The vulnerability deficit

Pablo-Picasso-Painting-1

I don’t write here much anymore. It’s not for a lack of wanting. Perhaps it’s mostly a lack of time. Perhaps it’s mostly a lack of creative energy when everything is poured into work. Perhaps it’s mostly a lack of habit. One thing’s for sure is that the longer it goes without documenting the journey via the written word – the harder it is to get back into it. When you stop expressing your raw thoughts and feelings in a public forum, you go a long time between syncs. Then there’s almost so much to say, so much that’s missed, that it’s easier to say nothing at all. I’m calling this an accrued ‘vulnerability deficit’.

My vulnerability deficit ramped up when I became a true CEO. CEO in that you’re an executive of a corporation, have stakeholder expectations to manage, employee salaries to make happen, customers to satisfy, ongoing goals to achieve, and so forth. You become so careful and mindful of what you say, what you do, and how you do it that it’s better to delay your vulnerability. One day I’ll share more things in a book, I say. One day…

So, you end up focusing on communicating the wins. On curating digestible leadership qualities like being strong and cordial. You don’t want an investor to think you’re weak (heck, especially when you’re a female founder), and you don’t want your team to stop believing in you. You basically want to be a good, consistent, likable robot. But all the time, you’re just accruing more vulnerability deficit.

Melbourne-based Richenda Vermeulen, a founder of a digital agency, discuses this phenomenon in her recent post: ‘Why I’m-not scared anymore‘.

… I stopped writing publicly about personal things.

It’s was easy to talk about my passion for digital, my love for our team and the pride in our work. It was always true. It’s also safe. It’s freaking terrifying to share my heart, my intimate thoughts, my beliefs. Especially when I know that what I share can affect our income.

She was especially scared people would find out she was a Christian and that her personal opinions would affect her professional reputation.

It became easier to just stay silent, to limit my opinions to private, off-the-record conversations over coffee when it was safe to share.

As a manager, however, it’s sometimes hard to know what experiences you can and can’t talk about.

At the start of this year, I read Ian Bicking’s post on ‘Being A Manager Is Lonely‘. In it, Ian writes about his transition from programming to management, and how somewhere along the way the ability for him to talk freely about what he did diminished.

“This is a long digression, but I am nostalgic for how I grew into my profession. Nostalgic because now I cannot have this. I cannot discuss my job. I cannot debate the details. I cannot tell anecdotes to elucidate a point. I cannot discuss the policies I am asked to implement – the institutional instructions applied to me and through me. I can only attempt to process my experiences in isolation.”

As someone who loves to write and who’s also an entrepreneur, I want to find this balance and close the vulnerability gap. We’re in a time where hearing what people really think is refreshing and needed. The explosion in personalities like Elon Musk, Amy Schumer, and Donald Trump, is a testament to appreciating honesty regardless of whether you agree with what’s said or not.

So, here’s hoping for lots more content here in the coming months. :)

Image credit: Picasso

3 thoughts on “The vulnerability deficit

  1. Love your words Kate and feel there’s a message for me in that. I’m starting to believe that everything is possible and time is an illusion. Breathe long and slowly anticipating how expansive life can become, cherish that gift and when you’re ready, your exhale will offer you space for more of you to reach the rest of us. Your are Gold!… are you still in Melbourne?

  2. Great reading you!
    Thank you for sharing this inconvenient truth.
    Looking forward for the next ones whenever the muses spring and dance again.

    Wishing you a great day.
    Lionel

  3. …It’s been four months since I last promised myself I’d write I’d write more. Looks like it’s time that I start writing for myself again. Thanks for the reminder :)

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