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10 Things We Learned About Working with Vulnerability as you Progress your Digital Career

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In the past, showing your vulnerability in the workplace would no doubt have been seen as a sign of weakness. But increasingly, leaders are starting to see how embracing vulnerability is key to building authenticity, and ultimately strength. However, whatever stage you’re at career-wise, facing into vulnerability is not an easy journey to navigate – it can be challenging asking for help when we feel most exposed. So at our recent 10 Digital Ladies meet-up, we decided to delve into this tricky topic: how do you work with vulnerability to build your own strengths, as well as those of others around you?

We were joined by Sarah Tan – our 2018 Winner of the Talent Development Award, Eunice Aquilina – coaching and organisational behaviour expert who develops leaders’ capacity to navigate change, and Sara Feldman – co-founder of Dialoguers, a business using technology to bring a form of Scandinavian psychotherapy to people experiencing mental and emotional distress across the globe. Lucia Adams, who organised the event and hosted the panel discussion said, “This is a topic that’s very close to my heart. Having faced into my own vulnerability when I made the jump to set up my own consultancy and coaching business, my work is very much focussed on supporting people navigate the challenges of business and individual transformation – and all the many vulnerable moments that entails.” Kindly hosted at the amazing new Photobox offices in Clerkenwell and supported by the brilliant people from Bright Innovation, our marketing partners, it was fantastic to have such great audience participation on this topic! Here are some of the insights and tips which were shared:
  1. Even today, sometimes vulnerability is not appreciated culturally within an organisation. And that can be really hard for women. “If this is the case can you create a space, small group or forum where people can be vulnerable?” asked Eunice. Vulnerability doesn’t have to be shared with everyone.
  1. For women, there is often a fine line between showing vulnerability without being perceived as emotional. “This a narrative we hear a lot,” said Eunice. We struggle to find examples of senior female role models because they make themselves a carbon copy of male role models, but this approach doesn’t work for many women.
  1. Eunice suggested ways to make yourself assertive without being aggressive. Centre yourself, be really present and breathe. This can often change the dynamic of the situation.
  1. As a senior person in business wanting to encourage others to embrace their vulnerability, “You need to have integrity and do what you say you’re going to do to support them,” said Sara.
  1. How do you get people to be vulnerable in a group with their peers? It’s about creating a feeling of psychological safety – if someone says, “I don’t know,” others will follow. You can even plant someone in a group to put their hand up and say, ‘I don’t know’ in order to lead the way. Sarah guarantees this will help break old habits.
  1. It needs to come from the top. Role model vulnerability: if we do it, others might take the risk to do it themselves. Female leaders in organisations demonstrating their own vulnerability help show people that this type of behaviour is OK.
  1. Thinking about vulnerability in the digital space and the pace of change – we may sometimes think, ‘perhaps I should steer away from a particular area because I’m older’, or, ‘I can’t keep up’ etc. But remember that very few people can keep up with every last digital development as it’s changing all the time. It’s OK to say I don’t know or I need time to learn more about a certain subject.
  1. Remember to take care of yourself whilst being vulnerable. “Putting yourself out there can be hard, especially if you’re a natural introvert like me,” said Sarah. “Vulnerability also has boundaries and you shouldn’t be afraid to put them up when you need to.”
  1. Sara shared some of her very moving experiences of working with refugees and victims of trauma. She noted that for people to move forward and heal, they need to open up and discuss what had happened to them. “It is in our vulnerability that we really make human connection and that can be incredibly powerful,” said Sara.
  1. It’s good to remember that when we’re experiencing really difficult times, we may feel like we’re the only person in the world going through it. But in reality, your issue probably isn’t that uncommon, and others will have experienced similar problems in the past or present, or may do so in the future.

So, sharing really is caring! The more we are open and honest with ourselves and those we work with, the more we can progress and move forwards. Don’t be afraid to embrace your vulnerability! Thanks to all our panellists and members who attended.

Remember, if you have any thoughts on working with vulnerability and would like to share them with us please comment below or join us on Twitter or Instagram at @10digitalladies. As always, we encourage our community to offer ideas for our next 10 Digital Ladies book! If you still haven’t got your copy of our first book, Career Hacks, you can register for a copy here:

We’re already looking forward to our next event on 19 July 2018, where we’ll be discussing Embracing ambiguity and uncertainty in a fast-paced digital world. You can sign up for the event here.

Nina Lovelace10 Things We Learned About Working with Vulnerability as you Progress your Digital Career

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