking someone what they are thinking) and be proud of your bravery when you do.
  • Let go of the constant worry about what other people think of you. Most people are focused on their own internal struggles, not you.
  • Feeling overwhelmed? Focus your attention gently on your breath and the sensations in your body for a few moments before returning your attention back to the task at hand.
  • Don't worry about being perfect-in fact, don't even consider it. No one is perfect, and the more you hold yourself to an impossible ideal, the more easily you will give up.

Lencioni agrees, and he says the leader must go first.

“If the team leader is reluctant to acknowledge his or her mistakes, or fails to admit to a weakness that is evident to anyone else, there is little hope that other members of team are going to take that step themselves,” he says in The Advantage. 


Both Patrick Lencioni and Brené Brown will visit Australia in 2019.

Patrick Lencioni is being hosted by The Growth Faculty for his first ever Australian visit.  Building High Performance Teams is the theme of the National Growth Summit in Sydney on March 13, 2019, and Melbourne on March 15, 2019. EARLY BIRD TICKETS END DECEMBER 14.  Members of The Growth Faculty receive the greatest ticket discount.

Just announced, Brené Brown will lead a half-day seminar in Sydney on July 31, 2019, and in Melbourne on August 2, 2019. For information, click here.  
Members have access to an interview with Patrick Lencioni and one with Brené Brown On Demand at the Business Book Club.

Not a member? Join The Growth Faculty today to access exclusive content, regular deliveries of the latest business books, and discounts on live events.