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The V word; how new managers can embrace the vulnerability ladder

It’s ironic isn’t it. Those who excel in their roles are catapulted out of their comfort zone and promoted into a new area of focus and challenge; one which often comes with the added responsibility of people management. 

Certainly for me, this was an area I was excited about within my own career. I enjoyed working with people, loved supporting them to develop and could identify where there were opportunities for growth. And let’s face it, I’d had my fair share of managers to learn from; both the positive and negative aspects. How hard could it be?

So, you begin your new role with bags of enthusiasm, tonnes of ideas and a strong sense of purpose. You’re excited about the prospect of seeing your team develop under your leadership and are willing to go the extra mile to balance your vast array of other responsibilities. 

And then you hit a hurdle. And then another. And oh wait, this one’s more like a brick wall. 

And you begin to realise. You didn’t anticipate all the different challenges people bring with them. Challenges that don’t come in a management handbook. Challenges that you haven’t had any experience in handling before. And you suddenly get that uncomfortable feeling, the one that we try so hard to deny and never want to admit; vulnerability. 

We think that vulnerability makes us weak, leaves us open for criticism. So we put a cloak over it and pretend it’s not there. We put on a facade in the hope that we won’t be caught out. But it continues to poke it’s head out and makes us question ourselves. Are we good enough? Will we ever be good enough?

The feeling is uncomfortable. It raises its head when we’re in a space which is unfamiliar, when we don’t yet have all the knowledge and skills to confidently tackle a situation based on past experience. It may trigger a sense of anxiety. 

Can we use it to our advantage?

If we allow ourselves to lean into it, we realise it’s an opportunity to grow, to learn something new. Vulnerability is a gift (you’d prefer a bottle of prosecco next time, am I right?!). 

So the next time you find that you’re questioning your ability to perform in the role that you have worked so hard for, acknowledge the thought you are having. Picture it, like you’re the watcher of the feeling. What is it trying to teach you? What can you learn from this moment?

Now imagine a ladder, and you’re standing on middle step. 

The vulnerability ladder

You look to the top of the ladder and see a version of yourself where you are totally confident in your role as a leader. Go there for a moment; imagine how you would feel, what thoughts you would be having, what you can see around you. 

Go back to the negative thought you were having. Place it right at the bottom of the ladder. 

You now have a choice. Learn and grow, or succumb to the negative thought? Up or down? 

What steps can you take to start to move up the ladder? Small changes taken consistently make a significant difference.

Yes, it’ll be a lot harder than moving down the ladder, it’ll probably be uncomfortable at times too. But every step you take will be so much more rewarding. 

So the next time you run into a hurdle, acknowledge the voice in your head and smile. Because you know that you’ve been given another opportunity to learn, grow and take another step up that ladder.

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